V10 propels Audi's R8 into supercar territory

Occasionally a car appears on my forward car test list that has me reaching for the highlighter pen to mark off the weekend. This indicates that no other commitments will be allowed so that I can spend maximum time behind the wheel. One such weekend was reserved for the Audi R8 V10 Spyder.

The day of its arrival dawned sunny and warm. With the roof down It looked superb sat on the driveway. But it wasn’t long before I was done ogling and decided it was time to drive.

Audi R8 Spyder

I have to say the keys were a bit of a disappointment. They looked just like the keys for my own (much humbler) Audi. There were also other things that looked and sounded very familiar to an Audi owner – the chime and some of the switchgear. But, nonetheless it was clear that this was a very special car as I headed off through the town.

At the bus stop outside our local school the R8 V10 Spyder won immediate and spontaneous approval from a gaggle of school kids. The sound of cheers and a sea of ‘thumbs ups’ said it all.

The interior of the R8 Spyder is a comfortable place to be for driver and passenger. But that is it. There is no rear seat, not even the little shelf that you get on the R8 coupé. If you want to take your R8 Spyder to escape for the weekend, then you need to be pretty crafty at packing a small soft bag if it is to fit into the tiny 100-litre luggage compartment under the bonnet.

And you needn’t look for extra space in the interior. The space where the R8 coupé has that little ledge is taken up by the Spyder’s hood stowage and there is just the usual glovebox and a couple of small cubbies immediately behind the seats. I even struggled to find space for my camera bag.

That hood incidentally operates superbly. It takes around 20 seconds for the glorious choreography of fabric, metal and glass to convert closed to open and vice versa.

With 525PS (518 bhp) on tap from that big 5.2 litre V10, the performance of the Audi R8 V10 Spyder will certainly raise eyebrows several notches. Press the accelerator and there is an instant reaction, take the revs up and there is a glorious and purposeful howl from the ten cylinders behind your left ear. At the same time you are pressed back into the superbly comfortable sports seats.

Audi R8 V10 Spyder

It's an altogether different experience from the similarly-powered Jaguar XKR-S that I tested here a few months ago. Where the Jaguar emitted a thundery, deep throaty growl, the Audi is more baritone in pitch.

The other big difference, is that driving the Audi R8 Spyder V10 is a more refined experience. Where the Jaguar was a more raw sports car in style, the Audi is more controlled experience. You get the feeling that the Jaguar would happily swap ends if you (or the electronic wizardry) let your concentration lapse, by contrast the Audi feels much more planted on the road.

This is not surprising when you consider that the Audi is not only slightly less powerful, but more importantly puts its power down through Audi’s quattro four-wheel-drive system. It’s an over-simplistic view, but each driven wheel on the Jaguar has to cope with 275 bhp. On the Audi it is 130 bhp per driven wheel.

That’s not to say the Audi is necessarily the better driving experience. For an enthusiast there is something very special about mastering and taming the horses under the Jaguar’s bonnet. That said it did not rain during my drives in either car. Had it done so, I suspect the Audi would have had the edge over the more sweaty-palmed Jaguar.

The performance of the Audi R8 Spyder V10 is, as you would expect, outstanding. It is truly in the supercar league.

Acceleration 0-62 mph takes just 4.1 seconds. Even more impressive is the way that this prodigious power just keeps on coming as you snick the short, stubby gearlever through the ratios. Apparently (and I can well believe them) the R8 V10 Spyder will reach 124 mph it just over 12 seconds and keep on going until it reaches its top speed of 194 mph.

That gearchange, incidentally, looks a little daunting initially, with its gate cut into the metal, Ferrari-style. In reality, although it is clearly a meaty bit of kit, it will slot easily from gear to gear.

Social responsibility and a normally-developed self-preservation instinct will come into play on the public road. Inevitably, this will restrict the use of the performance to short bursts of acceleration between corners and when overtaking. But, what glorious moments these are to savour, with that V10 howl playing the soundtrack behind you and that feeling of power under your right foot. Oh, for a closed test track!

But, it’s not just opening the throttle on the straight bits that provides the thrill. The poise, balance and grip of the R8 Spyder is quite breathtaking.

Thanks to the mid-engined layout the balance is optimal. But, Audi’s engineers have built on that sound base. They have endowed the R8 V10 Spyder with a chassis that corners flat, but has huge reserve of grip and a steering system that provides outstanding feedback. As a result, your grin gets wider and wider with every corner – especially when the roof is down to allow enjoyment of the full soundtrack from behind.

The amazing thing is how adaptable the Audi is. You are not going to purchase a car like this with the intention of driving it like your granny. But, surprisingly enough, it can be quite happy pottering at lower speeds and – to give your granny’s teeth the most cosseting ride possible in a supercar – you can even choose a comfort setting on the suspension controls!

Audi R8 V10 Spyder

Economy is not going to be uppermost in your mind if you purchase a car like this. But, for the sake of completeness, the combined fuel economy is 19 mpg and carbon dioxide emissions are 349 g/km putting the R8 V10 into band M for car tax.

The Audi R8 V10 Spyder costs £117,740. That’s a premium of £8,620 over the R8 V10 coupé.

On the downside the Spyder has even less storage space than the coupé. On the plus side you do get a much more dramatic looking car and one that is also much rarer – with only 115 lucky owners in the UK last year.

My one regret? Despite marking off the weekend, I really would have loved to drive it more. Perhaps I should have planned a trip to the South of France….
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