It may not have a posh badge, but when it comes to what really matters the R8 has what it takes to hold its head high among supercar rivals
What is it?
It’s the new, ‘entry-level’ version of Audi’s drop-top R8. First launched with only the top-whack V10, the Spyder is now available with the regular 424bhp V8 motor - and a useful price saving of more than £20k. A manual V8 Spyder will cost from £95,545 - or around £7k more than a Porsche 911 Carrera 4 S Cabrio.
The V8 puts out 424bhp at a heady 7900rpm, and although there’s a bit of a weight penalty because of the added stiffening required, the R8 V8 can still hit 62mph in 4.8sec and a top speed of 186mph.
What’s it like?
Fabulous. The arrival of the Lambo-derived V10 in the range has overshadowed the R8’s 4.2-litre powerplant a little - perhaps because the more modest motor was, in essence, available in ‘lesser’, non-supercar models.
But that’s dreadfully unfair. It’s got bags of charm, with decent low-down punch and a soundtrack that’s every bit as alluring as the 911’s six-pot. Beyond 4500rpm there’s some exhaust trickery that really cranks up the volume; it’s an utter hoot in tunnels, and the ability to lower the roof to hear it better is a real plus point.
The cabin is beautifully finished and nicely laid out, and the hood installation is first-rate. No, it’s not quite as civilised as a hard-roofed R8 at motorway speeds, but it’s far from uncomfortable. And in an open-air environment it does a decent job of protecting occupants from buffeting.
The particularly good news is that the excellent blend of body control and ride quality that makes the V10 Spyder such a star is still in evidence here. And if anything, the R8 feels a little more nimble, a little keener to dash toward apexes. The steering could use a teeny bit more feel around the straight ahead but it’s nicely weighted and very accurate.
And once again, the R8 amazes us by having one of the best ride set-ups of any Audi. The underlying feeling is one of stiffness, but it remains compliant and surprisingly forgiving over most poor surfaces. Only the worst potholes will intrude and even then, the body doesn’t seem to suffer from noticeable flex.
Downsides? There’s not much space inside for odds and sods. The seats could use a bit more lateral support to cope with the R8’s ability to cling on in corners. And Audi’s metallic gate gearbox cover seems like an aftermarket trinket. If anything, it only slows down shifts; the gearbox feels slicker than the cover allows.
Should I buy one?
Yes. Porsche purists will probably still disagree, but the R8 remains a compelling rival for the classic 911 - perhaps it falls slightly short of that car’s analogue brilliance, but it can match and beat it for charm in other areas. It retains a surprising amount of everyday usability, too. Even though it costs a few quid more, the R8 Spyder V8 should be firmly on your list for consideration before buying any drop-top supercar.
Audi R8 Spyder V8
Price: £95,545; Top speed: 186mph; 0-62mph: 4.8sec; Economy: 19.6mpg (combined); CO2 emissions: 337g/km; Kerb weight: 1660kg; Engine V8, 4163cc, petrol; Installation: Mid, longitudinal, 4WD; Power: 424bhp at 7900rpm; Torque: 317lb ft at 4500-6000rpm; Gearbox: 6-spd manual; Fuel tank: 80 litres; Boot size: 100 litres.