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Test Drive: 2017 AUDI R8

DESIGN

Test Drive: 2017 AUDI R8

We drive the mid-engine coupe on an all-women race day

by Katharine Erwin
on 24 August 2016

It's an unfortunately rare sight to see more women than men at a racetrack, but that was the case when Audi held an all-women track day at Monticello Motor Club to celebrate their new 2017 R8. Track days aren’t always the most friendly events—there can be lots of jockeying for position—but there was very little posturing at the track day, rather the opposite. The excitement and glee was palpable, and probably due to Audi’s mid-engine masterpiece: the R8.

The R8 has been around for over a decade and has been a solid bet in the stables of car collectors, racers and street drivers. It is noisy, fast and fun to drive, but not out of control or flashy. Over the years, there have been subtle changes aesthetically and internally, but the R8 has stayed true to its roots: practical and awesome. The 2017 offering is no exception.

The 2017 models (which come in V10 and V10 plus) are the fastest versions of the R8 ever released. Both have a 5.2-liter V10 FSI engine (the same naturally-aspirated engine found in the R8 LMS racecars) with a seven-speed S tronic quattro AWD transmission. The V10 Plus is 77 pounds lighter than the V10. The Plus comes with racing shell seats, carbon ceramic brakes, carbon fiber rear diffuser, front lip spoiler, fixed rear wing spoiler and exterior mirror housings. About those mirrors: the car’s sight lines are excellent, which isn’t an easy feat in its class.

With the base prices hovering above $164,000 (there are loads of options for more), the R8 is an expensive sports car or cheaper supercar, depending on who you ask. For argument's sake, we will consider this R8 a supercar. Just enough supercar that you don’t feel like you’re going to get kid-napped driving it home. To the untrained eye, it might be some strange Audi TT and nobody cares, but those in the know will give you respect at the pump. It is a supercar you can take to the grocery store, but be warned, it is still a supercar and a 5 mph bump could cost you $12,000 to fix.

On our track day, Audi provided us with a female driving coach for the day, Lea Croteau, who was an Audi owner before she was a professional racer. She signed up for a trackway many years ago and was hooked. Besides being the stunt driver in countless car commercials, she is a brilliant instructor who has coached for many driving schools. Croteau told us that she enjoyed the female camaraderie, "I enjoyed knowing that although we had a mix of track novices and experienced drivers, everyone had a terrific experience. It truly is a magnificent car.”

As the day went on, our lap times got quicker and quicker. We all had the chance to go out and chase Croteau in her R8 as she coached us over the radio. Then we all drove the cars on the street to dinner. The all-women track day wasn't about proving how easy the 2017 R8 is to drive, but how much damn fun it is to be in the driver's seat.

Images courtesy of Brook Pifer

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