RE: Audi R8 Spyder: Review

Tuesday 11th October 2016

Audi R8 Spyder: Review

Is losing its top the R8's making or breaking? One way to find out!



The Audi R8 Spyder is the heaviest, slowest and, arguably, the R8 for posers as much as drivers. But I'm not far into my drive before thinking it could be the best yet.

That must make me a shameless poser then. Given my first action before departing the launch venue was to press the noisy exhaust button and my second was to drop the roof I guess that would confirm it. But I'll work on the basis most people buying a V10-powered open-topped supercar aren't doing so to slip under the radar. Call it the roadtesting equivalent of method acting...

The coupe version of the R8 with which we are already familiar is a more than satisfying steer. But, as previously discussed, there's a danger its all-round competence rather saves the best of the show for onlookers rather than the driver.

Its highlight remains that naturally-aspirated 5.2-litre V10 engine; the R8 and the Lamborghini Huracan with which it shares its powertrain and hybrid carbon/aluminium Modular Sportscar System platform likely the last atmospheric-engined mainstream sports/supercars we'll see. May as well make the most of it.


Less is more?
No matter this is the 'low power' version of the R8's 5.2-litre V10, with 540hp as per the regular V10 coupe. That car costs £119K, the Spyder commanding a premium of £10,000 to a starting price of £129,990 while the full-fat V10 Plus, with its Huracan-matching 610hp, starts at £134,520. Outside of the R8 range it's pretty clear what car Audi has in its sights with this new Spyder too - in one of those spooky coincidences the Porsche 911 Turbo Cabriolet costs £135,766 and also has 540hp, albeit with an overboosted 523lb ft of torque that makes the Audi's naturally-aspirated 398lb ft at 6,500rpm look a little breathless in comparison. There's a 580hp S version of the Turbo Cabrio too of course, this costing £154,614. Audi's not confirming a V10 Plus version of the Spyder yet. Nor is it denying it though.

As per the coupe the main differences between V10 and V10 Plus, other than the power, include different gearing to group the first six ratios together and use seventh as an overdrive. In the Plus they're evenly spaced. The Plus also gets standard ceramic brakes over the regular 'wavy' steel rotors, carbon blades and mirror housings, a rear wing, fixed-back seats and an additional three-way Performance selector in addition to the four-step Audi Drive Select, bringing the total 'satellite' button count on the wheel to four. These can be optioned onto the Spyder of course and all but the 'race' seats and rear wing feature on our test car, bringing the price to a burly £164,240 in total - see below for full details.

One other number rather stares out, that being a kerbweight of 1,795kg with a not especially powerfully built 75kg driver onboard. Audi points out this is 25kg less than the previous V10 Spyder and the structure is a claimed 50 per cent stiffer but it's still 125kg more than the already pretty hefty coupe, 70kg heavier than the closely related Huracan Spyder and rather exposes on the "lightweight" claims of the aluminium Audi Space Frame construction.


Heavyweight contender
We've got used to modern cars being heavy though and manufacturers have got very good at hiding the extra flab behind a girdle of technology, helping you forget that with a mate and a bit of luggage onboard an R8 Spyder could easily be a two-tonne machine.

At a superficial level it certainly doesn't feel burdened by excess kilos either. The noise from the V10 definitely helps here, the dramatic flare of barely silenced revs on start up setting the scene. Once over its dramatic warm-up cycle it quietens down but you'll likely be straight on the exhaust button to make it loud again. Because the engine's theatrics are a defining feature and, arguably, pack a more emotive punch than the 911 Turbo's additional power.

It also rather exposes the curious argument made by a few keyboard warriors that a TT RS is basically a half-price R8 because it's only a tenth slower to 62mph. It's not. The R8 is a genuinely dramatic supercar with an engine to match, the like of which we likely won't see again. And the Spyder lets you enjoy it to the full, even if you keep the hood up and just drop the small vertical rear screen to savour the sound effects.

It's rather more exciting to drive than a TT too. Peak power is at 7,800rpm and you don't get your full torque quota until 6,500rpm, 1,500rpm beyond the point where the 911 Turbo has given you its best. So you need revs. And a bit of space to wind it up. But the response to the throttle and the sensations it unleashes means that is no hardship, the (now compulsory) S Tronic dual-clutch seamlessly blurring shifts and acceleration into one thrilling crescendo. Well, it would were it not for such things as wanting to maintain a grip on your licence. Because opportunities to really let rip are frustratingly few and limited to the odd overly-dramatic squirt here and there.


Business as usual
And throughout all this you're never aware of the extra kilos. It might weigh nearly as much as an SL63 but in driving style it feels more like a computer simulation of a plus-size Lotus Elise. Which is no mean feat.

The stiffness of the structure helps, there being a very Audi sense of solidity to the R8's construction and no nasty shudders or wobbles even when attacking properly evil stretches of British B-road. It's near-impossible to praise Audi quality without slipping into cliche but in both style and the way it's screwed together there's plenty to delight the occupants, if little to particularly surprise. The Virtual Cockpit display is really, really good, the button-strewn wheel actually makes some sense and pretty much every interaction with the car feels satisfyingly well thought out. Roof up it's quiet and refined, roof down just the right side of windblown to be exciting without making you wish you'd put the hood back up for the motorway sections. It'll do its thing at up to 30mph too, increasing the scope for switching on the fly.

The harder you drive the Spyder the more you realise why features like Dynamic Steering, the sports exhaust and Magnetic Dampers (available separately but saving over a grand when bundled into the Sports Plus Package) are required to contrive that sense of agility. Of all the plethora of modes available the only two you really need are Comfort in Audi Drive Select for mooching and 'Dry' on the Performance Control (if you specced it) for maximum attack. This locks out the Dynamic Steering to a fixed ratio and is as close as you can get to genuine feedback from the car. Which is to say not a whole lot.


Sweet spot
This also sets the dampers to their firmer setting but it never gets unruly, flowing beautifully with the road without even a hint of secondary thump or shudder. It also relaxes the stability control a tad, experience of the coupe on track suggesting it can be provoked into some angles once you navigate past the default understeer. You'll be going some to get even a hint of this at road speeds though, the 'reverse Haldex' powertrain configuration rear-biased of course but more dedicated to keeping you on the straight and narrow than the first-gen car.

It's accordingly very, very fast and extremely capable. If possibly a little remote as a result. Meaning the R8 Spyder is best savoured as an overall experience, rather than purely a driving one. Something it pulls off with arguably more success than the coupe.


AUDI R8 SPYDER 5.2 V10
Engine
: 5,201cc V10
Transmission: 7-speed dual clutch, four-wheel drive
Power (hp): 540@7,800rpm
Torque (lb ft): 398@6,500rpm
0-62mph: 3.6sec
Top speed: 197mph
Weight: 1,612kg (dry)/1,795kg (with fluids and 75kg driver)
MPG: 24.1mpg
CO2: 277g/km
Price: £129,990 (£164,240 as tested comprising Black Fine Nappa Leather seats £650; Extended Inlays in gloss carbon fibre £1,700; ceramic brakes £7,700; LED/Audi Laser Light headlights £3,150; rear deck carbon air vents £1,900; smartphone interface £250; R8 steering wheel with four 'operating satellites and including Performance modes via Audi Drive Select £1,500; 20-inch wheels £2,350; Carbon Atlas inlays £1,550; smoking package £50; Audi Phone Box £450; Driver Assistance Package £650; Sport Plus Pack £3,500; Sound and Comfort pack £3,950 and Gloss Carbon Exterior pack £4,900)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Author
Discussion

sidesauce

Original Poster:

758 posts

151 months

Tuesday 11th October 2016
quotequote all
I know many will say that this isn't really a supercar but I love the fact it's still a screaming NA V10 - long may it continue!

IMI A

6,189 posts

134 months

Tuesday 11th October 2016
quotequote all
Another v.good review.

Dan if you ever need a leggy 75,000 mile manual gen 1 997 turbo for a vid review feel free to drop me a PM. A comparison to some of the newer flappy paddle cars like this Audi or Porsches latest offerings would be very interesting. Its been optimised a bit..probably a bit passe for PH but I find old vs new comparisons fascinating. Come to think of it throw a 996 t in too.

Riverside Red

663 posts

68 months

Tuesday 11th October 2016
quotequote all
I love the idea of a screaming V10 engine too, but I'm sure Audi will make the experience somewhat cold, efficient and lifeless.

After driving an Audi S5 and an AMG C63 back to back, I really get why the pundits describe Audis as having no "soul".

I'm afraid if I had this amount of budget it would be going on a McLaren.

RR

Mintbird

325 posts

34 months

Tuesday 11th October 2016
quotequote all
I love it. maclaren with the hoover turbo no thanks.

that engine and a spyder, Timmelsjoch here I come! best remember my sun lotion...

GroundEffect

10,922 posts

89 months

Tuesday 11th October 2016
quotequote all
Has anyone got the full load torque curves of this vs the 610PS version? I'm really interested how they've chopped out so much top-end without it feeling crap.


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philmots

4,472 posts

193 months

Tuesday 11th October 2016
quotequote all
Love this.

I'd want it with the full fat 610hp though, minus any extra wings/spoilers

Turbo S may have more wallop low down but I doubt you'd drive this and ever find it lacking!

Krikkit

12,974 posts

114 months

Tuesday 11th October 2016
quotequote all
5 grand for the plus upgrade must be the cheapest way to get 70hp from the manufacturer at this end of the market, no?

Looks like quite a compelling package to me, how much is the Huracan spider by comparison?

Dan Trent

1,815 posts

101 months

Tuesday 11th October 2016
quotequote all
You won't get any change from £200K for a Huracan Spyder.

Cheers!

Dan

Guvernator

8,606 posts

98 months

Tuesday 11th October 2016
quotequote all
Riverside Red said:
I love the idea of a screaming V10 engine too, but I'm sure Audi will make the experience somewhat cold, efficient and lifeless.

After driving an Audi S5 and an AMG C63 back to back, I really get why the pundits describe Audis as having no "soul".

I'm afraid if I had this amount of budget it would be going on a McLaren.

RR
^^^^ This to be honest. A friend bought an R8 V10 spyder last year and I was very much looking forward to driving it, who wouldn't with a convertible V10 pushing out over 500bhp? However while it looked lovely and made the right noises, it just felt a little too safe and dare I saw boring and this is coming from an S5 owner.

The difference is I bought the S5 because I WANTED a nice, safe 4WD family car so wasn't expecting it to set my hair on fire but surely the R8 should be doing exactly this. Unfortunately it felt just like my S5, safe and boring, even the interior was very similar so I came away feeling a bit underwhelmed.

bigmuzzie

89 posts

35 months

Tuesday 11th October 2016
quotequote all
That dash, why is there so much info scattered around it? It just looks like a mess.

This does look far better than the hard top from the outside, shame so many comments on here already state that it is really just another bland Audi. I guess it's what happens when you don't want to step on Lambo's toes.

howardhughes

227 posts

137 months

Tuesday 11th October 2016
quotequote all
As much as I like Audi's £164,240 as tested is taking the piss.
Thanks, but not thanks.

PGNSagaris

1,908 posts

99 months

Tuesday 11th October 2016
quotequote all
Fat, expensive and boring to look at. Great engine though.

Dave Hedgehog

10,004 posts

137 months

Tuesday 11th October 2016
quotequote all
howardhughes said:
As much as I like Audi's £164,240 as tested is taking the piss.
Thanks, but not thanks.
its a shame, R8's used to be attainable for what they where but the pricing has just gone stratospheric, at this price i would rather have a 911 CS and an RS6


Maldini35

1,746 posts

121 months

Tuesday 11th October 2016
quotequote all
Mintbird said:
I love it. maclaren with the hoover turbo no thanks.

that engine and a spyder, Timmelsjoch here I come! best remember my sun lotion...
If you want a convertible to top up your tan then maybe but it you want some fun...

http://www.topgear.com/videos/chris-harris-drives/...



mattwhite709

269 posts

32 months

Tuesday 11th October 2016
quotequote all
A screaming NA V10 in a spyder, yes please! Big NA engines are few and far between now, enjoy them before they completely disappear.

PhantomPH

2,978 posts

158 months

Tuesday 11th October 2016
quotequote all
howardhughes said:
As much as I like Audi's £164,240 as tested is taking the piss.
Couldn't agree more. Perhaps it's me who is hopelessly out of touch, but these days £150k+ on some 911's also seems ludicrous. Although I suppose the C2S is best part of £100k now, so maybe I shouldn't be surprised that things like this R8 are north of £160k.

What's really getting silly is the RRP price and the 'options'. Adding over £30k of options is nuts. I expect this to get worse when the new car tax comes in next year.

I know it's not really the same thing, but I don't get how the Japanese manufacturers (for example) can kit out a standard £35k car with features that are NOT standard on German cars costing 3/4/5/6 times that much.

Edited by PhantomPH on Tuesday 11th October 13:52

La Liga

11,307 posts

89 months

Tuesday 11th October 2016
quotequote all
One of the few cars where I think the last generation actually looks better (excluding the interior). It's almost as if they've gone backwards from smooth lines to a 'boxy' look. Still looks good in the flesh, though.

suffolk009

3,844 posts

98 months

Tuesday 11th October 2016
quotequote all
I was lucky enough to drive a coupe last weekend for a couple of hours.

Dan, where might the "luggage" you refer to actually go? The front boot space is utterly laughable.

I liked the engine; lovely sounds and a proper shove when you floor it. But the ride on country lanes, at less than 40mph, was actually painful.

And yes, the posters above are quite right, it's a bit dull. Not quite the brilliant existential excitement I was hoping it would be.

Guvernator

8,606 posts

98 months

Tuesday 11th October 2016
quotequote all
Have they stopped offering the manual option on these? The one I drove was a DSG which was partly responsible for the detached boring feeling but the manual with an open gate no less was apparently rather good and might go some way to bringing some excitement back.

Jam12321

154 posts

43 months

Tuesday 11th October 2016
quotequote all
A lot worse looking than the original car. Would like to have a go to hear that V10 but i would be giving my money to a competitor without a doubt.