AT A GLANCE
THE motorway tunnels bored through Spanish rock are great echo chambers for the midmounted engine of the R8 Spyder — especially when I lower the rear windscreen of Audi’s new soft-top two-seat supercar. A high-revving V10 is rarely heard these days, so it’s a treat to hear one sing.
The tunnels are frequent enough to explore the full range of the 5.2-litre engine’s voice. It’s simply a matter of tapping the paddle-shifters to select the right ratio in the seven-speed double-clutch transmission before entering each one.
In higher gears at lower revs the V10 growls with lowpitched menace. Shift down a gear or two and the volume grows, taking on the gruff character of an in-line five, another rare engine layout favoured by Audi. This makes sense, as a V10 is basically a pair of fives joined at the hip.
But the real drama is to be found in the final sector of the tachometer dial before the 8700rpm redline, when the V10’s angry bellow morphs into a horror-movie scream.
That’s appropriate, because this is a scary-fast car. Audi claims a credible 3.6 seconds for the 0-100km/h sprint.
The V10’s sky-high peak power — 397kW — only partly explains the R8 Spyder’s quickness. If it didn’t come standard with quattro allwheel-drive, much of that power would literally go up in (tyre) smoke with the accelerator floored in first gear.
Another great benefit of quattro tech is that it makes something as powerful as an R8 Spyder much more manageable and secure when the road is wet. Despite Spain’s sunny reputation, today the sky is low, grey and threatening. It drizzles. There are showers. Followed, late in the afternoon, by saturating storms.
It would be foolish to risk wetting the R8 Spyder’s Nappa leather interior trim or the Bang & Olufsen speakers, so the roof stays up and we can’t check on Audi’s boast of 20 seconds closed to open (and vice versa). But the nifty powered rear glass gets plenty of use.
According to Audi, R8 buyers use their cars more often than other supercar owners, and it can call on some authority on the matter.
Audi has been managing Lamborghini since 1998, when the Italian brand came under the ownership of the Volkswagen Group (which also owns Audi).
This long-term relationship accounts for the new R8 and the Lamborghini Huracan sharing engine, transmission and more. The same was true of the previous, first-generation R8 and the Lamborghini Gallardo.
The Huracan is sharpedged, dramatic and fierce. The R8 has curvier styling and an intentionally calmer character. The Audi is a car you could drive every day.
When equipped with magnetically variable shock absorbers, it rides very smoothly for a supercar.
The same isn’t true for the shifting of the S-tronic sevenspeed gearbox; it sometimes shifts with a clunk when driving in slow-moving traffic.
But unlocking this car’s super powers is simple. Just toggle the Drive Select, which alters the behaviour of engine, transmission, suspension and steering, from Comfort or Auto mode into Dynamic. This turns the R8 Spyder into a louder, sharper-driving, quickercornering car.
The snug and simple interior is well equipped and beautifully made. Features that are optional overseas, such as the Nappa leather interior, Bang & Olufsen audio, magnetic shock absorbers and sports exhaust, will be standard equipment in Australia.
The lightweight soft-top is expertly engineered and there’s no hint of fuss or flap at motorway speeds. But with that big engine taking up all the AUDI R8 SPYDER PRICE $388,500 WARRANTY 3 years/unlimited km SERVICE INTERVAL Condition based, from 12 months/15,000km to 2 years/30,000km SAFETY Not rated ENGINE 5.2-litre V10, 397kW/540Nm TRANSMISSION 7-speed DSG; AWD THIRST 11.7L/100km DIMENSIONS 4426mm (L), 1940mm (W), 1244mm (H), 2650mm (WB) WEIGHT 1795kg 0-100KM/H 3.6 secs (claimed) available space in the tail, the luggage compartment in the R8 Spyder’s sloping nose is tiny; only 112L.
Lack of cargo capacity limits its day-to-day usefulness but the R8 Spyder excels in other ways. It draws as many stares as an Italian-made mid-engined soft-top, while costing much less. This is something of an achievement, as the R8 Spyder will wear a price tag of $388,500 when it arrives in Australia in the middle of next year.