It's a fair reflection of the burgeoning Audi range that the new Audi R8 V10 Spyder you see here is comfortably over £100k. This maximum R8 is the most expensive regular series production Audi ever, at £112,500, so it'd better be good. But the omens are good. We love the R8. Really, really
love it. Who'd have thought that Audi – purveyor of slick but stodgy front-drive saloons better known for dashboard quality than dynamic nous – would turn out a supercar to bash the 911 right out of the box? Well they did.
The R8 is – believe it or not – three years old now and the surprise factor lingers on after that first US drive back in the March 2007 issue of CAR Magazine. But Ingolstadt has not stood still. The Italian-bequeathed V10 has slotted into the R8 coupé and now the Spyder, meaning the only way to enjoy the open-top Audi supercar experience is to have the bigger engine.So the Audi R8 V10 Spyder is fast?
Naturally. Study the spec sheet and you'll be left in no doubt the convertible R8 is anything but a fully paid-up member of the supercar A-list. It won't quite hit 200mph, but 62mph passes by in a eye-trembling 4.1sec. And look at those engine figures: 518bhp at 8000rpm
– just hear it – and 391lb ft at 6500rpm. It likes to rev, does this V10.
This gets to the nub of the V10 Audi. Where the regular 4.2 V8 is, well – if not exactly slow, then certainly adequate – the V10 is mind-bogglingly fast. It's a reflection on the widespread availability of manic power, from Evos to Subarus, fast Fords to any number of super saloons, that our relationship with speed has changed. I mean, who would have thought any self-respecting road tester could call a 4.2 R8 slow? It's not, of course, but its performance is just so perfectly judged. You can drive the entry R8 really hard, most of the time. The same can't be said of the V10.
Here's why. Pootle along a country road in the R8 V10 Spyder, spot a straight and change down into third. Enjoy the exquisitely engineered, six-fingered open gate as you do so, stolen straight from the design files at Maranello. Clickety-clack. Remember there's Quattro traction underfoot. Then nail the throttle.
S.T.R.E.W.T.H. The R8 simply flies to the horizon, your stomach's left somewhere back in Cambridgeshire and the Audi hunkers down as the R8 spears through the air. With the roof down (a simple press of a button, all automated, very comfy and quiet with the rear window glass protector in place), there's a cracking V10 soundtrack that encourages repeated 8000rpm visits. And the handling? I assume it's no A4 2.0 TDI stodge-wagon?
Correct. Traction is peerless, letting you explore more of the brutal acceleration on offer, more of the time. In my time with the car, I approached nowhere near its limits but the more road testery types at CAR will tell you how the chassis has incredible rear bias in extremis
. Jethro Bovingdon raves about its RWD feel and the lairier angles it affords. Not really my cup of tea on the open road to be honest.
So the V10 is monumentally fast, but it's also involving. All the contact points with the driver are well judged, from the tactile, precise gearchange to the pedals that encourage blip-downchanges. The R8 steers with a delicious precision and weight that tells you just enough about what's going on and it's fast-geared enough to enable flick-flacks through tighter corners. Our car was equipped with regular steel discs and wiped off that speed easily enough at the prod of the middle pedal.And is the cabin special enough?
Is this the R8's weak spot? On the one hand, I understand the need to recycle Audi parts bin stuff in here – it's what enables projects like the R8. But it doesn't feel special enough in the cockpit compared with a comparably priced Porsche or Aston Martin, and there are numerous drawbacks. The ventilation switches in front of the gearlever are all but inaccessible when you're in first, third or fifth. I'd personally do without the tacky carbonfibre effect trim on our test car and you'll have to pack light with a tiny 100-litre boot in the nosecone.
Frankly, we're nit-picking however. This is a wonderful car, that opens its soul at the drop of the roof, and shares the cadences of its charismatic V10 at the twitch of your toe. The R8 still feels and looks mighty special even three years after launch and the arrival of the Spyder only polishes an already brilliant car.Verdict
It's hard to see the R8 Spyder being anything other than a hit. Expect Audi to flesh out the range with a V8 Spyder in the not-too-distant future and for my money that'll be the better car. Less excess, more attainable. But meanwhile, what a great car the R8 V10 Spyder is.