After an all-too-brief spell at the wheel of Audi’s R8 Spyder, wheelworldreviews Editor DAVID HOOPER, explains why cars just don’t get much better than this.
IF there was a prize for attention grabbing, then this car, Audi’s beautiful R8 Spyder, would waltz off with it under its bonnet before any potential rivals could get a look in.
I have driven a lot of different and sometimes fairly exotic machines in my time, but I can’t think of another car which has won such admiration from everyone and anyone who set eyes on it.
During my few days at the wheel of Audi’s latest supercar, which has recently gone on sale, I have been chased by boys on bikes wanting to get a better look at it, shouted at while I waited for traffic lights to change by a couple of 12-year-olds who stuck their thumbs up and shouted: “Ace car mate”, been mobbed on Cleethorpes sea front where I took the car for a photo shoot, and had a queue, quite literally at times, of friends and family wanting a ride in it.
If you want to be noticed, or make lots of new friends, then sell your house and splash out the £112,500 you will need to spend to buy one. A supercar in every sense of the word, the largely hand-crafted R8 Spyder is building on the success Audi found with its original R8 Coupe which wowed performance car fans with its combination of outright pace, sharp handling and every day driveability. The model I tested came with a few extras, notably the Carbon fibre inlays around the interior at £1,650 and the advanced parking system, with its rear camera, at £1,250.
The Spyder brings a soft top to the party, so for those who like the wind in their hair, this is the model to have – and there will be plenty of wind in your hair, I can assure you of that.
Featuring Audi’s latest 5.2-litre V10 engine, the benchmark 0-62mph is blown away from a standing start in just 4.1 seconds, thanks in part to the traction provided by the car’s four-wheel-drive Quattro system which launches it towards the horizon. The acceleration is relentless and with a potential top speed in excess of 194mph, or over 300kph, you would need a long, empty stretch of Autobahn, or maybe the track where the Bugatti Veyron is tested, to really exploit the upper limits of this car’s performance potential.
Blisteringly quick it may be, but it’s not a hard car to drive at all. Around town it is as easy to drive as a Mini, seriously, and I was amazed to discover that it will actually potter along at 30mph in sixth gear, so flexible is its mighty V10 power plant, sitting in the middle of the car, just behind the two seats. It will even pull away from 20mph in sixth, which is most impressive when you think that you could accelerate from 20mph to 194mph without changing gear – that’s 174mph!
So what is it like to actually drive something like this. As you slide into the plush, typically Audi interior, one of the first things you will notice is the heavy clutch pedal, but with so much power available, that is to be expected. The rev counter and speedometer sport V10 and R8 logos and the gear lever moves among clearly defined slots in its aluminium gate.
The gears slot positively from one position to the next with a satisfying clunk, but for those who prefer automatic changes, an R-tronic sequential six-speed transmission is an option.
Just starting the car from cold is an experience in itself. Turn the key in the ignition, and the mighty V10 engine explodes into life, revving slightly higher than it does when it’s warmed up. It’s enough to make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.
The noise from this superb engine has to be heard to be believed, and just driving around in second gear is enough. As you open the throttle and feed the power in, the Spyder accelerates with ease, but as the rev counter reaches the 4,000 mark, the engine note changes as it comes on cam. It’s a glorious noise of which no petrol head will ever tire. A small spoiler to improve high speed stability deploys from the rear of the car automatically as the speed builds. Don’t expect much more than 14mpg though if you use its performance, but 20mpg on a run should be attainable if you drive it gently.
The Spyder feels very secure on the road with a hint of understeer when you turn into a corner at speed, so it’s better to slow the car a little more into the corner, get the front end turned in properly, and then unleash the power on the exit, with the rear-biased Quattro system giving a proper sports car feel.
The soft top roof is very well engineered and styled to resemble the lines of the hard top, with two slim fins extending towards the back of the car.
The conversion to open top takes but a few seconds and is done at the push of a button at speeds of up to 30mph. Even with the roof up, the small glass rear window can be lowered so you can still revel in the noise from the engine.
You really don’t need a music system in this car, but if you ever get bored of the music from the V10 just behind you, there is a superb Bang and Olufsen hi-fi system to keep you entertained. The Spyder even has microphones for the hands-free phone system built into the seatbelts.
Luggage space is minimal, with room for a weekend bag under its long, sloping bonnet, and that’s about it, apart from some very small door pockets and a couple of compartments in the car.
The R8 Spyder though, is more about the journey – it’s just a fantastic way to travel.
THE VITAL STATISTICS
MODEL: Audi R8 Spyder 5.2 V10 FSI quattro.
AUDI R8 RANGE: From R8 Coupe 4.2 FSI quattro (£85,100) to R8 Spyder 5.2 V10 FSI Quattro (£112,500).
ENGINE: 5,204cc, 525PS V10 engine, driving four wheels through 6-speed manual gearbox.
CO2 EMISSIONS: 356g/km.
PERFORMANCE: Top speed 194mph. 0-62mph in 4.1 secs.
ECONOMY: City: 12.4mpg.
Fuel tank: 80 litres.
INSURANCE: Group 20.
WARRANTY: 3 years/60,000 miles.