Intro to the buyer’s guide:
Fontain has been Specialising in Audi since 1995, sharing the information we learn along the way. We have put this series of written and video buyers guides together, as we believe buying carefully helps you have the best possible ownership experience.
Being an informed buyer helps avoid unexpected costs and plan future maintenance.
For the full video form of this buyers guide, check out our YouTube channel or Facebook page. @fontainmotors
Fontain Audi R8 Buyer’s Guide:
Hello, this is Alex from Fontain Motors, thank you for joining us for another one of our buying guide videos. As you can probably see today we are going to be talking about Audi’s Mk1 R8.
What we aren’t going to talk a lot about is how fast they are, how good they look, the story, the history. I think that as a subject is already well covered. We are going to talk about buying one. How to buy a really good one and frankly putting your money where your mouth is. I personally have quite a lot of history with R8s, in that my very first day at Fontain motors back in 2007, parked directly in front of my desk on day one was an R8 that looked just like that one there.
At Fontain we have bought, sold, maintained, serviced R8s since they were brand new, very nearly 14 years now, we like to think we know them pretty well. What we are going to try and share with you today is the information, the knowledge and the advice that we have built up over the years. On buying them for our own stock, on selling them to our own customers and to maintaining, servicing, repairing them for existing owners.
What was optional, what was standard, what are the things you want to look out for to make for a really good car?
2007 Audi, as most of the German manufacturers were ruthless cheapskates on the standard kit, they did not give you anything they thought they could make you pay for. R8 being no exception. So if you are talking pre-facelift cars, particularly the V8s, as the V10 gives you a bit better equipment as standard, some key things you’ll see coming up when looking for the cars.
Magnetic ride control. Magnetically adjustable suspension, turned on all the time. It doesn’t have an on/off switch, it does have a sport mode. It’s automatically setting, it changes its own setting/damper stiffness very slightly and really gifts the R8 with the fantastic road holding control you have already read and watched a lot about already.
Bang and Olufsen speaker upgrade, the standard speakers in an R8 were really quite poor. The Bang and Olufsen system is definitely worth having and again is another option a lot of people do look for when buying one.
Early cars navigation was not standard, it’s a fairly dated system by today’s standard, but does still work and new map discs are available. A lot of early cars that didn’t have it from the factory have had it retrofitted now anyway. There are aftermarket upgrades available.
On the outside of the car you had a choice of body-coloured blades, contrast blades, or carbon; personal preference. Carbon probably being the most desirable, but various different colours combinations suit the cars nicely.
Inside the car, again if you ticked none of the interior options, there was quite a lot of plastic. Adding a leather pack or a carbon pack really did make the difference and again, carbon fibre probably is the most desirable inside. But again, different combinations of options and colours suited well and one isn’t always better than another.
Inside and out, if you wanted to play at being Iron Man you could go for silver. A lot of people went for black, with Daytona grey very popular at launch as well. It really is the period choice of RS colours, in that the popular choice was much the same as you would see on say an RS4 of a similar age.
Being an expensive car, there were a good few around painted by Audi Exclusive in a custom colour or another manufacturer colour if you fancied something a little bit different.
As for the interior, certainly today most people look for black leather. There were other colours available, there was Lunar Silver, quite popular in period. A little bit tricky to keep clean but can look really nice. You could have brown, some picked that colour in period but it’s not particularly well sought after today. If you personally like a little bit left-field maybe it will let you grab a bargain.
What was available, which one do you want to buy today? At launch, you could have V8 Coupe only, standard with a 6-speed manual, and optionally R-Tronic (or automated paddle-shift manual). V10 came along in 2009, Spyder joined the range in 2010. The facelift for the 2013 model year launched in 2012. The facelift also added the slightly more powerful, more-focused Plus V10 model.
Most of the range was available as a spyder at some point. We won’t go into too much detail on the few special edition cars, because there aren’t that many around, and most of them were not that different anyway, just adding cosmetic details and improved standard equipment.
Which one do you want today? Quite personal. A lot of people will say an early manual Coupe is the one to have and if it was me buying one, that would be my personal choice as well. It’s the original, it’s certainly the one that collectors now are starting to go after. You could argue as well they are the best value cars and there’s a lot of media discussion on their being undervalued, and a future classic.
I like the V8 over the V10 myself, just because it brings down the speeds they are the most fun at. If you are planning to use the car on the road 500 horsepower is difficult to enjoy at anything like its full potential, particularly with a very high revving engine, with the V8 being that but more accessible.
Again, I like the manual gearbox and find them just that bit more interactive, and more fun to drive at road speeds.
R-Tronics. Do you need to feel bad for wanting the R-Tronic car? No, you don’t. Is the criticism levelled at them unfairly? Yes, it is.
Very important you hold in mind, with the R-Tronic cars that it is an automated manual, it is not a traditional automatic. If you jump into one expecting it to be an automatic, to do absolutely everything for you, that I think a lot of in period road testers did, you are going to be disappointed. It’s not an auto and it isn’t meant to be driven like one.
If you treat it how it is supposed to be used, and drive it more like you would a manual, they are really quite good fun. The S-Tronic facelift cars offer the fastest possible shift speeds and if you do just want it to behave like a pure automatic, they do that well too.
Coupe or Spyder? Neither car is hugely practical. Very much a personal choice. Coupes made up the volume of sales and will likely be the most desirable ongoing. Nobody is going to criticise you for enjoying some sun at the same time as your drive if the Spyder is what you fancy.
What changed, is one massively different or better than the other? Not really, there are nice things about the facelift. You might particularly like the changes Audi made, where they tweaked grills, bumpers front and rear. There are detailed changes inside and anecdotally Audi did seem to make some quality and durability improvements with the facelifted cars as well.
There are some small foibles with the early ones you really don’t see as much on later cars, but unless you have your set on a particular age or particular model, there is no reason (budget allowing) you couldn’t include both in your search.
Paint and Body Work:
Starting with stone chips, every detailer’s pet hate. Every R8 picks them up, they are low, they are fairly wide, the nose is right down close to the ground. Unless a car has got fresh paint or has covered a few miles, you will need to allow for some on a car that could be as much as 14 years old now. The front bumper is particularly susceptible to them, as they are so low down, with the bonnet suffering slightly less. Unless they are excessive, it’s not something to worry about. On a similar note, if you are looking at a car that has had cosmetic paintwork on the front end, and if we are talking about early cars that are going to be the majority of them now, it is nothing to worry about, as long as it is only cosmetic and it’s done to a high standard.
Whilst we’re on the subject, the front bumper being so low down does tend to pick up scuffs. There is a little splitter type piece in the centre of the front bumper (standard ones are a black plastic finish) that can discolour with age and use and cleaning, and they do pick up marks and scuffs. Again cosmetic repairs in this area are nothing to worry about.
Moving slightly further back along the car, to the doors. They are very long, they open wide, and with the car being so low you do need a good bit of room to get out. It is quite common to see marks on the ends of the doors from touching things getting in and out. Again, heel marks on the sill trim inside and the painted sill outside, are pretty normal to see.
If the car you’re looking at has had cosmetic work in this area, it isn’t generally concerning as long as it is only cosmetic and done to a good standard. One little quirk, actually a quirk of a fair few Audi door handles at the time. The painted cover on the door handle itself can come loose, and in an extreme case can fall off. Refitting the clip is pretty simple for the most part and nothing to worry about. If your handle has a little wobble on it when opening the door it probably does just want refitting, rather than anything needing replacement.
Seems a slightly funny thing to talk about on a car that is almost completely aluminium. But it is something to be aware of. Number one area, underneath the leading edge of the bonnet, where you’ve got joins, welds, little perforations. Particularly so on early cars, you will start to see blisters forming under the paint. A number of these did get replaced under the original bodywork warranty, but most cars affected are now outside that warranty. As long as it’s not excessive, there is no reason a good body shop can’t sort it for you.
The edges of the rear arches, so on the quarter panels, can go as well in a similar manner, but that’s far less common. Whilst you are under the bonnet or boot if you prefer, one other small thing worth looking at, the little black screws that hold all the plastic trims in place. The finish on those from the factory wasn’t very good. There are quite a few jobs that need those trims taken out, so seeing rusty screws under the bonnet of an R8 is not uncommon. They can be replaced, they can simply be painted, similar screws are also underneath the rear spoiler. They can be an unsightly detail on an otherwise tidy car but it’s cheap and easy to sort.
The quality of Mk1 R8 interiors, actually quite good for the most part. Few smaller common things you want to have a look for. Wear on the outer bolster of the driver’s seat, very common. As long as it’s not ripped or there’s popped stitching, bad damage, or crushed foam, it’s quite easy to repair. Most cars will suffer from it to some degree from general use.
The driver’s seat again, affecting full leather cars the most, the seat squab, so the base of the seat. The leather does tend to stretch some with age and use. It’s just something that they do. Most people tend not to worry about it too much.
The other place you can see scuffing, scratching, is the B pillar trims. Again from ingress and egress sometimes you see marks and scratches there. For the most part, they’re fairly easy to repair.
Almost all R8s, with all 3 gearboxes, had metal gear knobs. They do pick up scratches from rings. Again, unless it’s really excessive, it’s not something people worry about.
Interior electrics, generally very good. Common with a lot of Audis of that age and fitted with that type of Satellite Navigation, RNSE. The lasers in the unit do not last forever. There are plenty of people who repair them, and new replacement laser units are available. Even in the event of a more serious issue, complete new motherboards are available. Although as it’s an old unit we are starting to see more and more people go aftermarket with replacement head units. This can be a nice upgrade and modernise the car with features they never had in period.
Clutches on, manual and R-Tronic cars, they’re basically the same. An R-Tronic on the inside is largely a manual gearbox. Clutches on the V8 there is absolutely no reason they cannot last 50,000 miles or more if they are driven with mechanical sympathy. If they are used in anger, their life will come down accordingly. When replacing the clutches if the wear has been caught in time, you can re-use the flywheel. But if the clutch has been slipping for some time, or the flywheel otherwise overheated, you will want to budget for a new one as well.
With the V10 cars having that much more power and torque clutch life comes down accordingly. We have replaced them at 20,000 miles, we have seen cars with 40,000 miles that are still fine on the originals. It is entirely down to how the car is used. But it is something to hold in mind if you are looking at buying a car that hasn’t had one.
Starting out with magnetic ride dampers. Not on every single car, but standard on V10s, popular on V8s. The dampers do not last forever. If you Google R8 problems, it is probably the first thing that comes up. They can leak, they wear like any other damper. They will not last the life of the car and the mag ride units are fairly expensive to replace. Although interestingly, they’re not actually as expensive as replacing dampers on something like a B8 RS4. So given the price of the new car, the cost of those is totally inline. But it is something to watch out for.
Audi does publish a photo guide to assess what needs replacing and what doesn’t. Some people seem to get quite scared of a damper that isn’t brand new, misting a very small amount of fluid. This is actually completely normal and in the Audis photo guide, clearly labelled “this damper doesn’t need replacing”, it’s fine, it’s normal.
Also on suspension whilst we are here a less common issue, but ball joints. Audi redesigned some of the suspension arms as the car was getting through its life. The old ball joints aren’t available, Audi just replace all the arms, but aftermarket units are not available so you don’t need to replace absolutely everything if your MOT man says you’ve got a worn ball joint.
Air conditioning. More of an issue on V8s than V10s, in that, if your air conditioning compressor, the pump on a V8 fails, you have to take the engine out of the car to get it. The part isn’t that expensive, the labour is.
A number of R8 air conditioning issues come from a lack of use. Air conditioning likes to be left on in its automatic setting all the time, and that’s what we recommend doing to guarantee reliability. Leave the climate control in fully automatic, with the air conditioning turned on all year round. Have it serviced regularly!
If the air conditioning isn’t regularly used, the refrigerant in the system also carries the lubricant, obviously, that compressor running without proper lubricant in it can cause mechanical damage. It’s something you want to avoid because taking the engine out is expensive. Not the only issue with the air conditioning, the condensers, the radiators at the front of the car can also have issues. In fact, a very similar complaint to some Porsches. The bottom of the radiators get wet and get dirty, corrode. With time they’ll then swell and eventually leak or burst, leaving you with no air conditioning.
Replacement of those, you know its front bumper and some trims off. It’s not that bad, but something to bear in mind. If you do see say for example, through the grills of an R8s front bumper that they are full of leaves and muck, it’s well worth cleaning them out.
Some more general mechanical points. Like a lot of cars with big brakes, careless or thoughtless use, lack of mechanical sympathy, you can warp them. If you are driving a car and you’re feeling that you’re getting undue vibration through the brake pedal, through the steering wheel, through the seat, could be a sign that you have warped brakes.
Buckled alloy wheels are also not completely unheard of. Both completely reparable but things to bear in mind as obviously given the size of the brakes, replacement if required is not cheap.
Early V8 cars exhaust heat shields, they can rattle a little but. You can sometimes play with them to improve it. A Lot of the time it just isn’t worth worrying about. Another point on lack of use, batteries. They don’t like sitting around not doing anything. A Lot of R8 owners do very very low miles and have the cars stashed away in the garage, if the battery sits for long periods or is left to go flat, it’s really really not good for their health or their life span.
Coking or carbon build-up:
Also, a subject well covered with many many many direct injection engines, not exclusively to Audi. Both V8 and V10, both very high revving units, both burn some oil, it has to go somewhere. Because the engines have direct injection, the fuel cannot clean out the cylinder heads, so you will expect some carbon build up in the parts of the engine.
Most of the time it doesn’t cause and issue. A very high mileage car or perhaps even one that’s had a lot of cold running use, town driving, that sort of thing. It can cause an issue, it isn’t as big a deal as the internet would make you believe.
Servicing and maintenance:
How to take care of your R8, how to look through the maintenance records of an R8 you are thinking of buying.
Oil changes, general servicing first off. Most cars left the factory on standard Audi long life. 2 years, 19,000 miles between services. Not technically wrong, but not something we would recommend either. As a car that you want to use properly now and then, it’s a good idea to service them annually and I like to think that somebody who has taken the time and the money and the effort, to get their car serviced every year. It speaks volumes about the way the car has been taken care of. But as I say, the 2 year intervals are not technically wrong and quite commonly seen as some of these cars are very lightly used. If you are buying a car that has been on the 2-year intervals, we would recommend switching it to an annual service as soon as you can.
40,000 miles, a lot of R8s will never get to 40,000 miles or take a very long time to get there. Audi recommends they are changed at the 6-year mark if you do not get to 40,000 miles. That’s a pretty good bit of advice.
3 years old when the cars new and then from every 2 years ongoing. R8s have great brakes with a good pedal feel. Well worth keeping the fluid up to date, it’s a cheap thing to do as well.
Officially, I think the interval on a lot of them is 60,000 miles, which is probably quite excessive. 40,000 miles is more realistic but they’re an easy thing to double-check when the car is in for general servicing.
Gearbox oil changes:
S-Tronic cars, so the facelifted automatics, do have a scheduled 40,00-mile transmission oil change. The gearboxes in them are pretty reliable, on cars that aren’t, turbocharged. But the oil changes are quite important so do stick to that interval. If you are looking at an older one that may be quite a low mileage one, you might even want to think about doing it before the 40,000 miles, purely as a piece of preventative maintenance.
Brakes, tyres and wheel alignment:
Very very important things with R8s. They do ride and drive and handle sweetly, but keeping suspension rate, tyre components in top condition is supercritical to making sure they continue to drive that nicely.
The original equipment tyre was a Pirelli P-Zero. They are known for not ageing that well, so fire up the torch on your phone when you’re looking at a car, get them illuminated nicely and have a real good look between the tread blocks. If you are seeing that the tyres are a bit old, starting to crack, looking like the rubber has dried right out, probably time for a change.
Pirelli is still available, decent enough tyre lasts quite well. A Lot of owners are now switching onto more modern compounds, something like the Michelin Pilot Sport.
The brakes on R8s, again their life varies by use. But generally, they last quite well. The system is very very similar to something like an RS4, a car that’s a fair bit heavier. So depending on how the car is used, you could even see 40,000 miles out of the front disks on them. Little more on the rears, with hard or track use or you know, careless use, that can come down.
Important also you have a good garage installing them as and when you do need replacement as careless installation can lead to a vibration that you really don’t want.
Wheel alignment, just as important, if your R8 doesn’t feel like its tracking exactly as it should do, if the steering feel is a little bit off, absolutely worth getting your alignment checked. It’s something you’ll probably want to do every few years anyway. As I say the cars handle nicely, it’s worth a little bit extra time, effort, money, to make sure you are getting the full experience.
Servicing and maintenance history:
Is having a full Audi main dealer service history the be-all and end-all. No, it’s not. Nothing wrong with using main dealers, they are the default for a lot of people, they the obvious choice. But there is a number in the UK, of really good independent garages, such as ourselves, who know these cars really well.
If a car has been serviced at a garage you have never heard of, or a name that you look at and go “who is that”, give them a call and you might be surprised.
I would far rather see a car maintained by an independent, that has been conscientiously and thoroughly maintained and serviced, than a car that’s had the bare minimum oil changes at an Audi dealer. It’s a subject that’s well worth spending a little bit of time to look into properly. Give yourself a feel of how the cars have been maintained.
A slightly thorny subject, has a car that’s 14 years old had 5 owners? It may very well have done. Has a car that’s 5 years old have 5 owners? Equally, it may very well have done.
R8s are in a part of the market, where a lot of people like to own and try and experience different cars. They might have a Porsche one year, switch to an R8 the next and try a convertible the year after. It’s very very common for this type of car to see more owners than you would on a more traditional Audi. A car having more than 1, 2, 3 owners is no indication of how good the car is.
Were you talking about a more normal car, obviously your fifth owner probably bought the car when it was 10-12 years old and not worth very much anymore. An R8 that is worth 10-12 years old, is still worth a good amount and often owned by enthusiasts. Another one to bear in mind and not something you should make a decision based completely on.
At Fontain Motors, we’ve known R8s from day 1. We’ve bought them, sold them, maintained and serviced them from when they were brand new in 2007. We still do the same today. We look after a lot of R8s for existing owners. Cars of all ages, everything from the very very earliest cars. Some even quite high mileage daily drivers. We take good care of those cars for the owners.
We take great care with people’s pride and joy, you know cars that come out just on sunny Sunday afternoons. We know them very well. We know their quirks and their foibles. They are treated, worked on, handled, driven by people that know and love the cars, if you are looking for someone to take care of your R8, very very often at a cost a lot more palatable than going to your Audi main dealer, look to us, look to Fontain. Give us a call.
If you own a cherished R8 you are thinking of selling on, we’d love to hear from you. We pay strong money for genuinely loved cars.
If you have just bought one or you’re thinking of buying one and you are thinking how much of my investment am I going to get back in a year, 2 years, 3 years when I sell it? Hold us in mind.
If you’re planning on loving and cherishing your R8 and have put the time and the effort in to buy a very good one, we’d love to hear from you, whether it’s today, tomorrow, next year, five years down the line.
If you’ve found this buying guide helpful. We’d love to see your comments and your feedback below. Give us a like, give us a share. If you know someone for who you think this video will be useful, give them a tag. Equally, if reading through this you’ve got something you’d like to add, it’s brought up a question or maybe you would like more information on a car that you own, a car that you’re thinking about buying. Leave a comment, give us a call, give us an email. We’d love to hear from you.
Fontain Motors. The go-to place to buy, sell and maintain exceptional Audis.