12 Sept 2014

Driven – Audi R8 V10 Spyder 5.2FSI Quattro

Colin Hubbard reviewed the hardtop Audi R8 V10 back in July.  Here's his review of the convertible R8 V10 Spyder

Audi R8 V10 Spyder 5.2FSI Quattro
Audi R8 V10 Spyder 5.2FSI Quattro

The test car was finished in pearl effect phantom black and, along with titanium-finished double arm 19 inch alloys, looked staggeringly good with the hood up or down.

The other staggering item is the price - nearly £130,000 on the road - some £10,000 more than the hardtop but it does come with everything you need or want in a supercar.

And supercar this is, not only does it have the performance to back the name up but the open cockpit amplifies the driving experience.

Power is supplied by the same Lamborghini derived 5.2 V10 as the hardtop but the spyder carries an additional 75kg from its electrically folding soft top, additional bracing and a powered rear glass window. Magnesium in the roof structure helps save a little weight but performance is still marginally blunted, taking half a second extra to 62mph  - 4.1 seconds - and with a top speed of 194mph it only loses 1mph to the hardtop.

The chassis is quattro equipped so is all wheel drive with a varying split of power to the front and rear wheels depending on conditions and traction. The suspension is electromagnetic dampers and coil springs which feels as fresh today as when the R8 was originally launched, magic carpet to tight and taut at the touch of a button.

Thankfully the test car was fitted with steel disks - Audi's new cross-drilled wavy disks in this instance, to save unsprung weight. Not only do they look great but along with the multi-piston calipers they slow the car's 1,645kg down with ease and offer excellent modulation.
Audi R8 V10 Spyder 5.2FSI Quattro
Audi R8 V10 Spyder 5.2FSI Quattro

From the outside it looks very classy, black really suits the Spyder and highlights the curve on the engine cover nicely. Unfortunately due to a complicated folding soft top the R8 loses the glass engine cover but all is forgiven as the overall shape is stunning.

Even with the hood up it retains its good looks although the hood arches down unnecessarily toward the rear to retain the sleek lines, while the vertical rear window is electrically retractable and can be operated independently of the roof.

Inside is familiar R8 territory being classy rather than shouty unlike its Italian sister. To be honest the new R8 will be welcome as it hasn't changed since it was launched in 2006 but time has been kind and it's still a nice place to be.

The obvious benefit of a soft top is the infinite roof height and the wind in the hair driving experience but what you get in the R8 is the sound of that glorious V10 engine mounted just inches behind you.

Prod the starter button to wake the engine and it barks loudly at you, the cloth hood not insulating your ears the same way the tin top does. As it's a gloriously sunny day the hood is lowered straight away (in 19 seconds) although it can be lowered at up to 31 mph.

Out of the launch venue and the R8 rode the speed bumps easily. Even though it's a low car it is still everyday friendly and as I hadn't pressed the sport button yet the dampers were still in their softer setting.
Audi R8 V10 Spyder 5.2FSI Quattro
Audi R8 V10 Spyder 5.2FSI Quattro

Once on the open the road the Spyder comes into its own. You can hear and feel the V10 howling and popping as if it's in the cabin. When you experience the sound and feel the wind rushing around you the small dent in acceleration from the hard top is instantly forgotten and it feels just as fast.

There is a little chassis flex, even though the aluminium spaceframe chassis features some elements of carbon composites this supermaterial can't quite match the rigidity of a hardtop when the roof is cut away. It's acceptable though and doesn't affect the overall driving experience.

As it was a dry day and the R8 is all wheel drive grip is predictably impressive. On curvy roads the back wants to push out a little under hard acceleration and the front end is light but digs in well

Now it's time to press the sport button which turns the hard top V10 into an animal. No change in the Spyder and it quickly drops a couple of cogs of the S-Tronic gearbox. Now the howls and pops are more HOWLS and POPS which wake you like a glug of energy drink.

The metal particles in the dampers are charged,  thickening the viscosity of the fluid so the damping is firmer. The beauty of this system is that they are still constantly adjusted many times a second so while the ride is firmed up the chassis is not bone jarringly hard. The ride is now excitable and also a little jumpy, but not brittle so it flows with the road, finding traction where a firmly damped car would skip.

The changes in sport mode transform the experience and the whole car comes alive like a child on its second bag of Haribo. Suddenly that extra £10,000 seems like money well spent and on a sunny day I can't think of another car I would want to be in.
Audi R8 V10 Spyder 5.2FSI Quattro
Audi R8 V10 Spyder 5.2FSI Quattro

As the roads twist and turn and the Spyder gets into its groove and covers ground incredibly quickly and competently, the 10 fizzing cylinders just behind you with little in the way of silencing, you feel like you are in your own exotic amphitheatre.

Part of the driving route is on the motorway so I raised the hood to test the sound deadening properties at speed. At a steady 70mph on a busy road sound is muted and quiet enough for a conversation without shouting.

As I exited the motorway I opened the rear window which reveals an entirely different character to the car. Instead of the wind whistling in your ears and rushing past your face all is now calm, the engine note clearer but no less loud.

I also noted a whirring sound like a belt driven supercharger with the back window down that I didn't notice with the hood down. It's a strange noise but one I liked and which added to the driving experience.

As I passed into a built up area where the speed limit reduced from 60mph to 30mph I was still in sport mode so the 7 speed gearbox changes down 3 gears - with each change it auto blips the throttle - thrum, thrum, thrum. It's too much for urban areas so I pressed the sport button to put it back to the default setting to avoid looking like some attention seeking footballer.

After a few more miles I gave it one last blast, with the sun beating down on my face, the wind in my stubble and the hairs on the back of my neck tingling from the high pitched V10.

As I parked up I thought back to the price and wonder if Audi is asking too much for this ultimate incarnation of the R8. It only takes a nanosecond to answer and it's an absolute no. Yes it's not as flamboyant as the £60,000 more expensive Lamborghini but it is a hell of a lot classier instead, being a car for the restrained type. More Bond than Beckham.


Price - £124,650 (£129,005 as tested)
Engine – 5.2 litre, V10, petrol
Transmission – 7 Speed S-Tronic
0-62mph – 4.1 seconds
Top speed - 194 mph
Power - 517bhp at 8,000rpm
Torque - 391lb ft
Economy - 19mpg combined
CO2 - 349 g/km
Kerb weight - 1720kg
Audi R8 V10 Spyder 5.2FSI Quattro
Audi R8 V10 Spyder 5.2FSI Quattro

Audi R8 V10 Spyder 5.2FSI Quattro
Audi R8 V10 Spyder 5.2FSI Quattro

Audi R8 V10 Spyder 5.2FSI Quattro
Audi R8 V10 Spyder 5.2FSI Quattro

Audi R8 V10 Spyder 5.2FSI Quattro
Audi R8 V10 Spyder 5.2FSI Quattro