Audi has done it again everybody, they’ve brought us another phenomenal automobile, the new R8 Spyder.
In turning the R8 into a convertible, Audi needed to make a few changes—the designers didn’t want to lose the R8’s unique styling, while the engineers were charged with retaining the coupe’s rigid chassis.
For starters, Audi gave the R8 Spyder a full LED headlight treatment. And while the sideblades just behind of the R8 coupe’s doors have been eliminated, in their place are more traditional vertical air intakes, which are perhaps even better looking. Also new is a carbon-fiber composite engine cover for the mid-mounted V-10, which features two parallel air vents that trail the seat headrests, forming a downward sloping profile toward the rear.
Underneath the R8 Spyder’s body is a strengthened version of the coupe’s aluminum space frame that shares about 70 percent of the parts. For the Spyder, reinforcements are made to the center tunnel, bulkhead, floorpan, doors and A-pillars. The extra rigidity comes via thicker materials, crossbeams and thrust plates. Yet despite the reinforcements, the Spyder’s chassis weighs just 13 lb. more than its fixed-roof sibling. Overall, it tips the scales at around 3800 lb.
The area behind the R8’s seats, where you normally could store a set of golf clubs, now serves as the resting spot for the Spyder’s well-insulated cloth roof. The 93-lb. top can be raised or lowered in 19 sec. with a simple toggle switch on the center console, at vehicle speeds up to 31 mph. Top up, road and wind noises are well damped. Top down, the heated glass rear window—which is separate from the top—can be operated via another button on the center console. Along with a snap-on wind deflector, the rear window helps keep turbulence out of the cockpit, facilitating easier conversation.
Speaking of reducing background noise, you can order optional seatbelt-mounted microphones (in addition to the one near the sun visors) used for the hands-free phoning while you’re enjoying the sunshine and fresh air. We were able to make some calls while driving the R8 Spyder along winding mountain roads and rowing through the gears with the engine revving aggressively. The person on the other end heard us clearly and noted only a hint of noise.
The Audi R8 Spyder is powered by the same 5.2-liter direct-injected V-10 as the coupe. The V-8 shall follow next year. As with the R8 coupe, the Spyder feels right at home either cruising or dancing through corners. The Quattro all-wheel-drive system combines with a limited-slip rear differential to inspire total confidence on challenging mountain roads. Top down, the chassis feels solid, responding to steering input with immediacy. Downshift a gear (with the standard 6-speed manual or the optional R tronic paddle-shift manual) and dip into the throttle—the engine’s 525 bhp and 391 lb.-ft. of torque are unleashed, accompanied by a throaty roar that makes an argument that the Spyder provides a more thrilling driving experience than the coupe. According to the factory, the R8 Spyder can accelerate to 60 mph in about 4 seconds, with a top speed of 195 mph.
Standard equipment on the R8 Spyder is Audi’s magnetic ride technology that features adjustable shock absorbers complementing its all-around double-wishbone suspension. For hard-core enthusiasts, conventional dampers can be ordered when you specify the optional sport suspension setup. Standard tire fitment for the Spyder calls for 235/35-19s up front and 295/30-19s at the rear. And, if so desired, carbon-ceramic rotors can be ordered to replace the 14.4-in. front discs and 14.0-in. rears.
The Audi R8 Spyder 5.2 FSI Quattro arrives at U.S. dealers later this year as a 2011 model, priced in the $160,000 range.