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How the Audi R8 Works

Audi R8 Powertrain

You can argue that the Audi R8's powerful engine gives its owners something of a conundrum. After all, if you have an R8, you probably want people to be able to see you in it. One the other hand, if you let the R8 run -- and going fast is pretty much the point of buying a supercar -- you'll just be a blur. Decisions, decisions.

There are actually two Audi R8s on the market, and they're differentiated by their engines. The R8 4.2 has a 4.2-liter V-8 engine that makes 420 horsepower at 7,800 rpm. That's in addition to the 317 pound-feet (429.8 newton meters) of torque the engine can make. The 4.2-liter engine is all aluminum, making it lighter than a cast-iron engine, which helps the R8 go faster. With the 4.2-liter, Audi says the R8 has a 4.4-second 0-to-60 time, and a top speed of 187 miles per hour (300.9 kilometers per hour). Not too shabby.

Until, of course, you compare that to the R8 5.2, which has a 5.2-liter V-10 engine that makes 525 horsepower and 391 pound-feet (530.1 newton meters) of torque. With that monster powerplant the 5.2 has a top speed of 196 miles per hour (315.4 kilometers per hour) and a 3.9-second 0-to-60 time. The 5.2-liter engine is based on the engine in the Lamborghini Gallardo.

With either engine, a six-speed gated manual transmission is standard, but Audi's R tronic transmission is an option. The R tronic is a single-clutch automated manual gear box. That sounds like a contradiction, but in essence, the R tronic operates like an automatic for the driver while it works like a manual for the car. Drivers can either let it shift automatically, or use paddle shifters on the steering wheel to select each gear.

What's perhaps the biggest standout feature of the R8 engines isn't how powerful they are, but how they fit in the car. Both engines are mid-mounted. That means that they sit between the two axles -- right behind the seats. While that may seem weird -- after all, we're accustomed to cars with front-mounted engines -- moving the engine rearward helps give the R8 its incredible handling abilities.

Keep reading to see how this Italian-German supercar mashup handles itself when the road gets twisty.