Darn fine car, the Audi R8 Coupe. Really, it’s among the best supercars you can buy, rubbing shoulders with the pantheon of greats from Maranello, Sant’Agata, Stuttgart and Woking. However, these supercars are rarely so super when you lopt he roof off and turn them into cabriolets, so has this act of apparent brutality sullied the mighty R8?
In an attempt to maintain the structural rigidity of the fixed-roof R8, the composite centra1 tunnel and rear bulkhead have been retained, but that bulkhead has been modified to accommodate the Spyder’s folding roof.The aluminium spaceframe that extends forward from the bulkhead also has thicker box sections in the sills and around the windscreen, making this car 50% stiffer than the old RS Spyder – but it still has 40% more flex than the current coupe.
The complete soft-top mechanism alone weighs 44kg, so the Spyder has a carbonfibre engine cover.
Under it, you’ll find one of the very best engines available today: the delicious, naturally aspirated 5-2-litre V10. Its 533bhp matches the coupe’s at the same 7800rpm and adds 15bhp to the old car’s tally. Cylinder-on-demand technology lets it run on five cylinders (it swaps between alternate banks of the vee), and a long with both direct and indirect injection and an ability to freewheel when off the throttle, it’s as efficient as possible.
The R8 Spyder can get you from rest to 62mph in3.6sec. That’s half a second down on a Porsche 911 Turbo Cabriolet, which has the same power but weighsless. But it’s the 0-124mph time, picked offin 11.8sec,that really addles the brain – both to think about and to experience – and the R8 Spyder won’t stop accelerating until the speedo reads 197mph.
So it’s supremely fast, then.
More pertinent, though, the R8’s power is delivered the old-school way: the absence of artificial boost means an absolutely predictable throttle response. Plant your foot a nd the torque doesn’t wallop you like a turbo-charged Frisbee to the temple after a brief pause. No, the V10 responds immediately but progressively, building and building, before finally switching to warp somewhere around 6500rpm. Butthe point is that you are never surprised by it, which is a good thing when there’s3981b ft on tap.
Aided by its well-judged four-wheel drive system, the Spyder makes for a supremely tractable car, yet it’s no less playful or dramatic as a result. And we haven’t mentioned the noise yet: no other supercar – bar the Lamborghini Huracan that shares this engine – sounds this good.The distinctive sound of a V10 is the result of two separate sound waves, one low, the other an octave and a third higher, and there’s no better way to hear it than in an open-top R8 through a tunnel. It’s delicious and intoxicating, and that’s before you factor in the whip-snapping cracks on the overun.
So, yes, the Spyder is heavier than the coupe, at 1795kg to 1670kg, and yes, you feel that 40% reduction in stiffness via a slight shimmy through the steering column here and an occa sional wobble of the rear-view mirrort here. But avoid the adaptive steering and this is still a car with a phenomenal front end that weights up beautifully as you carve between apexes. The four-wheel drive lets you play with the rear end when you fancy but digs in and grips when the weather turns nasty. Essentially, it’s a friendly partner to the experience rather than a frustrating intrusion.
The magnetic dampers are an interesting option,but based on our drive in the UK, complete with its rigidity-testing bumps,cambers and curves, on mechanical springs and dampers, we probably wouldn’t bother with the upgrade. Audi says it has merely tweaked the suspension rates to counter the weight increase rather than softened everything off, as is usual for wobblier convertibles. Whatever, by the standards of the performance available – heck, even by family hatchback defaults – the body control is sublime. The ride is slightly, but only slightly, more questionable, and the pitter-patter of the motorway or lumps and bumps of a B-road can be tiresome in all but Comfort mode. That, though, is why Comfort mode is there.
Can you drive from Macclesfield to Monaco, roof down, and still have halfa hairdo left for dinner at Café de Paris when you arrive? Yes, you can. Erect the glass rear window, which acts as a wind deflector, and the side windows, and even at speeds commonly regarded as hair-raising, your bouffant will lemain largely intact. Raise the roof, which takes 20sec, and the Spyder is nigh-on as cosseting as the coupe.
There are just two criticisms. Firstly, for those over six feet tall, the installation of the roof mechanism limits how much the driver’s seat can be reclined. As a consequence, it’s not possible to get as comfortable as you can in the coupe. The same roof installation also removes the spacious secondary luggage area behind the seats, so you’re limited to just the 112-litre boot.
If you accept that by choosing this drop-top version of the R8 you’ll reduce the purity of your driving experience, then the R8 Spyder is fabulous.
It’s not as pin-sharp as the fixed-roof version but it’s not far off,and to compensate, you can traverse the Continent basking in sunshine and render any stretch of open road, or even a traffic jam through an underpass, absolute heaven. And given that this could well be the V10 engine’s final innings, it may well be your last chance to enjoy naturally aspirated automotive nirvana. Don’t miss out.
Doesn’t quite match the dynamic sparkle of the R8 Coupe, but makes up for it with its open-air V10 magic.
Audi R8 Spyder
Engine: V10, 5204cc, petrol
Power: 533bhp at 7800rpm
Torque: 398lb at 6500 rpm
Gearbox: 7-speed dual clutch automatic
Kerb weight: 1795kg
Top speed: 197mph
Economy: 24.1mpg (combined)
CO2/tax band: 277g/km, 37%