It’s hard to not love the original Audi R8. It still looks incredible today (it’s actually getting better looking with age), it came with an absolutely lovely open-gate manual gearbox and was originally offered with a gorgeous, sonorous 4.2 liter naturally-aspirated V8. The free-breathing, mid-mounted V8 could rev past 8,000 rpm and made a delicious noise doing so. But was it really as good as we remember or are we looking back at it through rose-tinted glasses?
According to EVO Magazine, the answer is yes, it really was as good as we remember. In fact, they’ve listed it among their list of all-time greatest V8 engines. That’s rather remarkable, especially considering the other V8s on the list.
The 4.2 liter V8 in the original Audi R8 made 420 horsepower and 318 lb-ft of torque. That allowed it to get from 0-60 mph — with a manual gear change — in about 4.5 seconds, give or take a tenth or two. Sure, that pales in comparison to modern supercars, with the tidal waves of turbocharged torque and 0-60 figures that actually struggle to compute in your brain. However, the R8 V8 made more than enough power to be fun and made up for any deficit by being absolutely joyous to use.
Being a naturally-aspirated engine, the R8’s V8 had a linear powerband and loved to rev. It also featured razor-sharp throttle response and an absolutely fantastic noise. Its noise is so good that you won’t mind buying one instead of the V10 (which admittedly does sound better).
Are there drawbacks to the engine? Sure. It’s not the most reliable of engines, needed a timing chain tensioner service at anywhere between 80,000 – 100,000 miles. It’s also nowhere near as efficient as more modern, turbocharged engines. But, honestly, those things don’t really matter. If you can afford an R8, you can also afford to fix its timing chain tensioners and put fuel in it.
The original Audi R8 is a wonderful car and one that any enthusiast would love to own. And the 4.2 liter V8 is a big part of the reason why.