Audi’s latest offering comes with built-in Spyder sense
The 2018 Audi R8 Spyder is the first car I’ve driven that has caused a passerby to face-plant onto a footpath.
He was so distracted, craning his neck to look at the canary-yellow supercar, that he fell face-first. The sequence was so bad, so complete, it looked like a scene from a movie.
It felt appropriate, not just because it is such an eyecatching car. Recently Audi itself has had a bit of a faceplant. Last month, German authorities announced they had uncovered more Audi vehicles equipped with systems rigged to cheat emissions tests. It’s the first time prosecutors have investigated Audi cars sold specifically in Europe as part of parent- company Volkswagen AG’s “dieselgate” scandal.
The announcement widened the ongoing criminal investigation that started in 2015 and most recently involved office raids at Audi in March. VW’s scandal has cost it more than €20 billion so far. The emphasis for the next few years is going to be on making sure drivers still trust Audi’s excellent saloons and appealing SUVs — the brand’s bread and butter.
But anyway, let’s talk about a spendid Audi convertible.
This is the soft- top version of the R8 V10 coupe. Audi first unveiled it in 2009. Today, both of those cars are humbler cousins to the Lamborghini Huracán, also produced by VW.
In fact, both the new R8 coupe and the Spyder share an engine (540 horsepower for the Audis, 602hp for the Lambo), seven-speed transmission ( AWD for the R8), and track- ready chassis which also comes with the decidedly more expensive, aggressive Huracán.
Some new elements on the Spyder are worth noting. Audi has pushed the driver’s cockpit in the Spyder farther forward in the car, echoing the command position in the R8 LMS GT3 race car on which it’s based.
Audi has also integrated the Bluetooth microphone into the seatbelt, rather than the dash, so a driver may take hands- free calls with the top down without the wind obliterating every word.
The stylish R8 that I tested easily passed the open-air phone-call test on a weekend errand.
I also drove it back and forth for the week to the office. It’s equally at home in motorway and city settings, though the tight suspension wore on us after a few hours at cruising speed, and the ramrod-straight seats, combined with stingy legroom, forced my 6’3’’ cyclist friend to fold his lanky frame like origami.
The seats won’t move back very far because, well, that automatic top is stored under the shell at the rear of the car, right behind them.
The storage space in the R8 is under the hood, rather than in the boot — this is a mid- engined monster, remember. Cyclist was fine with it. Thankfully, it was a warm, dry night. The scenario would have been impossible had we needed the top up.
Fuel efficiency here is 17mpg in combined driving, similar to that of the McLaren 570S. But efficiency is not why one would buy a sports car, anyway.
There are other reasons to buy the R8. For one, it looks sexy with those back vents along the rear, new Audi laser- light headlights, and huge carbon- fiber blades that flank the air vents on either side of its body.
Its snub nose, low stance, and all- new, 20- inch, 10spoke- Y design forged wheels keep the overall impression compact — blessedly in check with a design that could easily have become outré. ( I’d choose another colour over yellow.)
My favourite part about the R8 is its virtual cockpit: genius. Everything, including the 12.3-inch LCD digital instrument cluster, is set behind the steering wheel, right in front of the driver. That means you never have to glance right to change music or climate settings. I felt more safe and focused while driving with this format than I have for a long time.
What’s more, the round gauges contained therein are so beautiful and well executed that they look like they’re jumping out from the screen in front of you.
And the design clears the dashboard of extraneous knobs, so where nearly all other luxury cars today have a big computer screen in the centre of the dashboard, only an air vent disrupts the line of the modest black dash.
In a car whose space comes at a premium — there is no back seat, not even a ledge, and the “boot” at the front can hold only the smallest overnight bags — such intelligent design is crucial.
As it wades through its legal problems, Audi shouldn’t lose this type of thought and careful consideration as to how technological function must influence form. Here’s hoping.
The Audi R8 Spyder looks sexy with its back vents along the rear, new Audi laser-light headlights, and huge carbon-fiber blades that flank the air vents on either side of its body.
The Audi R8 Spyder’s seats don’t move back too far as the automatic top is stored at the rear.
The Spyder’s design keeps the dashboard simple and clean.