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RE: Driven: Audi R8 Spyder

Thursday 11th March 2010

Driven: Audi R8 Spyder

One R8, plus the south of France, minus one roof equals a very good time



The clouds that cover the Cote d'Azur in a grey haze as we land at Nice airport are perversely appropriate for the launch of an open-topped car like the new Audi R8 Spyder.


The Brits are the most active buyers of convertibles, roadsters and spyders in Europe and, since even the most glorious summer's day in Blighty is prone to turn wet quicker than you can say 'light drizzle', a wet-weather test of Audi's new roofless supercar seems more than apt.

But although the weather is on the money for UK-bound R8 Spyders, then the location Audi has chosen for our first chance to try the open R8 - the French Riviera - is very much the R8 Spyder's spiritual and conceptual home. After all, a car like this is as ideal for cruising (and, yes, posing) on the streets and waterfronts of Antibes, Nice, Cannes and Monte Carlo as it is for haring up the switchback passes that criss-cross the nearby Alpes Maritimes.


Exotic convertibles - especially mid-engined ones - are unavoidably as much about street theatre as they are setting blistering lap times or hitting 300kph on the Autobahn.

The R8 Spyder certainly scores high marks in the visual drama stakes. It has lost the side 'blade' of the coupe, making it look longer and lower. In the metal, the way the Spyder hunkers down onto the Tarmac really does make it look mean. But we'll let you make your own mind up about the looks - what's going to be interesting is this: has lopping off the roof compromised what, in coupe form, is surely one of the most dynamically involving Audis ever created?


The simple answer is no: astonishingly, the soft-top R8 manages to pull off the scarcely believable trick of almost-never feeling more wobbly than its tin-topped sister. Yes, strings of lumps and bumps will send minor tremors through the cabin, but the effects of rooflessness are well hidden - the slightly softer suspension settings no doubt play a part here.

Audi has clearly worked hard on keeping the Spyder's structure as solid as possible, employing strengthening tricks such as making the undertray a load-bearing aluminium structure rather than a stick-in plastic item.

Thanks to strategic use of carbon fibre (the hood cover is made from uni-directional stitched carbon composite), the weight penalty is just 100kg. Stick a chubby passenger and luggage into an R8 coupe and you'll add that much weight easily.


What does make a difference is the engine - the marginally heavier V10 does rob the R8 of some of the tip-of-the-toes agility that distinguishes the V8 R8. The pay-off is more than worth it, however, especially in a car with no roof; the snappy, barking, bassy V10 is a truly joyous thing to listen to it. Hearing the bellowing V10 bounce of the orangey-red cliffs west along the coast from Antibes is a truly special experience.

The R8 Spyder backs up its bark with some serious bite, too. With 518bhp and 391lb ft of torque on tap, the four-wheel-drive R8 Spyder will catapult you from rest to 62mph in 4.1secs and will keep pushing until 194mph. Providing you keep the engine percolating above 5000rpm (peak torque doesn't arrive until 6500rpm), in-gear acceleration is every bit as ferocious as the noise and performance figures lead you to expect.

This is a good thing if you're really going for it, because although the open-gated six-speed manual gearbox creates a wonderful sense of occasion, it can be occasionally mildly obstructive, particularly when shifting from third to second. Third gear is enough for most roads, however - an enthusiastically driven Ducati came past us as we swept along the coast, but the 30mph-100+mph operating range of third was more than enough to comfortably keep the Ducati in our sights once we wound the wick up a touch.

As well as the six-speed manual, the R8 Spyder - again just as with the fixed-roof versions - is also available with a six-speed automated manual R tronic sequential transmission. Our advice? Avoid it. The shifts are a little too jerky and, in full automatic mode, the 'box will shift up and down when you really don't won't it too. To pay an extra five-and-a-bit grand for the privilege of losing some sense of occasion, and adding frustration, seems like madness.

Specify an R8 Spyder with the optional suede-rimmed steering wheel, a manual gearbox, and optional hip-hugging sports seats and there's more than a hint of RS Porsche to the experience - if Porsche made a mid-engined, soft-edged convertible supercar, that is.

The Porsche analogy actually runs deeper than that; the R8 Spyder is a bit like a faster, more exotic Boxster - soft enough to be comfortable yet sharp enough to please the enthusiast whenever the occasion demands. It might seem like damning with faint praise to compare a 518bhp V10 roadster that's as close to a supercar as Audi gets right now with the most humble of Porsches, but the Boxster is as close to an ideal mid-engined roadster as you'll get. To bear comparison with it is praise indeed.

But I'll end with a minor caveat - Audi still needs to master the trick of putting soul into a car. The R8 is nearly there - it sounds fantastic, looks dramatic inside and out, and handles beautifully. But there remains a whiff of cold, crisp efficiency hanging in the air around everything it does. But the day Audi creates a car with the passion and soul to match its desirability and ability, Ferrari, Porsche, and Aston will really have something to worry about.

 










Author
Discussion

The Pits

Original Poster:

4,288 posts

164 months

Thursday 11th March 2010
quotequote all
Take away the cold crisp efficiency and sales will evaporate. The masses like german cars and that efficiency is what reassures them it's german.

However it seems no journalist likes convertibles. They are dismissed as posers cars in every recent article, this one included.

While there are a number of desperately misguided people who think showing off their bald patch in a city in some strange way make them look 'cool' (or presumably the idea is to make them look 'wealthy') there are also a number of people who love the experience of driving a fast convertible on a great road, yes, even when no-one is watching.

Having owned a number of tin tops I think for a car bought purely for driving pleasure, being able to take the roof off adds hugely to the experience. And even more so on a car with an exotic engine. The view outside for one, when you're driving in scenery worth looking at, is hugely better than a fixed roof car. The reality is, an Audi R8 or Gallardo is not really the last word in precision as a tin top anyway. Something like a Lotus Elise is a far superior. And something like a caterham is a far better track car than any lardy 'supercar'.

So I figure the joys of a convertible version outweigh the small sacrifice in precision. Since owning my first convertible (a Honda S2000) in 2003 I don't think I could go back to a fixed roof car now.

McAndy

8,744 posts

101 months

Thursday 11th March 2010
quotequote all
I'm still undecided on the looks. In some colours (like the brown at launch) it looks d-u-l-l. But it looks cracking here! It's going to have to be another 'in-the-metal' test for me!

jontysafe

1,902 posts

102 months

Thursday 11th March 2010
quotequote all
Like it in the red but at first it looked too much like the TT RS from the front, damning with feint praise indeed. Liking the wheels though, decidedly un Audi. Seems the ideal candidate for a roof lop to me and yes I think I`d have one over the tintop.

pistolp

1,719 posts

146 months

Thursday 11th March 2010
quotequote all
The Pits I couldnt agree more. It seems almost the done thing to dismiss a drop top as a posers car only, most people who drive the r8 are posing anyway. Having it off (so to speak) only makes the smile all the wider. Both for you and the gold digging passenger

As a guy who owns a 430 spider and a caterham I can safely say that you are correct, the spider is for high days and holidays. Or just a really enjoyable blast sometimes. The Caterham will run rings around it and offers alot more driver involvement. Honestly, the Fez cant touch it for driver thrills but it doesn't half make you feel good sometimes.

I remember once being behind a couple of gt3's at silverstone in my roadsport race car, i was literally driving it one handed behind these cars round the twisties. it looked to me like they were having to drive right up to their limits just to stay in front. i couldn't get past on the straights though. i also thought they sounded so good i bought one. being next to a gt3 exhaust at full chat in a caterham down the hangar straight can have a profound effect on you!

soad

28,053 posts

100 months

Thursday 11th March 2010
quotequote all
McAndy said:
I'm still undecided on the looks.
Me too. Looks good in red, suits it well.

So far only saw black ones on the road.
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FWDRacer

3,482 posts

148 months

Thursday 11th March 2010
quotequote all
From a styling point of view, am I alone in thinking this looks more resolved and cohesive than the Coupe? I'll take one in white to match the rendering on the Villa Ta. hehe

Chris-R

747 posts

111 months

Thursday 11th March 2010
quotequote all
The Pits said:
However it seems no journalist likes convertibles. They are dismissed as posers cars in every recent article, this one included.
Pretty much every car journalist I know likes convertibles. They occasionally even admit to enjoying posing in them too, although not necessarily in print... smile

Either way, Riggers definitely didn't 'dismiss' this one, he loved it.

Try these two articles for another couple of convertibles we liked a lot.
http://www.pistonheads.com/doc.asp?c=47&i=2125...
http://www.pistonheads.com/doc.asp?c=105&i=210...

Dr G

12,900 posts

166 months

Thursday 11th March 2010
quotequote all
Red looks great on the Spyder but it needs the black leather.

I think the R8 is extremely well positioned, having driven both R8 and Gallardo where the Lambo scores points on flair and added excitement those two same factors can be irritating when you're not 'on it'. No steering lock, no visibility, crap (practically, not on styling) dash layout. R8 is very easy to live with and for those of us not blessed with Senna's arms and legs more performance car than you will ever need.

It would be a shame if this car was made less usable. I'd drive it day in, day out.

Burnham

3,348 posts

183 months

Thursday 11th March 2010
quotequote all
Can we see it with the roof up?

Streetrod

6,233 posts

130 months

Thursday 11th March 2010
quotequote all
Burnham said:
Can we see it with the roof up?
Here you go:


Burnham

3,348 posts

183 months

Thursday 11th March 2010
quotequote all
Cheers Streetrod!...cant wait to see one on the road (but still think I'd rather have a used Gallardo and change)

Jimbo_vx

233 posts

160 months

Thursday 11th March 2010
quotequote all
Just doesn't look right.

Infact it gives the same impression as this year's f1 cars. The wheel base is too long compared to the overhangs.

Rocksteadyeddie

7,961 posts

151 months

Thursday 11th March 2010
quotequote all
Thank goodness they've ditched those ridiculous side "blades". The coupe really doesn't need the Max Power touch.

G4HKS

2,639 posts

143 months

Thursday 11th March 2010
quotequote all
pistolp said:
The Pits I couldnt agree more. It seems almost the done thing to dismiss a drop top as a posers car only, most people who drive the r8 are posing anyway. Having it off (so to speak) only makes the smile all the wider. Both for you and the gold digging passenger

As a guy who owns a 430 spider and a caterham I can safely say that you are correct, the spider is for high days and holidays. Or just a really enjoyable blast sometimes. The Caterham will run rings around it and offers alot more driver involvement. Honestly, the Fez cant touch it for driver thrills but it doesn't half make you feel good sometimes.

I remember once being behind a couple of gt3's at silverstone in my roadsport race car, i was literally driving it one handed behind these cars round the twisties. it looked to me like they were having to drive right up to their limits just to stay in front. i couldn't get past on the straights though. i also thought they sounded so good i bought one. being next to a gt3 exhaust at full chat in a caterham down the hangar straight can have a profound effect on you!
+1 see comments about cars with no roof in the Corvette thread: http://www.pistonheads.co.uk/gassing/topic.asp?h=0... anyone here?

Apparently, drivers without roofs are somehow gay? I don't think so. (No offense to the gay community of course).

adycav

7,615 posts

141 months

Thursday 11th March 2010
quotequote all
okgo your thread has arrived etc

Mark Wibble

211 posts

148 months

Thursday 11th March 2010
quotequote all
Burnham said:
think I'd rather have a used Gallardo and change)
+1
Jimbo_vx said:
Just doesn't look right.
+ another 1 !

I know it's supposed to be an amazing car, but... I just don't really like the look of it!

motoroller

560 posts

97 months

Thursday 11th March 2010
quotequote all
It looks so much better than the coupe!

pjv997

524 posts

106 months

Thursday 11th March 2010
quotequote all
I prefer the look of the spyder to the coupe and also like convertibles, for me the extra sensations of noise and wind in the hair outweigh the slight loss in dynamic ability.

I think it's a shame they are not offering in a V8 version as well, a bit lighter and not so expensive would make it more of a competitor to a 997/8 convertible.

Edited by pjv997 on Thursday 11th March 13:40

Shape Shifter

5,179 posts

161 months

Thursday 11th March 2010
quotequote all
Riggers said:
has lopping off the roof compromised what, in coupe form, is surely one of the most dynamically involving Audis ever created?

The simple answer is no: astonishingly, the soft-top R8 manages to pull off the scarcely believable trick of almost-never feeling more wobbly than its tin-topped sister. Yes, strings of lumps and bumps will send minor tremors through the cabin...
So, the simple answer is yes then?

The Pits

Original Poster:

4,288 posts

164 months

Thursday 11th March 2010
quotequote all
I think the plan is to introduce a V8 later down the line. Presumably the uprated V8 from the RS5 too, with 444bhp