When a car has as charismatic a motor as Audi’s naturally aspirated V10, you can bet that the convertible version will be something special, and to look at the new Audi R8 V10 Spyder is a pure object of desire.
With its canvas roof neatly tucked away under the rear deck, the cab-forward R8 Spyder takes on a sleek and dynamic look that brings to mind the image of a Riva Aquarama speedboat.
The R8 Spyder windscreen is raked at the same angle as the Coupe’s but stands about 20mm taller. “This extra A-pillar and screen height might not sound like a lot on paper but it makes a big difference to the proportions of the car, especially with the roof down,” explained Martin Leilich, development engineer for Body & Interior.
Roof down the Spyder exudes a joie de vivre, both from behind the wheel and from appreciative onlookers, that shows good taste rather than brashness. The thumbs up signs from a few riders of fast bikes and truck drivers said it all.
The bad news, it you could remotely think of 540hp this way, is that the Spyder is only available with the base motor. But do not despair, for what this entry-level version of the 5,204cc Audi/Lamborghini V10 looses in sheer top end go over the full fat 610hp version in the R8 V10 Plus, it makes up for by being a much more visceral driving experience at normal road speeds.
Both versions sing with the same razor sharp, silk ripping V10 voice, but the base engine sounds and feels less angry in the last quarter of its rev range. Once past 6,000rpm, the Plus version lunges explosively towards its higher 8,700rpm rev limit until the lightening fast seven-speed S-Tronic dual-clutch transmission seamlessly swaps ratios.
In comparison, the more mildly tuned motor delivers a more linear push in the back all the way to its 7,800rpm redline, feeling more ‘normal’ if that word can be used to describe this charismatic engine. Its peak torque of 540Nm at 6,500rpm is 20Nm down on the Plus version.
You definitely feel the absence of the 70 extra horses in the R8 V10 Plus, a loss compounded by the fact that the Spyder is 70kg heavier than the Coupe, corresponding to the weight of an average sized passenger.
However, compared to its predecessor, the new Spyder is 25kg lighter at 1,720kg, and 0.2 sec faster over the 0-100km/h sprint, which now takes 3.6 sec. The 200km/h marker comes up in 11.8 sec on the way to the cars 318km/h top speed.
Audi continue to lead the pack in terms of build quality inside and out, and the R8’s cabin is a delight in both design and execution. Looking forward from the driver’s seat, the dashboard is identical to the Coupes, with MMI as standard and Audi’s Virtual Cockpit as the high-end solution. The centre console is also familiar, save for the button that operates the powered roof.
Al fresco driving is a real wind in the hair experience, so you need to pop the wind deflector in place on the bulkhead behind the seats and raise the side windows for maximum comfort. In this configuration, even blasting along at 160km/h is not uncomfortable providing the air outside is warm.
On a very hot day, the ice-cold air conditioning and a baseball cap are your best friends. Conversely on a bright but cold winter’s day the heater and heated seats do their work to keep you at a comfortable temperature. Luckily for us, October in Barcelona meant a comfortable 23°C.
One of the must have features on any self respecting convertible today is the ability to open and close the powered hood on the fly at up to 50km/h. Having driven all afternoon with the roof down, I decided that the last 25 km of the test route should be devoted to testing comfort levels in the cabin with the roof in place.
I timed the closing operation of the Webasto-made roof at exactly the 20 seconds claimed by Audi, whilst gliding through a set of road works at just under 50km/h.
With the soft-top in place, all the wind buffeting disappears and your immediate surroundings become as calm as in the Coupe. At a gentle cruise you do not have to raise your voice in conversation, and with the dynamic settings in Comfort mode, the R8 Spyder is a perfectly civilised way to get from A to B. If you plan a weekend away though, you will have to be very disciplined as the front luggage bay only holds one airline carry-on case.
With its V10 motor in full battle cry, the R8 Spyder is a great ‘tunnel car’. Drop a gear or two and gun the throttle in the open Spyder and the deep basso profundo exhaust note overlaid by the silk ripping scream of the engine arcing towards its 8,000rpm crescendo is your own little chunk of aural heaven from the time when V10 motors were in vogue in F1.
The sound of air and fuel combusting in a 1-6-5-10-2-7-3-8-4-9 firing order and blasting spent gases out of the two big exhaust pipes momentarily turns the tunnel into the world’s biggest audio amplifier. Anyone driving behind you will think that Armageddon has arrived and the sky is falling!