2017 Audi R8 Spy­der a fu­sion of power and ag­gres­sion

Grand Magazine - - HOLIDAY ISSUE - KATHY REN­WALD

Do you want to feel like Santa Claus ev­ery­day? Buy an Audi R8 Spy­der. It will cost you $238,000, but you will be sprin­kling star­dust ev­ery­where you go. Audi’s su­per sports car looks like noth­ing else on the road and sounds like it was tuned by en­gi­neers on mind-al­ter­ing drugs.

What else can ex­plain my ex­pe­ri­ence when I went to visit friends at their cot­tage on Lake Erie.

Ar­rival was the calm be­fore the storm. We ar­rived with­out fan­fare in the mid­dle of the af­ter­noon. Most peo­ple were at the beach. We had put the R8 on tame mode, which put a mute on the ex­haust.

De­par­ture was the storm. I started up the Spy­der and sparks started to fly. There’s a but­ton on the cen­tre con­sole that looks like the bulging eyes of a pray­ing man­tis. Push it, floor it and the re­straint comes off the ex­haust. All the best things about a race car – the whine, the growl, the metal-eat­ing ratch­et­ing sound you can’t ex­plain – it all com­bines in a fu­sion soup of power and ag­gres­sion.

Sud­denly peo­ple started shuf­fling out of their cot­tages, screen doors banged, kids dropped their bikes on the side­walk. Within five min­utes we were sur­rounded by peo­ple so en­tranced it evoked a zom­bie apoc­a­lypse.

Adults were smit­ten, but kids were crazy in love with the R8. “Can Nathan sit be­hind the wheel?” “Will you let Elora get in the pas­sen­ger seat?”

And so it went dur­ing my week test-driv­ing the Spy­der, one bil­lion­aire ex­pe­ri­ence af­ter an­other.

For a car that can put on­look­ers into a stu­pe­fied trance, the Audi R8 is re­mark­ably civ­i­lized to drive. Sure, it can do zero to 100 km/h in a ridicu­lous 3.3 sec­onds, thanks to that grand V10 en­gine and 610 horse­power, but by se­lect­ing com­fort drive mode it can poke around town over im­pov­er­ished roads and not bruise your body.

It’s sooth­ing to know that com­fort mode is

avail­able, but driv­ing in sport or sport-plus mode is the hip place to be. It is heaven to un­leash the V10 and let the seven-speed dual clutch au­to­matic trans­mis­sion whip through gear changes.

For a few sec­onds you can feel the high of driv­ing a race car. With the grip of all-wheel drive, the sur­gi­cal steer­ing and rigid body, the R8 han­dles flaw­lessly. It makes you feel like a skilled driver, when in re­al­ity you have barely asked the car to use one-tenth of its ca­pa­bil­i­ties.

The cabin reeks of money and good taste with its deep-dish seats, and dash moulded like a fine mu­si­cal in­stru­ment. But get this, the driver’s seat can only be ad­justed fore and aft. No rais­ing or re­clin­ing. That’s a quirk of the $7,000 Le Mans Pack­age.

This bit of ob­nox­ious be­hav­iour is off­set by the glo­ri­ous vir­tual in­stru­ment panel right in front of your eyes. Ev­ery bit of info needed is right there in your line of sight, and it’s all cus­tom­iz­a­ble. This wiz­ardry re­moves the place­ment of a clumsy dis­play screen in the mid­dle of the dash, and nixes the need for a flurry of but­tons and di­als. Audi’s in­te­rior de­sign is leg­endary – save a spot in the Smith­so­nian for this one.

From curb­side the view of the Audi R8 is not mu­seum qual­ity. It’s be­come block­ier, beefier and maybe a bit bloated over the years. It’s still a head turner, but I’d like to see some­one take a sculpt­ing knife to it and carve a curve or a niche, some­thing to in­ter­rupt its boxy shape.

The Spy­der looks best with the top down, which only takes 20 sec­onds to ac­com­plish in a mes­mer­iz­ing feat of en­gi­neer­ing.

The last day we had the R8, a neigh­bour asked if his son, who has autism, could sit in it. The boy has never talked to us, but his face said every­thing when he sat in the pas­sen­ger seat. I started the car and he squealed with joy. Later, his mother told us he would look out the win­dow ev­ery evening and say, “Good night car.”

An­other Santa Claus mo­ment.

Kathy Ren­wald is an award-win­ning au­to­mo­tive writer, photographer and videog­ra­pher.

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