The Bare Facts : Audi R8 Spyder 5.2 FSI [review]

Car Specifications
5204cc, 40-valves
Cylinder Layout: 
Top Speed: 
6-Speed R Tronic
4.1 seconds
525bhp at 8000rpm
530Nm at 6500rpm
  • Addictive soundtrack
  • Surprisingly lively chassis

Motor Prime drives the Audi R8 Spyder 5.2 FSI

(click on thumbnails to enlarge images)

As driving purists, we tend to look down on open-top sports cars (versus fixed roof variants) as they seem to be the “softer” of the two when compared to the coupe from which these rag-top variants are typically derived.

So when we got the chance to drive the R8 Spyder it was grudgingly at first but the car quickly began to impress. Of course, we've heard the loudest criticisms about the test car's custom Ipanema Brown shade (matched to a Cognac brown cabin), but these elements, together with the special alloy rim finish, are intended to showcase the possibilities available to an owner who intends to fully individualise his car.

The other thing was, the more we drove it around, the more it grew on us. Like it or not, it grabs a lot of eye-balls and that's kind of the point of such a car (not to mention the balls needed to spec the car in this colour)... the added bonus is, it actually drives very nicely too!

Both the Audi R8 and Lamborghini Gallardo share a common genetic beginning, but they offer quite a different drive experience or so we are led to believe. Audi helms Lamborghini that is no secret and Lamborghini has benefited from that association. Audi is now beginning to assert itself so it would seem. The V10 Spyder looks as if it would run right up to the tailpipes of the LP 560-4 Spyder.

Where the original 420 bhp R8 V8 Spyder reached 299 km/h, the latest 525 bhp 5.2L V10 Spyder maxes out at an impressive 313 km/h. These latest figures stand muster to Lamborghini's 560 bhp LP 560-4 Spyder which is faster to 100 km/h by just a tenth of a second at 4.0 seconds and reaches a top speed of 324 km/h.

Audi's R-Tronic is a revised version of Lamborghini's E-Gear which is an automated six-speed manual. It may not be a double clutch system but it is tuned to deliver smoother shifts though it still surges like a proper sports car.

It has the ability to shift manually or automatically should the need arise blending well with the R8's station in life straddling the world of glamour and the rigours of a track star. Audi would do well to bring out their DSG version soon.

Oddly enough the V10 Spyder feels even more energetic than the coupe although it weighs nearly 100 kg more. Its hard to explain but it is very much like the M3 Competition, livelier but nothing officially done to improve the engine's performance.

Audi's rendition of a topless supercar is far more subtle compared to the overtly flashy Italian styling of the Lamborghini. Obviously styled for those who would willingly trade a bit of flamboyance for some notoriety, the roofless R8 looks as if it is a purpose-designed roadster due to the fact the original design included this variant rather than be developed as an afterthought.

In fact the R8 Spyder looks even better than its coupe sibling as the controversial side-blade feature of the coupe is now not present and the extra length behind the doors does not look so obvious.

However do not let the demure looks of the R8 Spyder fool you. Safe to say this Spyder is every bit as capable as the R8 coupe and in some aspects even better apart from its appearance.

Sure the Spyder is a little heavier than the R8 coupe which is why it trails by two tenths of a second to 100 km/h but there is little hope of the R8 coupe completely escaping a well driven R8 Spyder.

At Sepang the Spyder showed that what it looses out in terms of outright performance is more than mitigated by its excellent, progressive handling balance. The coupe might offer an edgier drive experience but whatever the engineers have done to accommodate the slight change in the Spyder's added weight and open-top structure has resulted in the Spyder having a more fluid and easily exploitable handling.

A big bonus is the glorious soundtrack from the V10 engine that envelops the entire cabin thanks to the relative lack of hard insulation. But this is not to say the roof is flimsy for it is one of the best triple layered covers in the business looking like one of the “Transformers” doing their thing.

Pushing the R8 V10 Spyder hard around the track proves to be an altogether calmer drive compared to the R8 Coupe, smoothing out cornering lines and making unruffled progress while dancing at the limit of the R8's grip. As far as lap times are concerned, it is probably not as quick as the R8 Coupe but its balance is really something to be savoured.

The ride characteristics are still firm but delivers decent comfort thanks to the program settings of the Ferro-magnetic dampers of the Audi Magnetic Ride system, always balancing admirable ride qualities with iron-fisted body control allowing the Spyder to be both consummate long distant cruiser and agile sportscar. It is easy to get a flow through the corners thanks to the well sorted suspension.

Over normal roads the extra power makes the R8 V10 an even greater road warrior as it slices through slower traffic with complete disdain. A low seating position might be a disadvantage during rush-hour traffic as with all exotic cars, but the R8 is arguably the best of the mid-engine exotics when it comes to user friendliness and outward visibility. Besides given the sensual lines of the R8 not many would complain.

The R8 Spyder, more than the coupe shows just how a well balanced chassis lets one feel in control of the car rather than be a mere passenger in it. Where in the R8 Coupe it felt that the 525 bhp of the V10 had pushed the current R8 chassis to its limit, the Spyder puts paid to any lingering doubts.

In the coupe, one needed more circumspect but in the Spyder the car works with you, doing your bidding, making one feel like a hero and always eager to please.

It would seem that Audi can do no wrong as it grows from strength to strength. Bristling with confidence it has begun to rout the bastion of the supercars where such luminaries like Ferrari and Lamborghini reside. The R8 V8 was only an inkling of what was yet to come.

CAPACITY : 5204cc
VALVES : 4-valve heads, 40-valves
BORE X STROKE : 84.5 x 92.8 mm
MAXIMUM POWER : 525 bhp at 8000 rpm
MAXIMUM TORQUE : 530 Nm at 6500 rpm

TYPE : 6-speed R-tronic

TOP SPEED : 313 km/h
0-100KM/H : 4.1 seconds

FRONT : Double wishbones
REAR : Double wishbones

FRONT : 365mm Steel (380mm CCB)
REAR : 356mm Steel (356mm CCB)

TYPE : Pirelli P-Zero
SIZE : f: 235/40 ZR 18, r: 285/35 ZR 18


LENGTH : 4434mm
WIDTH : 1904mm
HEIGHT : 1244mm
WHEELBASE : 2650mm
KERB WEIGHT : 1725-kg

Price in 2011: $725,000 without COE, 3-year warranty, 100,000 km

Audi, who owns Lamborghini, pulled no punches as it brought out the R8 V10 Coupe and Spyder, which bears more than a close comparison with the Lamborghini Gallardo. Although this puts Lamborghini in an awkward position, it would seem very beneficial to Audi who will inherit Lamborghini's position when Lamborghini attempts to leapfrog Ferrari with their next generation of sportscars. story - MP; photos - DK/Audi Press
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