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The R8 Spyder delivers a glorious soundtrack and exhilarating yet accessible performance, making it a truly special car to be savoured.

02 Jul 2021


$720,800. For a convertible sports car with space for just two people, an abysmal 112-litre boot, sub-5km/L fuel consumption, $5,834 a year road tax, and with performance figures nowadays matched by cars like a BMW M3. Heck, the company even makes a large SUV that has more power.

So yes, I get it. That seems more than a little crazy.

But then, there is a moment of magic. Roof down, edge the engine past 4,600rpm, and suddenly all those quibbles and doubts instantly melt away. Suddenly, the Audi R8 Spyder makes absolutely perfect sense.

You're talking out of your a**...

Over two generations, the Audi R8 has impressed with its accesibility and breadth of performance
Hear me out.

Audi first introduced the R8 in 2006. It was many things - a dramatic, mid-engine sports car that pitted itself against the likes of Ferrari and Lamborghini, but more than anything, it was a statement of intent. Audi was proving its mettle, with the capability to develop and build a car that would go on to great success, both as a road car and as a race car.

The second generation model retained much of the same formula. Quattro all-wheel drive, more power from the naturally aspirated 5.2-litre V10 engine, and still the same combination of arresting style, intense performance and outstanding handling.

What's this, then? This is the facelifted second generation model, though there are quite a few key differences.

Extend the V10 engine to its redline and you are greeted by one of the most glorious automotive soundtracks still on offer
The main one that most people will note is the fact that the R8 is now rear-wheel drive (RWD) only. The company has decided to drop the quattro model from the lineup, and now strictly offers the R8 in RWD.

Does this change the way the car handles? Well, yes. It feels a tad lighter, especially at the front end, and turn in feels slightly livelier. But, it never feels scary or intimidating in the way something like a Ferrari F8 Spider does. This is partially because the naturally aspirated 5.2-litre V10 engine pumps out power in a linear fashion, and there isn't a turbo kick that you need to be worried about. Acceleration is powerful but not overwhelming.

And, of course, the V10 absolutely sings. Once you cross 4,600rpm, the exhaust valves open up and the exhaust note intensifies in a way to make your heart tremble slightly. It's a glorious soundtrack that's every bit as intoxicating as it is extremely loud. 

The R8 Spyder is unintimidating to drive, whether it's through windy roads or just cruising along the highway
"But what about all-wheel drive traction?", you may ask. Honestly, unless you are planning to track your R8, I'm not sure it makes any real difference on everyday roads (except maybe in pouring rain). The car still has immense traction through bends, with excellent body control and steering accuracy. And it is really remarkably forgiving even to ham-fisted drivers. The car is extremely stable, and with the massive tyres and well-judged suspension, it never feels twitchy at all.

What's most notable about this car is just how easy it is to drive. It's pliant and forgiving over bumps, ground clearance is actually pretty good (there isn't a need for a nose lift function), and the car isn't as big as it may visually suggest. And because the powertrain is linear and not crazy powerful, you never feel scared or intimidated.

This being a Spyder, it is admittedly slightly heavier, as well as having perhaps slightly less torsional rigidity compared to the Coupe. Can you feel it on normal roads? Not at all. Unless you are on a racetrack, I'm not sure most people would be able to feel the difference.

It sure looks meaner than before...

The sharpened looks make the R8 Spyder incredibly distinctive and eye-catching
The car has also undergone a fairly significant styling update. It's a lot sharper and pointier than before, especially at the front. With a new grille, redesigned front air intakes with aggressive blades, angularly powerful sheet metal and a reworked rear end, I reckon this is the best the R8 has ever looked.

The interior has been very lightly updated. It's still a pretty simple and straightforward design - all your infotainment functionality is house within the Virtual Cockpit, and you have simple controls for the air-conditioning and operating the soft-top. What's new is a wireless charging pad, a new steering wheel with two fewer buttons, as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity.

Apple CarPlay connectivity is now available
It's a fantastic space to be in - luxe materials, neatly designed, and effectively functional. Quibbles? I wish the car had an auto hold function, and that the seats would automatically move backwards when you open the door to get out of the car. As it is, getting out can be a little ungainly, especially if you sit quite forward and upright as I do. 

The last of the Mohicans

Personally, I think the R8 really works in this Spyder style. Not only do you have endless access to that glorious soundtrack, but it also adds a dose more pizazz and style. Is it showy? Yes, of course it is. But then, it's an R8. You don't buy an R8 to try to stay anonymous or understated.

Cruising along the highway in 7th gear and with the roof down, it's actually also rather serene, all things considered. It's mighty enjoyable, this car.

The soft-top roof takes 20 seconds to open or close, and can be operated while driving at up to 50km/h
The accessibility of performance really elevates the driving experience. It's intoxicatingly quick and exhilarating when you want it to be, but it can also be a smooth-riding grand tourer when called upon.

Sadly, the Audi R8 may not be long with us.

The automotive world is rapidly changing. Downsized engines, electrification, SUVs, that is the way ahead. We all know this. Ferrari just premiered a new V6 plug-in hybrid powertrain. Across the industry, engines are getting smaller to meet emissions demands. SUVs are also everywhere now, obviously. 

And of course, EVs are the next frontier. Even Audi has committed that the RS sub-brand will go electric, with the all electric e-tron GT representing the future of the performance sub-brand. And of course, more and more cities have announced that they are banning ICE cars moving forward.

This Audi R8 might just be the last of its kind, so we should celebrate it while we still can
A car like the R8, at least as it's currently constituted, appears to have no place in that automotive future. A pure, naturally aspirated sports car like this might well be the last of a dying breed. In all likelihood, this will be the last hurrah of the R8 model as we know it.

The R8 Spyder is a truly special and magical car that exists in a unique niche, and we would do well to celebrate it while it's here... before it's truly gone once and forever.

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Car Information

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Audi R8 Spyder 5.2 FSI RWD S tronic (A)
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Price

: $735,822

Engine Type

:

V10

Engine Cap

:

5204cc

Horsepower

:

397kW (532 bhp) / 7800 rpm

Torque

:

540 Nm / 6300 rpm

Transmission

:

7-speed (A) S tronic

Acceleration (0-100 km/h)

:

3.8sec

Top Speed

:

322km/h

Fuel consumption

:

7.6 km/L

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audi  r8  r8 rwd  audi r8 red  audi r8  quattro  rs  audi rs