Finds out if losing its roof has compromised Audi’s brilliant R8
The Audi R8 Spyder weighs in at 1,795kg. That’s 125kg heavier than its fixed roof sibling. There’s also a 40% reduction in stiffness which does make itself known with the odd vibration here, the odd wobble there.
The centrepiece remains the 5.2-litre V10,
Find yourself a tunnel, floor the accelerator – remembering to stay within the speed limit, and listen with a broad smile as the engine roars and snarls and growls. See what I mean?
There’s no turbocharger, and that means no turbo lag. Instead there’s an immediacy about the power delivery. It’s linear too, building steadily and predictably as you squeeze the throttle.
The suspension rates have been tweaked, rather than softened, helping the soft top retain much, though not all, of the Coupe’s majestic body control without wholly sacrificing the R8’s impeccable manners. The ride isn’t perfect, however, with broken surfaces feeling marginally more intrusive. It is only marginal, however, and only evident if you’re driving in any mode other than Comfort.
There are three other modes –Auto, Dynamic and Individual – accessible via Audi’s Drive Select but he best way to enjoy the Spyder is to drop the Drive Select into Individual, leave the suspension in Comfort and switch everything else to Dynamic. Throttle response and steering are sharpened up and, even with the suspension at its most supple, you’ll still be able to revel in what is an astonishing front end that bites hard as you turn in while the four-wheel-drive remains unobtrusive.
The cabin is impeccably Audi. The instrument binnacle is dominated by Audi’s stunning virtual cockpit, which puts all the crucial information front and centre on a high-res 12.3 inch TFT display.
The centre of the fascia houses the air con controls which are magnificently simple in their design and function and beautifully conceived in their construction.
Behind the gear selector is Audi’s multimedia interface (MMI) which uses a touch sensitive jog dial to facilitate sat nav inputs – you simply spell out your destination on top of the dial – unless you’d rather use voice input, of course.
For pure driving experience it would be hard to argue a case for the Spyder against its Coupe sibling. Despite the necessary structural changes – the increase in weight and loss of rigidity – the Spyder’s dynamic ability is just a hair’s breadth away from the fixed roof R8 but those small margins will make a big difference to the keenest of drivers.
It’s not all about making sacrifices if you opt for the Spyder however. For a start there’s the exhilarating pleasure you’ll get from hearing that glorious V10 bark and snarl and spit just behind your ears.
The rear windscreen can be raised to act as a windbreak and, on the whole, it does a very effective job. Taller drivers will, of course, still endure a degree of buffeting but nothing that elicits immediate regret at having dropped the roof.
And don’t imagine that, when the elements conspire against you, forcing you to journey with the fabric roof in place, you won’t enjoy levels of refinement comparable with the Spyder’s fixed roof sibling, because the cabin is just as well insulated, just as cosseting and just as comfortable.
In every respect it’s a winwin.