The Audi R8 Spyder is back! After an absence of nearly two years those looking for a two seater convertible can once again visit Audi to order their topless supercar. Like the Coupe the Spyder will only be available with a V10 engine for now. A rare feat in times of downsizing and efficiency. But is it better than its predecessor? We went to Spain to find out!
The new Audi R8 V10 Spyder comes with a naturally aspirated 5.2 liter V10 engine. It shares the same basis with the Huracan’s V10 engine but Audi gave its own swing to it. The high-revving engine provides 540hp and 540Nm of torque and comes with a 7-speed double clutch S-Tronic gearbox. With an unladen weight of 1,720 kilograms the V10 Spyder sprints from 0-100 km/h in 3.6 seconds and tops out just shy of the magical 200 mph marker.
The Audi Space Frame from the R8 V10 Coupe is strengthened and modified to provide the Spyder with the same level of rigidity. It is 50% stiffer than the chassis of the previous generation. The soft top opens and closes in speeds of up to 50 km/h and in around 20 seconds.
But enough about all the technical details; what is it like to drive? I open the door of my dynamite red 2017 Audi R8 Spyder and get in. The downside of the mid-engine setup is that tall people like me find very little space in the driver and passenger seat. In general I reckon everybody over 1.80m will struggle with the seating position.
I hit the big red start button on the steering wheel and the engine comes to life with a loud bark of the V10. I pull the gear lever down into D and off I go. The first bit of my journey is the highway around Barcelona so I have some time to play with the virtual cockpit – there is no center screen in the R8 and TT – and connect my phone. The infotainment system is really good and also works really well with the buttons on the steering wheel. I ultimately leave the MMI controller in the center console for what it is.
My particular car is equipped with the optional Bang & Olufsen sound system – although I prefer the listen to the V10 rather than the radio – which has a cool new feature with speakers built into the headrest so even with the top down you get pretty good and clear sound.
The drive select button on the steering wheel allows you to change between Comfort, Auto, Dynamic and Individual. Switching from comfort to dynamic the suspension stiffness changes, the engine becomes more responsive, sound switches to sport and the steering feel and ratio becomes sportier. You can also set your own favorite profile under Individual or switch the sports exhaust from standard to sport with a separate button.
Time to leave the highway for what it is and head up into the stunning mountains around Montserrat. I pull the downshift paddle located on the back side of the steering wheel and realize it is still the same plastic paddle as on my Q5 or any other Audi with shift paddles. Shame Audi didn’t create some nice aluminium paddles for the R8. Another thing that annoys a bit is that when you pull one of the paddles while driving – per example to overtake someone quickly – it stays in Manual mode and doesn’t change back to automatic mode so you need to flick the gear lever right and back again to go back to auto mode.
Driving up Monserrat the engine does sound good but it is not quite what I hoped for yet. The engine is providing the most emotional experience only at the highest end of the rev range so you need to be between 7 and 9,000 rpm to truly enjoy the engine. Lower in the rev range the engine simply lacks responsiveness and power.
Having driven the Audi R8 V10 Coupe last year I remembered the V10 to be more emotional, so what is going on? It took me a while to figure it out that to really get the best sound you not only need to switch from comfort to dynamic but you also need to change the gearbox from D to S or engage the performance mode. Once you do that the R8 V10 Spyder starts to give you goosebumps every time you touch or release the gas pedal. Now this is definitely the way the R8 V10 Spyder is supposed to be: raw and loud.
The killer feature of the previous generation R8 Spyder also returned on the second generation model. Right behind the driver and passenger there is a small rear window that you can open and close. Even when it rains and you are driving with the roof up this window provides direct access to the great sound of the V10 without any wind noise or water coming into the cabin.
Further down the route I come across a very narrow and twisty mountain road with an endless combination of turns. As the car propels from one corner to the next the engine and brakes do a great job but there is one thing that doesn’t quite feel right: the steering.
My red R8 has the dynamic steering package as optional extra, this not only changes the steering feel between light (comfort) to heavy (dynamic) but also changes the steering ratio. Since it is all drive-by-wire now this is all done by a clever bit of software. But turning into tight turns feels a bit disconnected. The front-end grip is very good but it feels as if the software filters out unwanted steering inputs when driven on the limit. This made me realize that the R8 V10 Spyder is not that engaging to drive on tight and twisty mountain roads.
Back on the main road the Audi R8 V10 Spyder finds a place where it is really home: wide open b-roads and the highway. Let the V10 do its thing and you will soon be cruising at double or triple the speed limit, hit the kickdown in comfort mode and it will drop gears and accelerate so brutally your neck might snap.
It might share the technical basis with the Lamborghini Huracan but the Audi R8 V10 Spyder is a bit more sophisticated and understated. It’s appearance is more 911 than Huracan, but under the skin it has a lot of Huracan going for quite a bit less. Outside of the Volkswagen Group the new AMG GT Roadster will be the biggest competitor. I haven’t driven the roadster yet but if my experience with the AMG GT coupe is anything to go by it is a strong opponent for the R8 V10 Spyder. It might not have a V10 or rear window that can be opened with the roof up but it offers killer performance, more space inside and mega sexy looks.
Overall the R8 V10 Spyder is not quite my type of car. I’m simply too tall and I prefer the performance and practicality of a V8 turbo engine over the high-revving naturally aspirated V10 even when the sound is to die for. My size issue and turbo obsession aside though, the Audi R8 V10 Spyder is a cool car with a state of the art interior. Especially the driver oriented controls on the steering wheel in combination with Audi’s virtual cockpit.
The Audi R8 V10 Spyder can be ordered now from 188,000 euros in Germany. The first customer deliveries of the Audi R8 V10 Spyder will start in Europe this month, North America will follow in the first quarter of 2017. For now no ‘Plus’ version of the V10 Spyder is planned and with no entry level engine available there is quite a big gap in the line-up between the TT RS and R8 V10.