Audi R8 Spyder (2010 – ) first UK drive
Wednesday 06 October 2010
It’s hard to improve on the thrills offered by the Audi R8 coupe. Its poise, build quality and looks make it one of the finest supercars currently available.
But Audi has now taken the roof off its supercar to create the Audi R8 Spyder providing an even more visceral experience.
If one criticism could be levelled at the Audi R8 coupe, it would be that it lacked some of the edginess that cars like the Porsche 911 can provide.
That’s because the R8 is almost too good – it’s incredibly composed, refined, comfortable and fairly quiet inside the cabin. The R8 Spyder changes most of that, offering a thrill that leaves driver, passenger and passers-by tingling. It is a wonderfully exciting car in every respect.
The Spyder V10 is offered with the Lamborghini-derived 5.2-litre V10 engine from the Gallardo. It’s an excellent place to start, with a colossal 525bhp on tap.
Zero to 62mph takes just 4.1 seconds, with 124mph arriving in 12.4 seconds. Top speed is a heavyweight 194mph.
Howls like a banshee
Impressive figures however you look at them, but the on-paper figures can’t describe the R8 Spyder’s violent assault on the senses. The howl from the V10 engine is one of the best noises in the world, and the occupants are packed tightly into the seat backs under its relentless acceleration.
Manual versions feature a metal gear gate, reminiscent of Ferrari. It feels clumsy at first, but skill and experience is required to slot the gearstick making every shift an experience. A semi-automatic R Tronic gearbox is also available, but doesn’t feel as special.
Race car-style carbon ceramic brakes are available as a costly option, but for regular fast road use, the standard setup is more than adequate, offering a firm and positive feel through the pedal and fearsome stopping power.
Handling is as near-perfect as it’s possible to get. The steering is ultra-responsive, and ideally weighted to get the most from it. There’s immense grip from the wide tyres and Quattro four wheel drive system and there’s barely an ounce of body roll meaning the R8 Spyder can corner hard, fast and flat.
Helping this is some under-floor aerodynamics and a rear spoiler which pops up automatically at speed.
At low speed there’s a small amount of shimmy from the chassis which – thanks to the roof being lopped-off – isn’t quite as stiff as the coupe on which it’s based.
Flick a switch to put the roof up – it will fold in 19 seconds at speeds of up to 31mph – and this improves the chassis flex immeasurably, and during real-world driving conditions, it’s difficult to feel the difference between the Spyder and coupe.
Excellent ride comfort
The ride is good irrespective of whether the roof is up or down, however. It feels a little firmer than the coupe, but it soaks up the worst of Britain’s tarmac as well as the very best supercars and can tackle speed bumps with relative ease.
The cabin makes the most of the R8 Spyder’s easy-to-live-with demeanour, with comfortable seats, an excellent driving position and a well-built dashboard. The controls will be familiar to current Audi owners, which is a good or bad thing, depending on whether you want a bespoke, or solid-feeling supercar.
There’s a fair degree of wind buffeting at motorway speeds making it difficult to have a conversation, but at a more modest pace, the small, retractable glass screen behind the driver’s head is sufficient to block most of the wind.
Less helpful is the amount of storage space – there’s a small, 100-litre space under the bonnet, a few lockable spaces between the seats and space in the doors. You’ll need to travel light for a weekend away.
The £111,000 R8 Spyder is reasonably well equipped, but you’ll still need to rely on the options list for things like cruise control. A semi-automatic gearbox is a £5,000 option, but we prefer the manual.
Among the standard kit comes 19-inch alloys, a Bang & Olufsen stereo, sat-nav, electric heated sports seats, all-LED headlights, nappa leather upholstery and climate control.
Despite the Spyder’s considerable abilities, enthusiasts looking for the final ten per cent of driving ability should choose the coupe. But for supercar fans who love the idea of open top motoring, the R8 Spyder is a no-compromise choice.
Model tested: Audi R8 Spyder 5.2 FSI V10 Quattro
On the road price: £110,915
Date tested: September 2010
Road tester: Stuart Milne