► New Plus version of R8 Spyder tested
► Plus-size power, brakes, carbon quota
► How does it compare with its Huracan sibling?
Carbonfibre trim, bucket seats, ceramic brakes, variable police-stop-bang-ouch powertrain modes and 69 extra bhp; that’s what the Plus stands for. Not the usual marketing hype ‘plus’ which combines an imperceptible 14bhp power hike with a smarmy slathering of jaunty stickers to give that last, desultory sales impetus to a model decidedly on its dernier jambes…
Nope; we’re talking enough extra oomph here to lift the regular R8 Spyder’s power output to 602bhp (suspiciously level-pegging with Lamborghini’s Huracan Spyder), lower its 0-62mph snippet to just 3.3 seconds and raise maximum speed to a toupee-shredding 204mph. And that leaves these kissing cousins in the closest possible contention for the title of Fastest Tanning Salon in the World.
Ah, but only the Lamborghini looks like 200mph…
True. The Huracan’s cut-glass carapace attracts the attention of everyone, even gurls who regard cars as mere mascara, merlot and mastiff conveyances (though – at the risk of reaching for the fruit bowl to emulate Lou Reed on the cover of his album Transformer – one slightly dreads to contemplate what they’re thinking of the driver).
The more demure R8 less so… Particularly this second-generation machine, which has lost a deal of the squat, short-nosed pugnacity that gave the original iteration so much sheer presence. I’d also bemoan the loss of the full-height carbonfibre blade which hallmarked the flanks of the first R8, were it not for the reality of its absence on both generations of Spyder.
Conversely, though, the R8’s interior is an altogether classier and better made place to be; the Huracan’s, gaudy, over-plastic’d, hexagon-obsessed cabin interior design may seemingly be attributed to the ministrations of a colony of spliffed-up bees.
The R8’s only real downside in this department is in the moving forward of the Coupe’s bulkhead to create a somewhat over-snug compartment.
Less to choose between them on the move, though?
Well. Normally a convertible with the lid off is good for reducing your velocity to the tune of some 30mph or so, but not here, not with one of the few extant large-capacity, conventionally aspirated engines tucked in over your shoulder… On which point, shame that both Spyders forfeit the glass-ceilinged engine room of their tin-topped siblings.
With words such as ‘proficient’, ‘disciplined’ and ‘refined’ lobbed into the mix, many have accused the R8 Coupe of belying its capacity for astonishing pace and tenacity through a tendency to come across as somewhat aloof, even in V10 Plus guise.
But it’s amazing the difference ripping the roof off and welcoming all those expensive, oleaginously threshing noises-off fully aboard makes. Steering wheel switchgear prodded to open the windows in the exhaust system and revs piling on, there’s actually precious little to choose between the sonorous din of the R8 and that of the Huracan.
Neither wails like a Ferrari 458; this is more of an enraged bellow, a howl at the moon interspersed with the thump and bang of overrun tympani and mortar shells. It is, nonetheless, an entirely addictive sound. Better still, you can lower the Audi’s rear screen while leaving the roof in place, so that soundtrack remains fully available whatever the weather.
Once upon a time all cars boasting powertrains of this belligerence were notoriously difficult to drive with any degree of finesse, requiring a bewildering meld of brute force and precision to elicit rapid, smooth progress, not to mention retardation…
Not so either of these Spyders. Switch click-fast flappy paddle changes with blipping downshifts to spare your passenger’s neck muscles; that gloriously long accelerator pedal travel which makes you realise that you weren’t actually travelling that rapidly under half throttle after all; four-wheel drive making for machines far braver round corners than any pants in my drawers… Proper pace with so little risk of disgrace.
The occasional shimmy from the scuttle aside, the V10 Plus Spyder is one of the few truly quick machines out there that seems to genuinely benefit from the removal of its roof. It just becomes a whole bathful of otters more engaging.
However, maybe it’s the letterbox-narrow windscreen through which the road is inhaled, maybe the tougher ride, maybe the greater intensity of the din, maybe all three. But it’s the (considerably pricier) Huracan that demands to be driven ever faster, at all times…
Don’t get me wrong; the R8 Spyder V10 Plus is absolutely magnificent, and as easy to live with as a labrador that never breaks wind. It’s merely that, at more modest velocities inching down towards legality, the Lamborghini still stirs the soul, whilst, ever the perfect host, the Audi merely stirs your martini…