I may be missing something, but the last I heard, I was completely normal for ditching work for a weekend fling with an Audi R8.

Maybe you'll understand, after some evidence, why it took about a millisecond to take Audi up on its offer to wing it to Malibu and toss the R8 lineup around some of the best canyon roads that exist anywhere near this close to civilization.

The R8 has been a bit of alchemy for Audi, synthesizing its upmarket ambition very precisely into one original, stunning shape. The 2014 R8 still has all the essentials that so neatly straddle the line between sports cars and supercars--down to those calling-card sideblades--and it does it with human-sized seats and trunk space.

Only this year, the R8 loses what was arguably its least happy piece of engineering, the clacky, morose old R tronic gearbox. Semi-automated manual? See you. There's a new dual-clutch automatic in the R8 that's breathtakingly intuitive with its shift schedule. It's so strong, we've wondered if it was related to Porsche's PDK, though Audi swears off any connection.

You still can have a six-speed manual with incredible heft and a metallic ring as it moves from gate to gate, so relax. We'll still take the seven-speed S tronic because with it, the R8 is a phenomenal piece of work. It picks shift points and times gear changes like it's an art, not a science, whether you're dealing 420 horsepower from a V-8 mounted midship, or from the bellowing V-10 that's cutting off 525 horsepower in the V-10 versions or 550 hp in new Plus editions. It leaves more synapses free to judge every blind corner on Latigo Canyon Road, and more attention span to savor the R8's carbon-ceramic brakes.

Everything else is nearly the same with the R8, from the deep bass of the audio system, to MMI's curseworthy way of forcing you into a route to find home again. Every one's slathered in aluminum trim, and the best ones wear quilted leather.

And from our joy ride, we know we're still in the V-10 camp. Because there's nothing quite like that brand of sonorous beating at your back, along with the sun, when there's work to be done somewhere else.

Don't take our written word for it: watch the R8 in action, then see our full review of the 2014 Audi R8 over at The Car Connection, and read back over our first drive of the 2014 R8 from Italy last year.

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