Audi’s lat­est of­fer­ing comes with built-in Spy­der sense

Irish Examiner - Supplement - - NEW CARS - Han­nah El­liot is im­pressed by the new 2018 Audi R8 Spy­der

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.

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