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The Audi R8 Project – The Best Used Supercar?

We recently purchased a gen 1 Audi R8 to use as our 2020/21 project car. We aim to test out this used car, clean it up, modernise it and write about it over time. We will be building the ultimate guide to Audi R8 ownership during our testing

Audi R8 Project Intro

I have always felt that the R8 has been a massively underappreciated car. This was mostly due to the R8 not having a long line of predecessors like its competition the Porsche 911 or the baby Lamborghini.

The R8 (Type 42) began production in 2007, just about 8 years after Lamborghini became a part of the Audi family and the R8 shared a lot of components with the much more exotic Lamborghini Gallardo which happens to be one of the best selling supercars ever. Nevertheless, the Audi R8 is a car that deserves some love and that is what we plan to do with this project.

Contents

Detailing

Improvements

Maintenance

Improvements

Project Car Details

The Audi R8 that we will be focussing our attention on is a generation one version with a 4.2-litre FSI V8 engine and a manual gearbox. It has an aluminium spaceframe construction and an all-wheel-drive system.

However, what separates the R8 from the rest of the supercar world are the carbon fibre “sideblades”. It gives the car an aggressive look and makes it appear larger than it really is. It was marketed as the everyday supercar and that is reflected on the inside with great head and shoulder room for two people and the frunk where there is just about enough room for a few bags. It also had one of the friendliest price tags among the two-seater supercars of the time.

Plan – Clean Up and Modernise

With the car being second hand, the first step involves cleaning the car and correcting most of the minor cosmetic flaws. Then we will look at making this car in tune with the times by modernising a few things. At its heart, it is still an excellent car and the addition of a few things should make it a great fit even on current roads more than a decade later.

The Downside

Like with buying any used car, there are certain risks involved. This is especially true here when it comes to a performance car like the R8. The most common risks include the following issues.

  • Magnetic ride: The R8 is equipped with magnetic ride suspension which for a car of its time is pretty advanced but it comes with its set of problems. Over time these struts leak and will need to be replaced, they are very costly. Our project car has already been swapped over to BC Racing coilovers. So this problem is not going to occur thankfully.
  • The clutch has to handle a lot of stress from the powerful engine and that can cause a lot of wear and tear over the years. Again our test model has had a recent clutch and flywheel. So that shouldn’t be an issue.
  • Like most used cars the air conditioning unit has plenty of chance of failure as it ages. However, it is placed underneath the engine in an R8. Meaning it is difficult to fix. Ours has already been replaced.

There are other things that one needs to look for when buying an old R8 which we will discuss in detail in our buying guide soon.

Initial Upgrades Planned

To make it all worth the effort, just doing regular maintenance won’t be enough and a few modifications are needed to really spice up this car and inject a new lease of life into it.

One of them would be to set up the coilovers so that the suspension is properly stable. It will also make the car quite capable around a track while allowing it to retain its real-world practicality. There are other benefits too which we will discuss in detail when we do the work. The brand we have fitted is BC Racing as it is relatively simple to install, is priced reasonably and above all, improves the handling, comfort, and the performance of the car by a fair margin.

Detailed Car Review

How does the generation Audi R8 drive? What is it missing? Is it still relevant today?

I am a firm believer in the thought that a supercar isn’t about the numbers or anything physical on it. The best supercars manage to bring a smile on your face no matter how unconventional or flawed they are and because the Audi R8 is the epitome of this definition, it is a car I highly recommend. The one downside of the R8 compared to its more established supercar competitors is that it really lacks a loud and fiery exhaust note. Find out more…

Interior Detail – Repairing The Leather

We take the Furniture Clinic Leather Clean & Protect to the leather seats of the Audi R8 and see if it is something you should buy for restoring your own leather seats. Find out more…

Continental ContiSportContact 5 P R01 Tyres

I found these tyres especially appealing as they had been specifically made for the Audi R8 when the car was new. It is like a bespoke suit. Audi and Continental worked together to develop this tyre specifically for the R8.

We replaced our worn tyres with a fresh set of ContiSportContact 5 P rubber and the results spoke for themselves.

One of the defining characteristics of any tyre is the dry grip. Thankfully, these tyres did not let me down. I was able to make a clean getaway and the tyres instantly improved the way the R8 behaved on a dry road.

In the wet the clever tread design does work as they can clear enough water to keep the tyres stuck to the tarmac. Wet weather braking was way better than I expected as the car was still able to stop from reasonably high-speeds in a controlled manner, without fish-tailing or simply aquaplaning. I would not recommend these for a spirited drive on the track in pouring rain but you can easily drive at normal speeds even when there is standing water on the road.

The upgrade makes the R8 better equipped while retaining enough of its practicality to make it an easy car to live with on a daily basis. These tyres are ideal because they were purpose-built for the Audi R8 and just as any suit aficionado will be able to attest to, if given the choice, you should always go for the tailor-made option rather than something generic. Find out more here…

M-Tech Audi R8 Custom Piston Gear Knob Replacement For R8

The gear knob in these cars really shows its age and every time I grabbed it for a gear shift, it just didn’t feel like something inside a modern-day sports car. As such, I opted to replace it with something that looked and felt cooler and upped the ante inside the R8. I went for this M-TECH custom made‌ gear knob. Find out more…

Upgraading The Head Unit – Eonon GA2178

We decided on a floating screen because once you remove the original head unit and control buttons below, simply fitting a double din unit does look a little plain. We went for the Android Eonon GA2178 unit. See the full installation here. So we chose the Eonon GA2178 that came with a dashcam, rearview cam and OBD dongle. In short, it worked out really well. The large screen looks premium and has a good resolution. It also allows you to use Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, with the addition of the USB dongle, which is perfect!

Replacement Mats – Exclusive 1200gpsm – Carmats4u

I wanted to upgrade the car mats to something a bit more suited to the R8. The replacement had to be of superb quality while being fresh enough to make the inside of the R8 come alive. I am quite happy with the car mats I got for the R8. It fits the car perfectly and the inside of the Audi now looks and feels so much more refined. Costing just under £50, these floor mats from carmats4u.com gets my vote of approval. Find out more…

Maintence

So far these are the different maintenance steps we have taken on the car to keep it in top performance.

Replacing The Original Battery

The Audi was still running the original OEM battery from 2007. It starts well, but a 13-year-old plus battery isn’t going to be as reliable as a new one. If you want to know the age of your Varta battery the week number and year is stamped on the negative terminal.

We chose to replace the battery with a Yuasa 110Ah full-size battery with 950 cranking amps of power. The battery costs around £130 and comes with a 4-year warranty, this wasn’t needed straight away, but is great maintenance when you want a reliable car and should assist with the additional power requirements of the new head unit.

Replacing The Spark Plugs

Looking at the cars service history it had only done around 7,000 miles in the last 5 years. To keep the car firing on all cylinders we made the decision to look at replacing the half-decade old spark plugs with some shiny new ones.

We went with the NGK Laser Platinum spark plugs. Replacing the plugs means pulling all eight coils and using a 16mm socket to remove the spark plugs. You can see below that even with just 7,000 miles of use they still have heavy deposits on. The plugs cost around £120 for eight and a great maintenance part for the car.

Servicing in UK

This is another area where a lot of doubts can arise and it can get quite confusing. Buying a used car without a hassle-free servicing option can be a big headache even if you get the best car in the world. Thankfully, Audi has a good servicing network in the UK and most of them are equipped to take care of an Audi R8.

As for the actual schedule itself, the servicing comes in two forms – a fixed servicing option that takes place every 9,300 miles or 1 year.

Another thing to keep in mind when buying a used car is the servicing history of the car. Preferably, it should have been serviced by an authorised service centre while strictly following the service schedule. A sports car is a high-performance machine and it requires slightly more care than a regular car and that is why a good service history is critical.

R8 Competition = 911 / V8 Vantage / 458 /Gallardo

As we alluded to earlier, the Audi R8 has a lot of competition. The most obvious one for the gen 1 version is the Porche 911 from the same timeframe. You can get a used 911 for a similar price and the two are evenly matched when it comes to the performance. The R8 is better looking with the 911 being a bit more feature-rich and practical. But I do think the R8 has dated better with time.

Other cars like the Jaguar XKR and Aston Martin V8 Vantage can also be bought at similar price points. Both are a lot more comfortable but come up short on the performance side of things. If performance is the sole criteria then the R8 is better matched against cars like the Lamborghini Gallardo or the Ferrari 458 but both go for up to double or triple the price of a used R8 and spending that much on a used car does not make a lot of sense for a project like this. The Audi R8 offers the best of all worlds and that is why it is the car of choice here. Lets not forget that Audi did also offer the V10 version of the R8 which has more performance, but is also more costly to buy and run.

What Is To Come?

  • Buying guide
  • Carbon Engine Clean
  • Performance Exhaust
  • Performance Tyre Review
  • Maintenance advice
  • Repairing faults
  • Ownership costs

Year Long Feature

The Audi R8 will be getting a lot of attention from the Motor Verso team over the next year, if your company would be interested to work with us on any of the features please do let us know via email – paul.hadley@motorverso.com.

Project Supporters

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