The Germans can indeed do a sexy convertible.
When you see the word “Spyder” in a car’s name, it means that it’s a convertible. When you see the word “quattro” in the name of an Audi, it means that it’s all-wheel drive. And when you see the numbers “5.2,” then you’re dealing with the company’s flagship engine, the 5.2-liter V-10. All these designations come wonderfully together in the new R8 Spyder 5.2 quattro.The first of these to reach our shores came to Atlanta, at about the same time as the last race of the ALMS season, Petit Le Mans held at Road Atlanta. It just so happened that I was there attending the race, not to mention looking for an opportunity of putting the new German convertible through its paces around the area’s secluded country roads. I found this chance.
Visually, the R8 works as a convertible. It exudes a different air than its coupe counterpart. While the coupe appearance says that it’s all about business (going fast on a racetrack), the convertible version adds a bit of style that gives it an almost Italian flair, especially when it’s bathed in bright red like our test car was. While the R8 Spyder is equally suited for the track, it looks right at home around the nightclub scene in downtown Atlanta. It features classic air intakes behind the doors unlike the coupe, and the rear side panels and the cover over the storage compartment for the cloth top are made of carbon fiber.
Mounted behind the driver is a 525-bhp beast that allows the car to sprint to 62.1 mph in 4.1 seconds and reach a top speed of 194.5 mph. Torque is rated at 391 lb.-ft. that peaks at 6500 rpm. Our test car came with the R tronic sequential 6-speed transmission, which has a fully automatic and a manual mode, where the driver can change gears using paddles on the steering wheel. Launch Control manages engagement of the clutch for optimal acceleration.
The engine lets out a harmonious scream when the tach needle hits 5000 rpm, and all is well with the world…until the first upshifts arrives. The car’s Achilles Heel is its gearbox. The R tronic is not as efficient as the company’s DSG, especially in full automatic mode, as it exhibits a dipping movement at every upshift. This is easily remedied by making gear changes manually, which I did, squeezing the most performance out of the engine. The aluminum Audi Space Frame (ASF) body of the R8 Spyder is reinforced at important locations, and after all mechanisms to operate the power top are considered, the Spyder tips the scales at 3792 lb.
As for the top, it’s simple to operate. Activate a switch located on the center console, and electrohydraulic motors do the rest. A system of cylinders, hinges and hooks retracts or erects the top in 19 seconds, even when driving at speeds up to 31 mph. The procedure is initiated either by that switch on the center console or the key in the door lock.
The R8 Spyder actually has a coupe feel, especially when driving on the highway at high speed. The cabin stays quiet—only when you plant your right foot does the compartment fill with noise…good noise.
The R8 Spyder will be hitting showrooms later this year, and comes at a base price of $161,000 for the manual and $170,000 for the R tronic.