What is it?
Put the R8 Spyder in the dock in a bizarre fantasy court case and it’s easier being the prosecution: it’s slower than the coupe, significantly costlier and is less practical than a soggy envelope. But we defy anyone to drive one – either V8 or V10 – minus the cloth hood and not be absolutely captivated. The facelifted one, launched late last year, does nothing to alter this, being very much a nip/tuck rather than a complete overhaul. Sensible Audi.
Both regular engines from the R8 Coupe are available: a 4.2-litre V8 with 430bhp plus a 5.2-litre V10 with 525bhp. A discerning buyer might bemoan the slight chamfering away of the coupe’s steering purity and ride integrity because of the big hole in the top of the chassis, but the truth is the Spyder remains gorgeously supple yet with ten times the connectedness of any other Audi. It handles beautifully, with precision and agility, yet without an evil edge waiting to bite you.
Driving an R8 Spyder is about as mesmerising and life-affirming as driving a bona-fide supercar. It’s the combination of looks, its glorious soundtrack and the open-gated gearbox whose clacking changes are as satisfying as cracking your knuckles. Even the dreadfully clumsy R tronic automatic gearbox has now been replaced by a proper seven-speed DCT S tronic in the facelifted car: one letter different but a massive difference in action (and perhaps the key facelift benefit). No, if the Spyder has a problem, it’s that the best version would be one that combines the V8’s mentalist crescendo with the V10’s punch; the former, on paper, loses a drag race with a BMW X6 M. Shameful.
On the inside
The R8 Spyder’s cabin is slightly Katy Perry. No, not fireworks – too obvious – but surprisingly plain when it’s not tarted up (as the broad options list tempts so many to do). Optional carbon-fibre bits and suchlike spruce it up, but the R8 cabin is ageing, something the facelift did nothing to alter. That’s exacerbated by seeing parts, like the aircon dials, in the A1 supermini these days. And its small, blocky sat nav is looking old.
But the basic design, quality and ergonomic integrity are bang on, with a classic bum-scraping driving position yet loads of headroom. The rear window opens too, for an unfiltered blast of engine noise.
You pay a 10 per cent premium to have the roof removed from your R8, although the running-cost rise is negligible. The average mpg for every manual R8 is nineteen point something: unlike most Audis, this is not a green car. Given how it’s such a dependable, easy to use supercar, buyers using it daily might grumble more about this than you may think: imagine all the fuel stops...