Audi R8 Spyder review: The soft-top supercar threatening Lamborghini’s supremacy

Andrew Brady
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When did Audi become the ultimate ‘cool’ car manufacturer? It could have been around the end of the last decade, when the original TT was launched, along with the futuristic A2 compact MPV.

But all this paved the way for 2006, when Audi launched its R8 supercar, along with bold claims about it being a genuine Porsche 911 rival.

And what a car it was. It didn’t have the heritage of the Porsche, but that didn’t stop Hugh Grant, David Hasselhoff and Jay Leno reportedly owning an Audi R8 – most of them the soft-top Spyder, which arrived in 2010.

No pressure, then, but Audi couldn’t afford to get it wrong when bringing out the second-generation R8 in 2015. Fortunately, Audi got it really right.

Revealed at the Geneva Motor Show, the latest Audi R8 shares a platform with the (£30,000+ more expensive) Lamborghini Huracan, and has garnered widespread acclaim from the motoring media.

One of our favourite aspects of the new Audi R8 – aside from its menacing looks, blistering acceleration and the way it refuses to lose traction no matter how much of an oaf you are – is the incredible soundtrack provided by its 5.2-litre V10. And what better way to enjoy these aural delights than to buy a convertible version?

The result is an insatiable appetite for gripping the road – it just won’t let go.

Audi didn’t wait as long to launch the soft-top R8 this time around. And we emphasise ‘soft-top’: Audi has made the unusual move of snubbing a retractable hard-top in favour of a fabric roof to save crucial kilos.

As a result, it weighs only 17kg more than the coupe equivalent – weighing in at 1,612kg.

That’s still a considerable mass, but with 540 horses available, you definitely couldn’t call the R8 Spyder a slouch. Accelerate hard and an incredible thunder of a sound erupts from behind your head as the R8 surges forward. It’s stomach-churningly quick. Taking control of the gears using the paddle shifters only enhances the experience.

Putting the roof down isn’t quite as fast – it takes a good 20 seconds to lower, but this can be done at speeds of up to 30mph. Perfect for crawling along through London traffic.

With the roof up, it’s practically impossible to tell you’re protected from the elements by little more than a canvas top. With a number of layers, very little sound intrudes into the cabin from outside compared to the coupe model.

As with all fast Audis since forever, the R8 comes with Quattro four-wheel-drive as standard. The result is an insatiable appetite for gripping the road – it just won’t let go. Which is reassuring if you’re not Stig Blomqvist. The R8 really is a friendly supercar for driving fast.

When you’re done stretching the R8 Spyder’s legs and want to settle down into the daily commute, its interior is a premium place to be.

There’s not a great deal of space, though. Don’t expect to take the kids out as there aren’t any rear seats and, if we were to nitpick, we’d say it isn’t as special as supercars from bigger brands. If you sit behind a wheel graced with a Lamborghini or Aston Martin badge, there’s just a feel-good factor you can’t get in a car made by the same company that makes the A3.

We’re aware it’s not a particularly logical argument, especially when we consider the high quality of the interior which is pretty typical of Audi.

With prices starting at £131,140, it’s hard to describe the Audi R8 Spyder as a bargain. But it kind of is – it’s cheaper than the Lambo equivalent, while feeling more dramatic than a Porsche 911 Turbo. Bravo, Audi – an Oscar-worthy performance.

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