Six-figure supercars try to send a message. Lamborghinis are showoffs on the road with their over-the-top styling and loud colors, while subdued Bentleys exude power and elitism. Volkswagen ( VLKAY) designed the new $140,000 Audi R8 with practicality in mind. The silver test car we tested offered high performance inside a futuristic body. It's meant to evoke excitement and stares from onlookers, rather than snickers and disgust. Low and wide with a mid-engine setup, the car has the silhouette of a Lamborghini Gallardo LP-560-4. While Volkswagen owns both brands, only 15% of their parts are shared. Armed with Quattro all-wheel drive technology and a relatively spacious boot, this car can handle a weekend jaunt in rain or snow. As you climb into the driver's seat, you'll find a dash that swoops, eliciting a cockpit feel. The cabin offers a surprising amount of headroom for a car that's not even 50 inches tall. Still, at over six and a half feet tall, I looked as though I was prepared to give birth. Turning the key and depressing the aluminum brake cranks the car's throaty 4.2 liter V8 engine. The steering was heavy, though sharp and direct. Audi's "Servotronic" power-steering technology helps drivers avoid soreness after long, meandering drives. This translates into a seriously planted vehicle. The R8 maintained its grip when I pushed it around corners. Even in rainy, slick conditions the car was razor sharp without losing its footing at high speeds. On the straights, the car's high-revving 420-horsepower motor rockets the silver bullet to 60 miles per hour in 4.4 seconds. Its 317 pounds per foot of torque means there's no need to downshift when passing slowpokes.
With all this power, it's only right to equip the vehicle with massive brakes. The 19-inch, five-arm wheels feature 15-inch rotors clamped by eight-piston calipers in front and 14-inch rotors with four-piston calipers in the rear. My test car was outfitted with Audi's "R-tronic" sequential-shift gearbox. The automatic mode was jerky at low speeds and in city traffic. The sport mode takes already responsive shifts and makes them lightning fast. The Audi R8's build quality is jaw-dropping. It feels like it was chiseled out of a solid block of metal. Every element in the interior is first-rate. The doors and compartments shut with a resounding "thud." The R8 isn't a gas sipper. It used 14 m.p.g. in gridlock traffic. On the highway, I managed to eke out 16 m.p.g. The R8 is a true rock star; the best car I ever tested. Sure, it won't go from zero to 60 in 3.5 seconds, but it will make you feel like James Bond. And he never showed up to a party early.