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First Drive

First published: 10th October 2016

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First Drive

2016 Audi R8 Spyder V10 5.2 FSI Quattro 540PS first drive review

The Audi R8 Spyder is the drop top version of the flagship R8 supercar. It uses the same naturally aspirated 5.2-litre V10 engine which, in a new era of turbocharging, is becoming an increasingly rare breed.

First published: 10th October 2016
Auto Trader verdict:
With the exception of the Porsche 911, no other model fits the ‘everyday supercar’ archetype quite like the Audi R8. The R8 Spyder steadfastly maintains the coupe’s blend of exotic performance and everyday usability, but adds more visual and aural drama with very little dynamic compromise. Given the choice, we’d opt for the Spyder version every time.
Need to know:
  • Audi R8 Spyder maintains naturally aspirated 5.2-litre V10
  • 0-62mph in 3.6secs, 197mph top speed
  • Prices start from £128,185; UK deliveries start in December
What is it?
The al fresco version of the Audi R8 Coupé supercar and the first model to launch under the newly-christened Audi Sport department (Audi Quattro GmbH was renamed Audi Sport at last month’s Paris Motor Show).

The R8 Spyder features the same four-wheel drivetrain and seven-speed dual clutch automatic transmission as its coupé sibling, but has undergone significant body strengthening to compensate for the loss of rigidity that’s created when you chop off any car’s roof.

The showpiece remains a naturally aspirated 5.2-litre V10 that lives beneath a louvred carbonfibre cover and develops 533bhp at 7800rpm – 69bhp shy of the hyper-styled, mechanically similar and fiscally punchier Lamborghini Huracán Spyder.

The three-layer fabric roof is available in three colours – black, brown and red – and is able to unfurl in 20 seconds at speeds up to 31mph. It benefits from a retractable rear glass window that can be operated independently.

Standard equipment includes leather seats, electrically adjustable heated seats, sat-nav, DAB radio, Bluetooth, front and rear parking sensors, climate control and a 12.3-inch digital screen that Audi calls its ‘virtual cockpit’. This replaces the traditional dials you’d normally find in your instrument binnacle with a screen that can be customised to display a variation of speedometer, tachometer, navigation, radio, phone and fuel settings.

Huge, ventilated steel disc brakes and 19-inch alloys are standard issue, but the options on our Vegas Yellow test car included 20-inch, 10-spoke ‘Y’ alloys (£2,350), fade free carbon ceramic discs (£7,700) and Laser Lights (£3,150) that are said to offer brighter illumination than LED headlamps. You’d hope so for that additional outlay…
2016 Audi R8 Spyder
2016 Audi R8 Spyder
2016 Audi R8 Spyder
2016 Audi R8 Spyder
What’s it like?
Very flattering. You’d think any 500+bhp supercar should be a handful to drive, but the Audi R8 Spyder isn’t any more intimidating than our long-term Audi TT S Roadster.

Progress is so quick and so effortless in the R8 that the 0-62mph sprint is consistently dispatched in 3.6 seconds, with the official top speed of 197mph feeling entirely accessible. Alternatively, you can engage fully automatic mode and the car will happily crawl though dense traffic for hours without lurching, screeching or overheating. For some supercar owners, this may sound like witchcraft.

It’s difficult to detect the additional 125kg in bulk over the Coupé, too. In the corners and under heavy braking, the Spyder feels benign and stable while offering immense traction. The steering offers very little in the way of feel, but the car responds immediately to your inputs.

Yet the greatest thing about progress in the R8 Spyder is the accompanying soundtrack. There is no doubt in my mind that a naturally aspirated V10 offers a much greater timbre and more vocal range than any of its turbocharged or supercharged rivals, Jaguar F-Type SVR included. And when the roof is down, there is far less buffeting and wind noise than you would get from cruising in a Porsche 911 Cabriolet. Be warned, though, that V10 also offers up a pretty woeful 24.1mpg, even with Audi’s ‘cylinder-on-demand’ technology that can effectively shut down half of the engine when it isn’t under stress.
2016 Audi R8 Spyder
2016 Audi R8 Spyder
2016 Audi R8 Spyder
2016 Audi R8 Spyder
Should I buy one?
If you’re looking for a genuine everyday supercar that can offer accessible dynamics yet still cause onlookers to get their camera phones out, then yes. The Audi R8 Spyder may not be the most involving supercar to drive, but it is one of the easiest to live with, allowing you to be both emotionally and financially committed.
Key facts:
  • Model: 2016 Audi R8 Spyder V10 5.2 FSI Quattro 540PS S tronic
  • Price: £128,185
  • Price as tested: £164,240
  • Engine: 5204cc, seven-speed dual-clutch automatic
  • Power/Torque: 533bhp at 7800rpm / 398lb ft at 6500rpm
  • 0-62mph: 3.6secs
  • Top speed: 197mph
  • Economy: 24.1mpg
  • CO2/BIK tax liability: 227g/km / 37%
  • Boot space: 112-litres
Also consider:
Porsche 911 Turbo Cabriolet
Lacks the Spyder’s visual drama but with an identical 533bhp, it’s half a second quicker to 62mph and benefits from two extra chairs.

Jaguar F Type SVR Roadster
Cheaper to buy and run, but the 567bhp supercharged Jaguar lacks the dynamic polish of the R8.

Mercedes GT C Roadster
New roadster version of the AMG GT sports car boasts 549bhp. Promises muscle car performance when it arrives in early 2017.

Interested in buying an Audi R8?

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