Audi R8 Performance RWD Spyder review: drop-top 562bhp noise-machine tested Reviews 2023 | Top Gear
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Audi R8 Performance RWD Spyder review: drop-top 562bhp noise-machine tested

Published: 25 Dec 2021

Another dollop more horsepower for the Audi R8?

Yep, all of the mechanical tweaks applied to the R8 Performance RWD have also been bolted into the soft-top Spyder. We give you, logic fans, the Audi R8 Performance RWD Spyder. 

How fast is it?

A teeny-tiny bit less fast than the hard-top coupe, because this one’s 105kg heavier. But you’ll never notice the extra tenth of a second the Spyder needs to go from 0-62mph – 3.8sec plays 3.7 in the coupe.

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Top speed? 203mph, instead of 204mph. So while the Spyder is the heavy one, it’s not ‘the slow one’. 

Is it ‘the floppy one’?

Despite not being built around a racecar-stiff, McLaren-style carbon tub, the R8 Spyder doesn’t twang or wibble every time you run over a painted line. Find yourself on a properly craggy road (or as they’re known in Britain, ‘a road') and sure, the rear-view mirror might vibrate a smidge. But you never feel the wheel wobble in your hands as if the steering column’s fashioned from uncooked spaghetti.

I heard the driving position in the R8 Spyder was designed for someone with longer arms than legs…

Weirdly, it’s not as bad as I remember – which might be a quirk of this one being left-hand drive. Certainly there’s less legroom than in the coupe, because the Spyder’s rear bulkhead is further forward to conceal the roof mechanism, and there’s all that chassis stiffening gubbins in there somewhere. But I’m six feet tall and didn’t get uncomfortable after a couple of hours in the seat. 

Speaking of which, get the bucket seats if you can. They’re way more supportive than the naff chairs fitted as standard, they look superb, GT comfort isn’t an issue and they even sit you a little lower in the car, so your scalp doesn’t poke over the top of the windscreen. Not a good look in a mid-engined supercar. Or a safe one. 

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And what about the rear-wheel drive bit. Is this a true sports car, or a poseur’s delight?

A bit of both, in the best possible way. What’s pleasing is how foolproof the R8 RWD is. Case in point: I’m a certified fool and I’m alive to tell you about it. 

The traction control is bang on the sweet spot here. Left fully on, you can mash the throttle hard open mid-corner and the computer simply says no. Keeps the V10 on standby, maintain forward motion, but stops you throwing yourself down a mountain.

Audi R8 Performance RWD Spyder review: drop-top 562bhp noise-machine tested

Uncork it into Performance ESC Sport mode and there are friendly, well-telegraphed slides to catch and a decent amount of warning before it does let go, but you can feel the invisible guardian angel of binary code catch the outside rear tyre before it gets fully lit and suddenly becomes the front wheel. 

And if that sounds like cheating, you can turn it all off, and off means off. Something for everyone.

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The steering’s still not GT3 feelsome (but calmer for it) and there’s sometimes an odd bounce from the (passive) dampers if you encounter a bump when either axle is already loaded, like during heavy braking. Body control is good, but not as freakishly ‘wait, what bump?’ as in a McLaren.

But a McLaren doesn’t sound like this, huh?

Yeah, you saw it coming. You could quite understandably not buy the Spyder for the looks or the suntan. It’s the best possible place to appreciate that magnificent 8,500rpm V10, and with ‘only’ 562bhp on tap – hardly top-drawer stuff for a supercar these days – you’re actually up the business end, chasing those delightful final revs fairly often. 

It’s pretty much the opposite experience to driving a McLaren or Ferrari Spider, which are all about massive turbo boost, plain engine notes and so much speed that one trip through third gear is enough to scare you witless and have you in handcuffs by lunchtime. 

What. A. Noise. Brooding at idle, mournful as you climb past 2, 3, 4,000 rpm, then downright life-affirming as it soars toward the redline. One of the world’s great engines, this. And still, despite the amusement of a biddable RWD chassis, the absolute star of the show. 

How much?

£135,515, which makes for an interesting proposition. Since there’s no such thing as a Porsche 911 GT3 Cabriolet, the McLaren 570S Spider is now discontinued, and a BMW M8 Convertible is hugely less exotic (and nowhere near as nice to drive) as the R8, it’s sort of out there on its own in junior super-spyder land. A Lexus LC500 Cabrio is more genteel, and an Aston Martin Vantage Roadster can’t compete with this wall of noise. 

But can you really boil a car like this down to value for money, practicality or the last word in handling talent? I’d argue this is more of an engine appreciation concert with heated seats. The rear-drive one is more fun to drive than the quattro R8, and it’s £27,000 cheaper.

So, there you go: some proper TG consumer advice. Buy this one, and spend the change on having a tunnel constructed near your house. Then take 20 seconds to motor the roof down, drop the windows, and drive through it every single day. 

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