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Thursday 24th May 2012

Driven: Audi R8 GT Spyder

Hardcore R8 GT loses its roof and becomes a bit ... less hardcore! (Now with added video content!)



Great car, disappointing gearbox was the basic gist of our first encounter with the R8 GT. So what of the Spyder? Well, great car, disappointing gearbox and a bit more wind in your hair.

Le Mans winner in the passenger seat: pressure!
Le Mans winner in the passenger seat: pressure!
Review over before it's begun?

Well, you're probably keen to hear a little bit more about this hardcore R8 Spyder. So here goes.

To recap this is, in spirit, the R8 to celebrate the on-track success of its LMS racing cousin which, in new and improved Ultra form, just recently took a one-two at the Nurburgring 24-hour. Good timing then. And with the LMS Ultra making inroads into Porsche's traditional customer GT racing car market, is this the R8 to take on the GT3 and GT2-badged 911 roadcars too? Or simply an R8 with a few bits of carbon to make it appear a little more 'track'?

Weight watchers
Quattro GmbH certainly hasn't been shy when going to work on the GT R8s. Fixed-rate dampers (yay!) replace the magnetorheological ones optioned onto many R8s and it rides around 10mm lower. 85kg has been trimmed out of the kerbweight, visually represented with additional visible carbon around the windscreen surround and on the now fixed rear wing, the diffuser, the splitter and even the little flics on the nose.

Details nailed with typical Audi precision
Details nailed with typical Audi precision
It still weighs 1,640kg mind, give or take the same as a Mercedes SLS Roadster and 100kg or so heavier than a 911 Cabriolet. With 560hp - 35hp up on the standard V10 - and costing £158,145 it's considerably faster and more expensive than the Porsche and nearly 10 per cent cheaper than the Merc. It is, however, at least £36K more than the standard R8 V10 Spyder fitted with the comparable R Tronic gearbox.

Enough stats already. Is it worth it?

Bragging rights
Well, neither this Spyder nor its coupe equivalent are, truly, going to give a GT3 a fright. The weight savings are welcome and hard won and the detail tweaks to suspension, brakes and powertrain do elevate it above standard R8s. But while the LMS version has successfully taken on the 911 and beaten it on the Nordschleife it's hard to imagine car parks outside the Pistenklause and its equivalents suddenly overrun with R8 GTs instead of the usual GT3s.

'Track' mods are tastefully done
'Track' mods are tastefully done
And not just because, like the coupe, just 333 are going to be built.

Which isn't to say it's not a good car, because it is, very. R8s have always impressed for their friendly, approachable manner and, hardcore trimmings or not, the GT is the same but more so. It's a car anyone can grab by the scruff of the neck and feel like they're driving the nuts off it from the first moment.

As nice as the V8 is that muscular sounding V10 howl is something of an R8 signature and even more prevalent in this GT. Shame about the obviously faux exhaust cutouts in the back bumper though, and the fact the real, and much weedier real ones, are clearly visible within.

They sound more authentic than they look though, and suitably immense.

Standard GRP seats save 31kg, carbon more
Standard GRP seats save 31kg, carbon more
On your side
And it's just so benign and biddable too. Hardly words you'd usually associate with the ragged edge of supercar driving, but for those of us with more everyday levels of driving ability it's easy to feel like a hero. And when, like Allan McNish, you really have got proper talent (see the vid) it doesn't seem to run out of ideas either. He wasn't supposed to drive us round in it. But he couldn't help himself, the R8 responding well to his savage, racer's maximum-attack style.

It just gives you options too. A degree of initial understeer can be tempered with trail braking, a lift or a bootful depending on where you are in the corner, and the R8 responds faithfully and predictably to all inputs, which just gives you heaps of confidence.

Gearbox just about OK in manual mode
Gearbox just about OK in manual mode
And then the gearbox rears its ugly head. If the rumours are correct the R8 is soon to get a dual-clutch transmission and it can't come soon enough, the R Tronic delivering head-noddingly ponderous shifts in auto mode and quite happy to arrive at a corner two or three ratios higher than you'd have liked, carrying far too much momentum and then finally downshifting at the least appropriate time possible.

Manual all the way
In fairness it's acceptable in manual mode with the Sport button pushed and at least responds with reasonable speed and aggression to the paddles. And this is the way you'd configure it for track driving. And, if you've got any patience whatsoever, for the road too. We tried the auto mode out of due diligence. And then gave up after freewheeling and understeering round the first roundabout still in fifth. Manual mode all the way if you're to enjoy even half of what this car is really capable of.

Go on, add a '3' to that and do it properly!
Go on, add a '3' to that and do it properly!
If you really are after a hardcore R8 though you're probably better off with the coupe, which not only weighs 115kg less but also won't wobble and shudder over potholes and undulations like the Spyder can on occasion.

Not that you'll care when the sun's out and that V10 warble is bouncing back off walls and hedges. This is a feelgood car, and need feel no shame in that. OK, perhaps more marketing-led than true trackhead but it's tastefully - if expensively - done and the 42 owners who'll no doubt snap up the UK allocation deserve to be very happy indeed with their new purchase.

The speed with which the coupes sold out - just 33 made it here - suggests there's appetite yet for a more hardcore R8 in the regular model line-up too. The LMS has proven itself against the GT3 on track. And the GT's chassis is clearly up to it. All it needs is a properly pared-back spec, a manual transmission and slightly tighter settings on the already excellent chassis. There was a half cage/extinguisher option on the coupe - pair that with it, give it a properly daft rear wing like the race car, call it the R8 Ultra or something and we'll come running!


AUDI R8 GT SPYDER
Engine:
5,204cc V10
Transmission: 6-speed R Tronic automated manual, four-wheel drive
Power (hp): 560@8,000rpm
Torque (lb ft): 398@6,500rpm
0-62mph: 3.8 sec
Top speed: 197mph
Weight: 1,640kg (EU, excluding driver)
MPG: 19.9mpg (NEDC combined)
CO2: 332g/km
Price: £158,145 (basic list)

Photos by SBMotoPhoto


A rather windswept and slightly jiggly lap of Stowe Circuit with Allan McNish...


Dan Trent
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Author Discussion

Ex Boy Racer

Original Poster:

513 posts

72 months

[news] 
Wednesday 23rd May 2012 quote quote all
Dan - it's an Audi. And it's a soft top. You're meant to criticise it, not drive it!

La Liga

1,718 posts

36 months

[news] 
Wednesday 23rd May 2012 quote quote all
Possibly the worst factory-fitted wheels I have ever seen.


veevee

1,125 posts

31 months

[news] 
Thursday 24th May 2012 quote quote all
Yay. When's the GT3 cab coming out?

Schnellmann

1,577 posts

84 months

[news] 
Thursday 24th May 2012 quote quote all
This Audi new...or a very lightly-used 16M......er....not really a contest is it?

Standard R8 cabrio would seem to be a much better choice if you must have an R8.

mylesmcd

1,379 posts

99 months

[news] 
Thursday 24th May 2012 quote quote all
GoPro.


That really isn't good enough for a web site like PH'ds.



Advertisement

BelfastBoy

541 posts

40 months

[news] 
Thursday 24th May 2012 quote quote all
Schnellmann said:
This Audi new...or a very lightly-used 16M......er....not really a contest is it?

Standard R8 cabrio would seem to be a much better choice if you must have an R8.
Good call on the 16M - the Ferrari sells itself on noise alone!

sc4589

1,608 posts

45 months

[news] 
Thursday 24th May 2012 quote quote all
Wish I'd tried the manual R8 when I had the chance- simply hated the R-tronic 'box. Quick-witted in manual mode, but violently jerky.

Not sure about the point of this car. The subheading says it all- hardcore car, but slightly less so. Clever. boxedin

Gorbyrev

652 posts

34 months

[news] 
Saturday 26th May 2012 quote quote all
Hard to see what the R-tronic is doing in there when the manual is such a joy! My short drive in a cooking R8 (if there is such a thing) was enough to confirm that. Can't help thinking that this will lose the £40K in its first year of ownership you would need to secure a tidy early 4.2, then you would have £110K of wiggle room to modify it yourself. Know what I would do!

blasos

131 posts

42 months

[news] 
Saturday 26th May 2012 quote quote all
Interestingly, a Ferrari 458 Italia produces slightly more power and equal torque despite being 0.7 litres smaller in capacity. The R8 is a fantastic car, though, and there's no doubt this version is outstanding.

mrloudly

2,379 posts

115 months

[news] 
Saturday 26th May 2012 quote quote all
sc4589 said:
Wish I'd tried the manual R8 when I had the chance- simply hated the R-tronic 'box. Quick-witted in manual mode, but violently jerky.

Not sure about the point of this car. The subheading says it all- hardcore car, but slightly less so. Clever. boxedin
My thoughts exactly, it's crap unless you're caning it ;-)

n4aat

75 posts

92 months

[news] 
Monday 28th May 2012 quote quote all
A nonsense pointless video.


craigb84

932 posts

32 months

[news] 
Monday 28th May 2012 quote quote all
sc4589 said:
Wish I'd tried the manual R8 when I had the chance- simply hated the R-tronic 'box. Quick-witted in manual mode, but violently jerky.

Not sure about the point of this car. The subheading says it all- hardcore car, but slightly less so. Clever. boxedin
Agree. Had the pleasure of a day in the v10 hardtop with the r-tonic and in auto (not even sport mode) it was just so violent to the point that it's very difficult to drive smoothly. My super car experience is very limited but I just can't see how this would be any fun on a day to day basis.

In manual mode however it was a different car altogether.

Interior was disappointing for me too. Especially for something that cost £100k.

mrloudly

2,379 posts

115 months

[news] 
Monday 28th May 2012 quote quote all
You can drive them smoothly but you need to back off slightly just before a gear change. I did 30k in a V8 Rtron before moving to my manual V10. IMHO the only people
that claim to like the Rtron are owners thereof, strange that...

uuf361

2,416 posts

102 months

[news] 
Monday 28th May 2012 quote quote all
£160K..... eekshoot

zorba_the_greek

417 posts

102 months

[news] 
Monday 28th May 2012 quote quote all
Well that was a waste of time trying to watch the video.

Poor picture - Poor camera position - poor sound.

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