Last Friday I had the opportunity to drive Guy Kawasaki’s Audi R8. This is my dream car, so the instant I heard that he had one, I had a pang of jealousy throughout my body. Guy is awesome, and he offered to let me drive it with no hesitation. Thanks, Guy!
I have always loved Audi. My first car was an A4 in college. I had to dump it because of unfortunate reliability problems, but that didn’t deter me from the brand. Audi has *the best* design of any car company out there, inside and out. The R8 and S5 are at the top of my (long) list of cars I’d love to own one day.
I got just under 30 minutes of seat time in this beast of a car. It was in San Francisco, which unfortunately means bad roads, stop signs, pedestrians, and construction. I was able to get on the freeway, accelerate to 85 in less than a breath, and then exit when I realized I was already 2 cities away from where I started :).
First of all, I’ll say that as far as “super cars” go, this one was very driveable. Not that I’ve driven any other, but I always read about super cars not being good to drive regular. Usually they are super stiff, loud, and touchy. The Audi was these things, but very slightly so. I couldn’t commute to work in this car everyday, but I could see myself driving it regularly around town.
Audi has the best interior and exterior design of any car out there, and the R8 is at the top of its class. The car is sexy inside and out, and every detail of the car has been meticulously crafted. The shift knob, for example, is gorgeously textured and feels great in your hand. Every button, dial, armrest, and indicator have been studied and executed perfectly.
The car had a manual transmission. That’s fine, both my cars are manuals. But I sorta expected this one to be an automatic. When you are driving a $130,000 car for the first time on the hills of San Francisco, you don’t mind having an automatic and one less thing to worry about. But turns out the transmission was unbelievable. Clutch pedal feel was perfect and it was a breeze to get going off the line, smoothly every time.
After getting back into my BMW, I could really feel the difference in that respect. My BMW has the hardest clutch in the world to master. It took me a year to become smooth from a stop, and I realize now it’s from pure foot position memorization, not feel. My Miata, on the other hand, was just like this Audi. The pedal feel is incredible, your leg feels like it’s extended through the pedal to the clutch itself.
The steering felt nicely weighted and sharp. But the wheel itself was a little thin. I love the shape though. My BMW has a nicer steering wheel than the R8. Like I said, the car was very street drivable. It felt like the throttle didn’t provide much gas as you first pressed down on it, and then kicked in the second half. It was like having a brake pedal with a lot play, and then it catches quickly. I’m not sure if this was done purposely to make it more drivable around town so you aren’t peeling out every second.
I thought the car was a little loud. Of course a 500hp car is going to be loud, right? But i found it to be loud even when I wasn’t stomping on the gas, and that’s what got to me. Also, the sound wasn’t the typical low end exhaust grumble, but a higher pitched whine. I later realized it was the engine noise, not the exhaust! Since the car is mid engine, it was right behind my head.
I was able to get on the freeway a bit, and once I did I stomped on the gas my head was thrown back. Now the interesting part: the car is so fast, you basically stomp on the gas and then immediately release, because you’re already breaking the speed limit by a lot. You can’t even look down at the speedometer. If you look down to see how fast you are going and look back up, in that half second you are going 10 to 15 mph faster and have 3 cops on your tail.
Overall this car definitely lived up to my expectations and I’m very lucky to have gotten the chance to drive it. I hope one day I will have my own.