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Driven: Audi R8 Spyder. Image by Audi.

Driven: Audi R8 Spyder
Audi's R8 loses roof and 70hp in transformation to Spyder. And it really doesn't matter...

   



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Audi R8 Spyder

5 5 5 5 5

Good points: absolutely epic drivetrain, stunning soundtrack, storming performance, delicate and delicious handling, incredible kerb presence.

Not so good: the interior is a little bit conservative, it's not cheap.

Key Facts

Model tested: Audi R8 Spyder
Price: R8 Spyder from 132,030; car as tested 166,580
Engine: 5.2-litre V10 petrol
Transmission: all-wheel drive, seven-speed S tronic automatic
Body style: two-door roadster
CO2 emissions: 277g/km (2,000 VED first 12 months, then 450 per annum next five years, then 140 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 24.1mpg
Top speed: 197mph
0-62mph: 3.6 seconds
Power: 540hp at 8,250rpm
Torque: 540Nm at 6,500rpm

Our view:

All petrolheads know that slicing the roof off a car reduces its structural integrity, increases flex and thus diminishes the driving experience. This is an almost immutable law, a given fact that's not for arguing in any bar, online comments section or car club meet you care to mention. So the Audi R8 Spyder, then, should not be anything like as good to drive as the mesmeric R8 Coupe plus we tested last year. Right?

The Spyder's position is compounded by the fact Audi doesn't, as of the time of writing, offer the open-topped R8 with the more powerful 610hp/560Nm iteration of the sensational 5.2-litre, normally aspirated V10 - you have to 'slum it' with a mere 540hp and 540Nm. In a car that's heavier than the Coupe to the tune of 125kg. And more expensive, by 8,700 (albeit a 610hp Coupe plus is 6,300 more again compared to the Spyder). Clearly, this convertible version of the R8 is the weakest offering of the trio currently on sale.

Well, nothing's ever quite that simple. If you don't spend all your time worrying about torsional rigidity or how much of a poseur you'll look in a 167,000 convertible while driving down the M5, then the Spyder could very well be the pick of the R8 range. Because, even more so than its tin-topped brethren, it makes each and every journey, no matter how mundane, into an incredible, spine-tingling event.

It looks magnificent. In bright colours and with all its black detailing, the Spyder makes an uncompromising statement when you're in its presence. Sure, a Coupe plus, with its big rear wing and full carbon fibre addenda, is hardly shy and retiring, but there's something about the Spyder's rather cab-forward profile and engine cover slats that we adore. We love the interior too, but it's worth bearing in mind that the roadster is even more impractical than the Coupe, which is hardly blessed with cubby holes aplenty. The Spyder has slightly less legroom than the Coupe and it still has an interior that, while of superb quality, is lacking on the showmanship front. For a near-170k car, is that a criminal sin?

Perhaps. But, once you've driven the R8 Spyder for more than 50 yards, interior conservatism will be long forgotten. The engine is just magical. You don't notice the lack of 70hp and 20Nm compared to a lighter Coupe plus, because the R8 still sounds alarmingly good under hard throttle and it goes like rabid fury. And you might, looking at the peaky on-paper delivery of torque, convince yourself that you need the low-down thump of a forced induction motor. Well, you don't. The surging glory of the R8 as it fires past 4,000rpm and homes on in on the 8,500rpm redline, the crystal clarity of the hit of that atmospheric V10 motor at absolutely full chat - it's like drinking from a sparkling, cold mountain stream when all you've ever known is tap water. Both slake your thirst, yet you can't help but taste the artificiality of the latter when you compare the two.

That mighty motor alone should be enough to seal the deal for any prospective purchaser of a high-end convertible like this, but just in case you're having second thoughts about plunging so much cash into an Audi, the scintillating chassis seals the deal. The most sensitive of souls might discern some frame wobble to the R8's windscreen over rougher roads; track-day types will lament the extra weight of the Spyder and its effect on their ability to clip every single apex with millimetre precision. But out on typical British roads? With the roof down and that V10 howling away behind your head? It will not matter one jot.

The scalpel turn-in, the beautifully weighted and sharp steering, the mammoth brakes (optional 7,700 ceramic items on our test car, admittedly), the rigid body control that never transforms into the R8 Spyder skipping over rougher surfaces... all of the above, coupled to the super-crisp throttle response, means you can throw the big Audi supercar around almost as if it were a hot hatchback. It's so benign without being boring, a trait that's extremely hard to master (just ask Audi Sport, which still misses the target with many 'lesser' RS-badged products), that it means even the more tentative drivers out there can explore the R8's dynamic limits, without fear of having an epic moment of hedge-seeking Armageddon. It rewards and delights in equal measure.

And yet, of course it functions like an Audi. The R8 lopes along motorways in seventh gear with half its cylinders shut down, making for effortless long-distance progress. It's so easy and placid to simply cruise in that you can comfortably go great mileage with little difficulty - like down to Devon, perhaps, from the East Midlands. Y'know, if you're on holiday or that sort of thing... ahem, we digress. We even saw close to the official economy on a 200-mile schlep down to the south-west, getting back 23mpg from the nuclear powerplant of an engine. That's impressive stuff.

Naturally, if we had a fictional 200 grand burning a hole in our pocket, it'd be extremely hard for us to ignore an R8 Coupe plus and all the pleasures that particular car brings. But the Spyder is by no means the weak relation of the R8 family - and it could even be said to be the most thrilling of all, if the prevailing weather conditions are right. Hood down, 5.2 snarling away behind you, tunes playing on the stunning Bang & Olufsen sound system (part of a 3,950 package), it's hard to think of anything better than the Audi R8 Spyder for turning the simple act of driving, of covering ground, into a genuine, unmitigated pleasure. This is a fantastic car by any stretch of anyone's imagination.

Alternatives:

Ferrari 488 Spider: much more badge prestige, but also much more expensive and now turbocharged. Sublime, nonetheless.

Lamborghini Huracan Spider: the same car as the R8 Spyder, with a more angular body and dramatic interior - and a bigger price tag, as well.

Porsche 911 Turbo S Cabriolet: ferociously quick and always special, the Turbo S cabrio is nevertheless not quite as intoxicating to drive as the R8 Spyder. Blindingly quick, though.


Matt Robinson - 20 Apr 2017



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2016 Audi R8 Spyder. Image by Audi.2016 Audi R8 Spyder. Image by Audi.2016 Audi R8 Spyder. Image by Audi.2016 Audi R8 Spyder. Image by Audi.2016 Audi R8 Spyder. Image by Audi.








 

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