An Audi sound­track to rock your world

Stan­dard Spy­der may be con­sid­ered an R8 ‘lite’ but it’s not lack­ing ex­cite­ment

The Star Early Edition - - MOTORING - JESSE ADAMS

WHEN Audi served up its all-new sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion R8 Coupe last year it did so with a dou­ble help­ing - both the 397kW nor­mal ver­sion and the 449kW Plus were de­liv­ered at the same time.

But for the Spy­der, which ar­rived just over a month ago, it’s eas­ing us into ope­nair su­per­car­dom with only the less pow­er­ful model on the menu. For now. The Spy­der Plus will come next year. Is it worth wait­ing for?

Un­less three tenths at the dragstrip and a mi­nus­cule amount of lon­gi­tu­di­nal G-force un­der ac­cel­er­a­tion mat­ter, then not at all. The 397kW Spy­der may be con­sid­ered an R8 “lite” but it’s cer­tainly not lack­ing in per­for­mance or ex­cite­ment depart­ments.

That V10 at the back, even in its turned down state, still packs plenty of au­ral stim­u­lus and, be­cause this is a drop top, it of­fers an un­re­stricted path for one un­fath­omably beau­ti­ful (un­der­state­ment) song to pour into ear canals.

The Spy­der’s cloth top folds in 20 sec­onds and at driv­ing speeds up to 50km/h, and when it’s tucked away this two-seater’s cabin be­comes a golden cir­cle at a heavy metal con­cert. With no sound-sup­press­ing tur­bos to in­hibit its 8700rpm vo­cal range, this 5.2-litre big block surely de­serves a spot in the Nat­u­rally Aspi­rated Great­est Hits al­bum. The Spy­der’s back win­dow also slides elec­tron­i­cally into the bulk­head, of­fer­ing frost­bite-free ac­cess to the tunes on a win­ter’s day. Bril­liant.

It’s no slouch ei­ther. If the Plus ver­sion didn’t ex­ist it’s un­likely any­one would ac­cuse this R8’s 397kW and 540Nm of any in­suf­fi­ciency, and with foot flat there’s plenty of pull on your neck mus­cles. Audi claims a sea level 0-100km/h in 3.6 sec­onds (ver­sus 3.3 in next year’s Plus) and a top speed of 318km/h, though I wouldn’t want to go any­where near there with the roof down for fear of ag­gra­vat­ing my al­ready re­ced­ing hair­line.

Our Vbox test equip­ment showed a best 0-100km/h time of 4.16 sec­onds in Gaut­eng which is un­der­stand­able given the reef ’s thin air and a lack of al­ti­tude com­pen­sators. It also cov­ered the quar­ter mile in 12.35 sec­onds, match­ing the more pow­er­ful but heav­ier first gen­er­a­tion R8 Plus’s time.

Like the Coupe there’s an alu­minium and car­bon­fi­bre space­frame hid­den be­neath the Spy­der’s body, so the ab­sence of a roof has had lit­tle ef­fect on struc­tural rigid­ity. Audi’s chas­sis en­gi­neers cer­tainly didn’t have South African roads in mind when they set out de­sign­ing this car, but even Gaut­eng’s most ne­glected sur­faces (driven Hennops River Road lately?) failed to flus­ter the Spy­der. Scut­tle shake? Never heard of it.

A re­vised qu­at­tro drive sys­tem can now ap­por­tion all en­gine power to ei­ther front or rear axle de­pend­ing on the driv­ing sit­u­a­tion, though it would take some se­ri­ously in­ter­est­ing con­di­tions to prompt a fully front-wheel drive R8. But, get it into an an­gle where bias is sent rear­ward and the back diff locks up, and it’s pos­si­ble to get some drift on. And that’s say­ing some­thing con­sid­er­ing qu­at­tro’s renowned un­der­steery na­ture.

Our han­dling track at Gerotek is a short and re­lent­lessly twisty cir­cuit, but here the Spy­der rev­elled in di­rec­tion changes, toss­ing its rear end out on cor­ner en­tries and bang­ing apexes with a touch of op­po­site lock. It’s nowhere near as tail happy as a pure rear-driver, and it takes some skill to make coun­ter­steer hap­pen, but the fact that a qu­at­tro car can get tail-play­ful is im­pres­sive in­deed.

But the R8 can tone it­self down to easy lis­ten­ing soft rock level too. I said it af­ter test­ing the Coupe, and the same ap­plies here. Dial the drive modes back to Com­fort and switch off the ac­tive ex­haust flaps (both ac­ces­si­ble on the steer­ing wheel) and this so-called su­per­car trans­forms into a gen­uine ev­ery­day driver. Well, an ev­ery­day driver that costs R2.9-mil­lion be­fore op­tions and has a pa­thetic 112 litre frunk (front trunk).

In softer set­tings there’s al­ways a gen­tle rum­ble be­hind the seats and the sus­pen­sion will con­stantly re­mind you it’s tuned more for lap times than spong­ing up pot­holes, but the R8, in ei­ther body style, is pos­si­bly the most easy to drive su­per­car, ever. Sure it’s firm when roads get rough, but ex­pect­edly and ac­cept­ably so. VER­DICT The R8 Spy­der seems im­mune to the com­pro­mise nor­mally as­so­ci­ated with hack­ing the roof of a sports car. There’s zero jig­gle in the chas­sis when un­der pres­sure, its per­for­mance is wor­thy of its se­ri­ously saucy looks, and the best part is you can peel the lid back to get closer to the 10-cylin­der sym­phony hap­pen­ing be­hind your head.

Wait for the Spy­der Plus if you need a bit of ex­tra shove, and can af­ford it. Other­wise, the reg­u­lar ver­sion suf­fices nicely.

Fol­low me on Twit­ter @PoorBoyLtd

Drop top ver­sion of Audi’s mid-en­gined R8 com­bines sub­lime per­for­mance with ev­ery­day drive­abil­ity.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.