Back in 2010, we sampled the previous generation Audi R8 V10 Spyder and we were left a bit short-changed by the vehicle.
Before you jump to conclusions, let me explain. The R8 V10 in manual was simply sensational. The orchestra of the wailing V10 was conducted by a six-speed manual and a clutch pedal, making it one of the most thoroughly engaging cars to drive, under any conditions.
So when the Spyder variant of that era crawled into our driveway for a review, we were hoping for more of that magic, but now with an alfresco element in the mix to make it an even more endearing car to drive. That engine, of course, remained a peach, but in place of the gated, metal gear lever now resided an electronically actuated manual gear lever — dubbed R-tronic in Audi parlance.
It was a clunky, one-dimensional transmission that was sublime when pressing on, but atrocious when driving through traffic. In the latter instance, it lunged with an elastic effect when changing cogs at slow speeds, something we first experienced in BMW’s SMG (sequential manual gearbox), that could easily make one carsick by the rocking motion of the thing if you are predisposed to such. Thankfully, that was dispensed with by a dual-clutch S-tronic gearbox when that model was updated in 2013.
Fast forward to 2017 and we are sitting in the new generation R8 V10 Spyder, our test unit finished in a lick of paint called Vegas Yellow. Those gloss black wheels and carbon fibre mirror covers and side blades make for a striking contrast and add to the baroque pose it strikes.
Weighing 120kg over its tin-top sibling in the interests of stiffening the body in lieu of a solid roof, the Spyder variant is one of the most solid open-top vehicles I have ever driven.
The fabric roof is something to behold and can be opened or closed at speeds up to 50km/h. Should the weather be slightly inclement and you still want to hear the cacophony from the engine, you can lower the rear window that gives a front row seat experience of the V10 mill.
Which brings me to that very engine, all atmospheric, 5.2l of capacity with 397kW and 540Nm of it. It remains one of the most enchanting and characterful engines in the business and even in this lower powered state, it is still an effective weapon — the full fat 449kW V10 Plus will be available later in the year. That said, the Spyder manages to offer another element to the driving experience. It remains a sharp driving tool that carves through corners to the driver’s whims.
With the roof down, you can cruise along basking in the elements as the R8 has always been an everyday, useable sports car.
While the transmission was easily the highlight of the coupe version, the engine is at the forefront of the Spyder’s charms. It chatters mechanically at slow speeds, sings melodically in the mid-range and belches a shrill in the last 2,500r/min of the 8,500r/min rev ceiling.
I will say this much — nothing, and I mean nothing, makes you feel so alive than a big capacity, multiple cylinder atmospheric engine that revs to the heavens.
The R8 V10 Plus coupe is brilliant. The Spyder, however, offers that bit more and those with a penchant for driving need not suffer from arachnophobia because Audi’s Spyder is simply sensational.