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An Early Audi R8 Is a Really Accessible Exotic Car

I’ve recently come to the conclusion than an early Audi R8 should probably be the “first exotic car” for everyone who wants to dip their toe into the pool of exotic cars. I’ve reached this conclusion for a few reasons, which I’ll lay out below, but the first one is cost.

Specifically, I’m talking about the cost to buy the R8. That’s because early R8 models are shockingly cheap, with 2008 and 2009 models easily available on Autotrader for $65,000 to $75,000 — an excellent bargain for an exotic car, especially when the Lamborghini Gallardo and the Ferrari F430 from the same year are often double that number.

Then there’s the cost to own. The R8 has earned a reputation as a solid and reliable exotic car, with far fewer headaches than your typical Ferrari, Lamborghini or Maserati. That’s because it was made by a company that traditionally builds road cars, not exotics — and so the R8 was engineered with the same level of build quality and longevity in mind that you’d get with a regular car, not an exotic car. Admittedly, Audi isn’t known for being top-notch when it comes to reliability, but it’s got a better reputation than the exotic brands.

There’s also the factor of serviceability. Pretty much no matter where you live, Audi dealerships are close by — as are independent Audi mechanics, should you not want to visit the dealership. If you have an exotic car from an exotic brand, things can be different: Ferrari has a relatively small number of dealerships, as do Aston Martin, Lamborghini and the others. It’s a lot easier to get your R8 serviced than its more exotic rivals.

And then there’s the other factor: the R8 still looks like an exotic car. Even though it’s “just” an Audi, and even though the earliest R8 models are now 10 years old, even early R8 models look really exotic and impressive — and the “Audi R8” name carries similar cachet to any other exotic car. The fact that Audi’s full redesign of the R8 for the 2017 model year kept the styling relatively similar is a big benefit to owners of older models, too, as the older R8 still looks modern and fresh.

Of course, the other thing making the R8 an accessible exotic car is that it drives and feels like an exotic car, with a midengine design, impressive acceleration, even from the “lowly” V8 model, a low-slung look, and excellent steering and handling. Basically, buy an R8 and you get all the benefits of an exotic car without some of the drawbacks — and, therefore, it’s an easy beginning for wanna-be exotic car owners.

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  1. Maybe it’s just me, but “looks like an exotic car” seems very subjective and questionable from my experience. The R8 always struck me as a sleek Audi TT, and while I know up-close the R8 has presence, and is obviously low/wide/sleek, passing one going the other way on a highway could lead one to think they just passed another Audi TT. 

    If you see a Ferrari, you think “wow, there’s an exotic car”. Same with a Lamborghini or McLaren. But unless I see the off-color body panel, or door scoop, the R8 is only noticeable by car nerds. And that’s a great thing for some people… one that I think belongs in the Pro column: “Doesn’t look like an exotic car”. 

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Doug Demuro
Doug Demuro
Doug DeMuro writes articles and makes videos, mainly about cars. Doug was born in Denver, Colorado, and received an economics degree from Emory University in Atlanta. After graduation, Doug spent three years working for Porsche Cars North America. Eventually, he quit his job to become a writer, largely because it meant that he no longer had to wear pants. Doug’s work has been featured in a... Read More about Doug Demuro

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