The Audi R8 coupe went on sale back in 2007 when it made something of a stir. Its futuristic yet elegant styling gave it instant desirability while the knowledge that it shared some technology with the Lamborghini Gallardo gave confidence that it wasn’t just all about looks.
The Audi brand made the R8 a more understated supercar compared to its Italian alternatives while four wheel drive and the German reputation for solid engineering provides drivers with the reassurance to use it on a daily basis. Everything about this car tells you that it is aimed directly at those who previously might have bought a Porsche 911.
In April 2009 a new range-topping V10 model was launched with Lamborghini engine rather than the Audi V8 which gave it a boost of extra power and speed despite the original car not really needing any more.
The 2009 Frankfurt show brought us the first glimpse of the Spyder, a fully convertible Audi R8 which will go on sale in the first quarter of 2010.
Based on the 525PS, 5.2-litre V10 FSI model, but featuring a bespoke body incorporating additional weight-saving carbon fibre composite panels, the new open-air R8 Spyder will be available in six-speed manual and six-speed R Tronic automated manual forms.
The new Audi adds a new level of wind-in-the-hair intensity to the already extreme driving experience delivered by the lightweight aluminium, mid-engine and Quattro-equipped super car. Like its sister, the R8 Spyder automatically tucks a fabric soft top away in a small space between the driver and the engine. The Z-shaped hood is designed with similarity to that seen on the BMW 6-Series Convertible, with twin buttresses giving a sleek profile while leaving a vertical rear window and a well-ventilated engine bay. The heated glass window, which is separate from the fabric hood, is lowered into the bulkhead. It can be independently raised and lowered at the touch of a button, with the top up or down. An additional net-like wind deflector is fitted as standard and can be latched into the bulkhead behind the seats in two easy steps.
The absence of the distinctive side blades that extend into the roof of the fixed head R8 Coupe has been compensated for by the use of elegantly curved new side panels made of carbon fibre composite that blend with striking arched and vented cowls behind the cockpit which flow into the gently curving carbon fibre composite cover for the roof compartment.
Like the coupe, the open-top two-seater Audi features a spacious, high-quality interior that, helped by a front luggage compartment with a useful 100-litre capacity, is genuinely comfortable and practical enough to make everyday use a pleasure rather than a chore. The low-mounted, electrically adjustable seats position the body perfectly in relation to the flat-bottomed steering wheel and the clear, logically arranged dials. Apart from the lack of some tiny back seats, the practicality is much the same as a Porsche 911 Carrera 4 and that’s impressive.
One world first from this car are the all-LED headlights which are standard equipment. Light-emitting diodes are used for the low beams, the high beams, the daytime running lights and the turn signals. With a colour temperature of 6,000 Kelvin, the LED light is very similar to daylight, making it easier on the eyes when driving at night. Additional strengths include excellent light distribution, long service life and extremely low energy consumption.
Overall the Audi R8 Spyder is an impressive alternative to the Porsche 911 Cabriolet for those want a high-performance convertible that offers the practicality for day to day use in a glamorous, supercar. For some the dramatic styling will give the Audi the extra appeal while those who prefer not to attract too much attention the Porsche remains the top choice.