This article almost didn't happen as I was simply lost for words after getting out of the Audi R8. But the massive grin on my face said it all: Audi's first attempt at a production super car rocks!
The R8 is car of "firsts" for Audi.
For example, the mid-engined R8 is the first Audi that doesn't set it sights on a BMW or Mercedes-Benz product, but instead takes aim at sports car brands such as Porsche and Aston Martin.
Its closest rivals are the Porsche 911 Carrera 4S and the Aston Martin V8 Vantage.
Also, the R8 is largely hand-built, at a rate of 19 cars per day, and crafted almost entirely from lightweight aluminium. It is powered by the RS4's 4.2-litre V8.
South Africa will be getting close to 30 R8s this year, of which all are accounted for. If your name is not already on the order list you'll probably have to wait until 2009 for one.
The good news though is that a V10-powered R8 is coming too.
The R8 is also an Audi that isn't only impeccably engineered but also strikingly styled since there is nothing generic about its looks.
In fact it is rather exotic and the R8 makes a helluva statement on the road.
The aggressive-looking R8 comes with Audi's trademark single-frame grille but for the first time, the four rings are positioned not over the grille, but on the lid above it.
Another key design feature is the elaborate design of the lights.
At the front the standard bi-xenon headlights and daytime running lights grab the attention. Eye-catching LED tail lights with a three-dimensional effect are used at the rear-end.
However, from next year R8 buyers will be able to spec headlights consisting completely of LEDs. According to Audi this type of headlight resembles daylight much more closely than xenon, or even halogen, light.
The engine is dramatically exposed under glass and you could finish it off with optional carbon-fibre trim and LED lights at a cost R42 500.
Another signature design feature is the R8's so-called "side blade" panel that you can order in several shades. At a cost of course you can even switch these panels if you want to "freshen-up" your R8.
The R8's interior is minimalist and driver-oriented, however, it is plush and exquisitely finished.
A selection of interior trim finishes, colour combinations and optional comfort features are available too.
Audi modified the 4.2-litre V8 FSI slightly to provide dry-sump lubrication that enables the engine to be located low in the chassis.
The engine revs to 8 250 r/min and the 309 kW of power comes it at 7 800 r/min. 430 Nm of torque is available between 4 500 and 6 000 r/min with 90% of it achieved between 3 500 and 7 500 r/min.
Depending on the conditions, the Quattro all-wheel-drive system sends as much as 35% of the power to the front wheels.
The R8 dashes from 0 to 100 km/h in 4.6 seconds, whether with manual gearbox or with R-tronic sequential gear shifting. It touches the 200 km/h mark after 14.9 seconds and can reach a top speed of 301 km/h.
The manual gearbox, with an open gear lever gate, features short but precise shifts. It is also available with an R-tronic sequential gearbox.
Unlike some other sports cars the R8's most distinguished quality is how effortless it is to drive - as an everyday car and at high-speed. The R8 is utter joy at any speed and dynamically it is the most capable Audi yet.
Thanks to its Quattro drive and perfect weight distribution, traction is superb and its cornering grip astounding. Its rigidity results in an agile and high precision drive. Furthermore the tight chassis results in minimal body roll.
Overall the ride is just so fluid and composed and if things get too manic a range of electronic safety aids will save the day.
This Audi also skims through air with minimal wind and road noise with only the V8 leaving behind a deep, but pleasing, exhaust note.
You can spec the R8 with Audi's potent ceramic braking system at about R110 000 while the optional magnetic ride stiffens up the suspension when needed.
The R8 is packed with typical Audi genes such as refinement, style, top-notch quality and desirability but it's different from any Audi I've ever driven.
With a brilliant chassis, leading-edge aerodynamics, rapid acceleration the R8 is an impressive machine.
Also, the performance car elements of "big on power" and "light on weight" are part of the R8's winning recipe.
The R8 has the pedigree to make its mark as a blue-blood sportster.
Audi R8 4.2 FSI manual: R1 255 000
Audi R8 4.2 FSI R-tronic: R1 300 000
Price includes a 5-year or 100 000 km Audi Freeway full maintenance plan.