A lot has changed and a lot has not, with this generation of the R8. The R8, Audi’s idea of an everyday supercar, has won hearts all over the world, with the ease of driving, performance and speed. With the current generation that came to India at the start of this year, it bettered everything compared to the first gen. It has stuck to the same overall silhouette of the first-gen R8, but everything under its skin has been reworked.
While the world has been moving towards turbocharging and alternate sources of energy, Audi has mustered up the courage to stick to the old-school way of making power- massive displacement and plenty of cylinders.
While the coupe is available only in the ‘Plus’ avatar, the Spyder is a bit different. It comes with the same engine, but detuned a bit. At 532bhp, the mid-mounted 5.2-litre V10 makes 71bhp less than the coupe. But is that a bad thing? Not really. The Lamborghini-sourced engine is an engineering marvel that lets out those 532 horses is a linear manner, and the lack of forced induction helps the torque curve ascend linearly to offer a great spread of power and torque across the rev range. Not opting for turbo or supercharging has paid dividends – the throttle response is crisp and the unadulterated nat-asp engine note is probably the best in the market.
The engine has been mated to the same seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox as the coupe. It’s quick as a lightning strike and employs the right cog exactly when it is required. In Normal mode, it goes about doing its business stealthily, mostly keeping the engine at lower revs, but shift it to Sport and it unfolds an all-nav story. The active flaps come alive and make the V10 even louder and the mapping changes to keep the engine on the boil. It gets loud enough to wake the entire town and announce to the world that naturally aspirated, big capacity engines are still the best when it comes to offering the best orchestra that moving pistons can offer.
For those who care to know how fast the R8 Spyder is, in numbers, here goes: it cracks a ton in 3.6 seconds – roughly the same time as the previous-gen coupe, and if you insist on keeping the throttle buried, it’ll do a massive 318kph, given that you don’t run out of road. With those kinds of numbers, it not only gives rivals a run for their money, but also forces convertible supercars to take notice. The highlight of the R8 Spyder, as you may have guessed by now, is its suffix. Like all other convertible Audis, the R8 too gets a fabric top. With wise use of aluminium, carbon fibre and magnesium, the engineers have been able to keep the weight at 1,720kg, just 80kg more than that of the coupe.
And to deal with the inherent flex that comes with a convertible body shape, the engineers have strengthened the chassis up to 55 per cent compared to the previous-generation Spyder. Extra metal has been employed at key sections like the A pillar, the windshield frame and other keys areas, but special attention has been given to make sure the weight stays in check. The chassis of the Spyder weighs just 8kg more than that of the coupe. If you’re concerned about any leaks through the fabric roof, be assured that all elements of nature will be kept out of the cabin.
The roof has been tested for a metre of snow on it for three days to ensure that nothing seeps into the cabin. Special kinds of fabric and foam have been utilised to keep the wind noise, water, dust and other particles out of the cabin while the roof is up. Tucking the roof away into the back of the cabin takes 20 seconds and can be done up to speeds of 50kph. And what follows after that is great drama and rush. Increasing the torsional rigidity of the Spyder has helped maintain composure in a great way. It doesn’t feel floppy and there’s no flex in the body even when you push it hard around corners.
The chassis offers the right amount of stiffness to keep the body composed and the line tidy. We drove the Spyder on a coastal road around the town of Costa Brava in Spain, and the Spyder felt nice and tight around sharp corners and some fast sweeping bends. The R8 Spyder doesn’t know what bodyroll is. Even around sharp comers at speeds well above normal, all there is, is as light lean. It stays fairly flat through curves. Does that mean that the suspension is ridiculously stiff and backbreaking? No. The beauty of the R8 Spyder is that it gobbles up road undulations extremely well by supercar standards.
The adaptive suspension does a great job keeping your back away from hard hits and keeping the car flat through the corners, all at once. It’s amazing how good the ride is, especially when you compare its rivals. Audi has used an electric steering for this gen of the R8. It isn’t the best for feedback and communication, but it makes light work of manoeuvring through tight spaces. It’s speed-sensitive, and that means it knows the business of being sharp well. It is brilliantly reactive and precise, too.
If you’re asked to stick to a specific line while cornering hard, the steering will offer the right amount of precision to get the task done and will make you look like a pro, even if you’re not. The R8 Spyder is equipped just right to tackle a racetrack, a series of bends, unrestricted autobahns and even set records for a convertible at the Nurburgring. When we say that the R8 Spyder is extremely easy to manage, it goes beyond just having a good ride and city-friendly steering. The driving position is great and you have great all-round visibility even when the roof is pulled up.
The cabin is a great place to be in, and Audi hasn’t bothered offering tiny back seats for the brochure to boast 2+2 seating. It’s a strict two-seater. The quality of materials is great and workmanship is immaculate. It has the digital instrument cluster that displays any sort of information that you’d ever need while in the car. Everything, all the controls and buttons, are at the right spot and within the reach of the driver, making it easy to operate them while pushing the Spyder hard.
The downside of the R8 Spyder, probably the only one, is the amount of money it demands. With all the V10 drama, speed and stupendous performance that it offers, it’ll cost around Rs 3 crore. And that’s a lot of money for this sports-convertible, no? With that as the price tag, it has everything from a Jag F-Type convertible to Lambo Huracan Spyder or a Ferrari 488 Spider in its way. But the R8 Spyder has a lot that works in its favour, and at 318kph with the roof down, it’s going to give you all the reasons to smile after spending that sort of money.