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First Drive: Audi R8 Spyder V8. Image by Audi.

First Drive: Audi R8 Spyder V8
Has two less cylinders reduced the appeal of Audi's R8 Spyder? Not a bit of it.

   



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| First Drive | Newcastle, England | Audi R8 Spyder V8 |

Overall rating: 5 5 5 5 5

Few cars, regardless of badge, can match the Audi R8 Spyder for road presence, and on that basis alone it's worth every penny. The noise is unreal, too. It's not flawless, though, with a cabin that's showing its age and a wedge of the coupé's ride quality and dynamic integrity lost.

Key Facts

Pricing: £96,595
Engine: 4.2-litre V8 petrol
Transmission: six-speed manual, four-wheel drive
Body style: two-door convertible
Rivals: Aston Martin Vantage Roadster, Porsche 911 Turbo Cabriolet, Maserati GranCabrio
CO2 emissions: 337g/km
Combined economy: 19.6mpg
Top speed: 186mph
0-62mph: 4.8 seconds
Power: 424bhp at 7,900rpm
Torque: 317lb.ft at 4,500rpm
Weight: 1,660kg

In the Metal: 4 4 4 4 4

Find a bloke that looks better wearing a baseball cap and we'll find you a car that looks better as a convertible. The R8, though, almost manages it. What it loses by way of the coupé's lovely side strakes, it makes up for with a soft top whose fins cradle a beautiful vented engine cover. Makes the car look wider, too: more girth, more worth. Bonus.

Slight problem, however, is that top end Audi cabins have moved miles forward of late (see A6, A7 and A8 for details), making the R8's seem mildly low rent in parts - A1 standard, even. The climate control dials, for example, and the last-gen satnav interface and rock hard transmission tunnel. It's ergonomically nigh on perfect, but it's also almost entirely grey unless you pay more for some uplifting trim.

Driving it: 5 5 5 5 5

If it weren't for the coupé's existence, the Spyder would probably feel dynamically exemplary. But the flaccid topped, stiff-sided R8 definitely loses something of the coupé's all-encompassing greatness. The standard Spyder, on fixed rate dampers and 19-inch rims, isn't quite as adept at quilting over a bobbly surface as the static-roofed original. Nor does its steering feel quite as direct a line between the ground and your driving gloves. Still has a lovely weight and feel though.

It's sort of like the difference between Rocky and Rocky IV. Yes, one might be lacking something of the other's integrity and purity of concept, but who cares when the other's so loud and ostentatious and diverting; to buy a Spyder is to buy into the notion that the more flashy, ass-kicking awesomeness there is, the better.

And, truly, everything about driving an Audi R8 Spyder generates superlatives. The metal-on-metal clack of shifting gears through the open gate is at the heart of it: it demands precision forethought, but it rewards like pulling the handle on a one-armed bandit and hearing the winnings drop. The V8 engine singing behind your ears, the front-end bobbing up and down, and, to be very honest, the acute awareness that the thing you're driving looks so utterly spectacular, all add up to preposterous awesomeness.

What you get for your Money: 4 4 4 4 4

The only objective measure by which the R8 makes sense is to compare it to its Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder relation. Looks cheap then. But nobody ever used objectivity to buy a car like this anyway. A spoilsport could argue that its last-gen switchgear, monotone basic design and relative lack of standard equipment (you have to pay more for navigation, cruise control and parking sensors) make its £100,000 tag poor value.

But it's more exotic than any Porsche 911, better to drive than the Aston Martin Vantage, and far more likely to keep hold of its interior trim parts than the Maserati GranCabrio. Who cares, then, about the rivers of fuel it sucks from the tank?

Worth Noting

The best thing about the convertible R8 is the pane of glass behind the seats, which lowers independently of the roof. It's basically a gateway to noise, allowing the sound of the V8 to flow freely into the cabin without having to put the entire roof down, so there's less risk of being pooped on. Win.

Summary

You cannot fail to be absolutely captivated by the Audi R8 Spyder, but it's not without flaw. The noise is sensational, but it needs to be worked hard to feel as fast as it looks and sounds; it loses a tenth of the coupé's dynamic integrity; and the cabin seems on the edge of its prime. So what though? It combines the impact of a supercar with the liveability of a TT, and that's win-win.


Mark Nichol - 8 Aug 2011



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2011 Audi R8 Spyder V8. Image by Audi.2011 Audi R8 Spyder V8. Image by Audi.2011 Audi R8 Spyder V8. Image by Audi.2011 Audi R8 Spyder V8. Image by Audi.2011 Audi R8 Spyder V8. Image by Audi.



2011 Audi R8 Spyder V8. Image by Audi.
 

2011 Audi R8 Spyder V8. Image by Audi.
 

2011 Audi R8 Spyder V8. Image by Audi.
 

2011 Audi R8 Spyder V8. Image by Audi.
 

2011 Audi R8 Spyder V8. Image by Audi.
 






 

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