THE PROS & CONS
- What’s Best: Lusty power, gorgeous looks, delightful road manners
- What’s Worst: Tiny storage capacity, supercar price
- What’s Interesting: The R8 shares 50 percent of its parts with the R8 GT3 LMS race car
If you want to know, friends, what a proper aspirational brand identity vehicle looks like, the Audi R8 provides an excellent example.
The mid-engine supercar inspired by Audi’s long period of racing dominance at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the R8 passes one of the most important supercar tests: kids will tack posters of it up on their bedroom walls.
This is especially true of the droptop Spyder version I recently had the pleasure of driving.
Finished in Ara blue with a black leather interior, the V10 Plus Spyder tester Audi Canada furnished me with is an ideal summer vehicle – a sexy two-seat drop-top with giant gobs of power.
Enhancing the experience further are a slew of extras, including Audi Magnetic Ride ($2,300), a Bang & Olufsen sound system ($2,300), and Audi Sport Package which includes a sport exhaust system, dynamic steering and 20-inch 10-spoke Y-design wheels.
These, along with a handful of other options ($13,240 total), push the price before freight and taxes to a stratospheric $242,740, which becomes more reasonable when compared to its intended competition from marques such as Aston Martin, Ferrari and Lamborghini.
It should also be noted the R8 Spyder V10 Plus comes with a lot of standard equipment, among them LED headlights and tail lights, ceramic brakes, carbon fibre trim pieces, heated Nappa leather seats, and Audi’s 12.3-inch virtual cockpit display.
In terms of the R8 lineup, there are three basic models: coupe, Spyder and the limited-edition RWS (rear-wheel series) coupe.
All models are powered by Audi’s naturally aspirated 5.2-litre V10 mated to a 7-speed dual-clutch (S tronic in Audi parlance) automatic transmission. V10 Plus models receive a significant power bump over the base models with an output of 602 hp / 413 lb-ft. versus 532 hp / 398 lb-ft. Audi’s quattro all-wheel drive system is also standard across the range, save for the RWS coupe.
The R8 was all-new for the 2017 model year, featuring a slew of enhancements and a couple of notable changes, including the jettisoning of the 4.2-litre V8 engine and 6-speed manual gearbox.
As was the case with the first-gen car, the current R8 is designed and built in Neckarsulm, Germany by Audi Sport, the company’s in-house high-performance division.
Like the first-gen car, the R8 features a longitudinal mid-engine platform that is shared with Lamborghini (Gallardo then, Huracan now), and utilizes the Audi Space Frame, an aluminum structure that is fused with carbon fibre-reinforced polymer (CFRP).
The aim of the game here is weight reduction combined with increased structural rigidity.
Audi achieves this goal through the liberal use of aluminum. For the Spyder V10 Plus, aluminum accounts for almost 80 percent of the car’s weight. It is used for most of the body panels and for structural reinforcement of the sills, A-pillars and windshield frame. Elsewhere CFRP is used for the centre tunnel, rear panel and B-pillars due to its toughness and rigidity.
All told, these materials combine with advanced manufacturing methods to make the Spyder V10 Plus one lightweight supercar. The Audi Space Frame weighs just 208 kg, while the car itself checks in with a dry weight (no fluids, cargo or passengers) of 1,587 kg, which is even 25 kg lighter than the Spyder V10.
Updated R8 aesthetic
Dimensionally, the R8 Spyder is slightly shorter (14 mm) and wider (36 mm) than its predecessor, while its height (1,244 mm) and wheelbase (2,650 mm) are unchanged.
Visually, the car has a more contemporary look. The lines have a more creased appearance, with squared-off LED headlights framing a wider and more prominent honeycomb Singleframe grille.
In profile, sharp character lines that accentuate the car’s haunches have been updated as have the distinctive sideblade panels aft of the doors.
The squarish theme is especially in evidence at the rear, where a variety of trapezoids and slanted rectangles account for the LED tail lights, exhaust finishers, diffuser and engine vents.
Because the R8 Spyder V10 Plus is a convertible some time must be spent discussing the top. Featuring a magnesium and aluminum skeleton covered in a tough weatherproof cloth material, the top weighs just 44 kg and is powered by a 175-bar (2,538 psi) pump that powers nine actuators that can raise and lower it at the push of a button in 20 seconds at speeds up to 50 km/h.
On the inside, Audi has cranked up the supercar look and feel from the very low seating position to the pin-sharp HD graphics in the 12.3-inch virtual cockpit display, to the carbon fibre trim accents and steering wheel-mounted engine start and drive select buttons. The leathers, plastics and brushed metallic accents have a rich, tasteful quality to them which enhance the R8 Spyder’s luxurious race car aesthetic.
I’ll get right to it – yes, the Audi R8 Spyder V10 Plus is a magnificent car to drive.
More accurately, it’s a great car to experience.
There are the things about driving a car like this that are easily quantifiable – 0-100 km/h in 3.4 seconds, 328 km/h top speed – and those that are less so.
It’s the less so stuff that lingers.
Like the guttural V10 start-up, the easy rocket-like acceleration and race car-like handling, the dazzling virtual cockpit customizability and the incredibly intricate ballet that takes place as the top goes up and down.
On the hot summer days and nights I drove it – a period with a blissfully small amount of rain – the car was simply a delight. The sound of the V10 at speed is sublime, especially with the top down on a two-lane road. Sun shining, music up and letting the good times roll – these are the reasons why convertibles exist.
And if you’re the sort that likes extra attention, the R8 Spyder V10 Plus delivers. Even while parked, I could hear the curious passersby wandering over to my space to take a look and snap a few photos.
And I could hardly blame them, because while the R8 sells reasonably well for a supercar in Canada (186 sold through July 31), they are still rare birds on our roads. Seeing one in the flesh – a convertible, no less – is an uncommon experience.
I usually try to point in these reviews the things that are irksome or annoying during my test drive, but it’s hard to think of any for this car.
Beyond the obvious (stratospherically expensive, impractical), there’s nothing I really didn’t like about it.
The only thing that really bothers me is I’m not rich enough to go and buy one of my own.
Now that is frustrating.
2018 Audi R8 Spyder V10 Plus
BODY STYLE: Two-seat supercar convertible
DRIVE METHOD: Mid-engine, All-wheel drive
ENGINE: 5.2L V10 Power: 602 hp @8250 rpm; Torque: 413 lb-ft @6500 rpm
TRANSMISSION: 7-speed dual-clutch automatic
CARGO CAPACITY: 112 L
FUEL ECONOMY: (premium 91+) 17.1/11.3/14.5 L/100 km city/highway/combined
OBSERVED FUEL ECONOMY: 16.6 L/100 km
PRICE: $229,500 (base) as tested $242,740
WEBSITE: Audi R8
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