AT A GLANCE

The Courier-Mail - Motoring - - Prestige -

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.

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