Tuesday, May 24, 2011


Driving Audi’s magical open-top R8 can seriously damage your health, says Road Test Editor HOWARD WALKER
Can an automobile be harmful to your health? You bet. Plow head-on into the blunt end of an 18-wheeler and you know you’re going to need more than two Tylenol to ease the pain! But, Dear Patient, I am not focusing on bodily injury here. I am talking more about the kind of hurt you can experience from driving a car like Audi’s latest R8 V10 Spyder.
Take the health of your heart. When it comes to the Audi, there are potential attacks on two major fronts here. The first, and obviously most serious, is the high risk of cardiac arrest. It’s the risk that comes from selecting First gear, then raising the rpm of the R8’s fearsome 5.2-liter, 525-horsepower direct-injection V10 to say 5,000 rpm, and stepping abruptly off the clutch pedal.

The resulting instant catapulting towards the horizon – in cold numbers we’re talking standstill to 60 mph in a pulmonary-punishing four seconds – is enough to warrant a jump-start from the ER’s high-voltage defibrillators!
Then there’s the potentially more troubling issue of a fractured heart. Need to leave the Audi at home while you use your spouse’s lumbering SUV to ferry friends or family to dinner or a movie? That’s enough to break anyone’s heart.

And don’t forget hearing loss. I’d say the R8 is up there with the yard-guy’s chainsaw as a potential source of aural nuisance. Only with the Audi, the soundtrack from its screaming Lamborghini-based V10 is a heady mix of Kiss and Guns ’n Roses. Played really loud.
Here is an engine with more voices than an entire season of American Idol.  Deep and snarly at low speeds; rich and mellifluous at a steady 75 on I-75. But the mechanical crescendo that’s reached as the tach needle zings round to that 8,700-rpm redline will flood you body with pure adrenaline, and potentially result in hearing loss for a week. But boy is it worth it.

Of course, the hardtop coupe version or Audi’s magical V10-powered R8 is an equally breathtaking device. It’s just that being able to lower the roof at the touch of a button – 20 seconds start to finish – simply heightens the whole driving experience. But Baryshnikov at the Bolshoi couldn’t better the mechanical ballet of the Audi dropping its top. Motors whirr, panels lift, and the whole structure sweeps elegantly and effortlessly into a well behind the seats.
In true Supercar fashion, you sit so low in the R8 that you have the sensation of going down the road on a tea tray. But top down, that big, swept-back windshield and those high doors keeps wind buffeting to a minimum, even when triple digits are showing on the speedo.

And the Audi has a cool party piece in that its teeny glass rear window can be raised and lowered to act as an effective, and discreet wind blocker. Much better than those weird mesh screen-like affairs that look for the entire world like they’ve been constructed from stretched pantyhose!
You can opt for Audi’s paddle-shifted R-tronic semi-automatic transmission, but you’ll probably regret it. Far more involving and enjoyable, is manhandling the stubby, knurled aluminum shift knob through the Ferrari-like six-speed gate. Just listening to that loud, metallic click-clack as the shifter hits home is yet another element of this R8’s fabulous soundtrack.

I could tell you how I went in search of the Spyder’s handling limits on every on-ramp between Bradenton and Bonita. But I’d be kidding you. The fact is, I’d need a week at the Nürburgring to discover the exact moment when the Audi’s massive rubber ware gave up its vice-like grip.

With a combination of Quattro all-wheel drive, a locking rear differential, a mid-engine configuration and low, low center of gravity, the Audi essentially goes where you point it.

And when you need to stop in a hurry, this thing has the kind of brakes that will loosen retinas and transform your belly button from an inny to outty!

You’ll pay $166,950 for the hedonistic pleasure of R8 5.2 Spyder ownership – which is around $14-grand more than the V10 Coupe version.

But remember that a convertible can be good for your health. Recent studies show how 15 minutes of unprotected sun helps your body produce vital vitamin D. My new motto? Stay healthy, buy an R8!

For more information about 2011 Audi vehicles, please visit, http://models.audiusa.com/r8

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