2017 Audi R8
A supercar for adults
Stunning looks, screaming motor, Audi interior
You’ll have to wait till next year to get the full-zoot 610 horsepower V10 Plus
Value for money
Not as expensive as its Italian brethren, but it’s still pricey isn’t it?
What would I change?
Not a whole heck of a lot though I would ask Audi to dispense with that juvenile dual-coloured interior colour pattern
How I would spec it?
Well, since I wouldn’t be taking it to the racetrack, I’d make do without the ceramic brakes — $11,300! — for darned sure. By comparison, the $2,300 Audi Canada wants for the upgraded Bang & Olufsen audio system is a Kia Rio like bargain. I’d also make do without all the carbon fibre bits ($9,300) but might fork over the $4,300 for the Diamond Quilted seats. They’re way cool!
Style and substance in equal measures, design marrying form and function, and, to borrow Cadillac’s old tagline, art and science treated with equal import: That’s the holy grail of automotive design. The former, of course, is essential to getting consumers willing to dispense with their hard-earned dollars into dealership showrooms, the latter to ensure that they’re sufficiently satisfied to come back for a return visit.
This is especially true of supercars, that which is essential to initial allure often clouding long-term satisfaction. Legion, indeed, are the compromises that have been put forward in the name of performance purity. For instance, the car that’s probably starred in more lustful four-wheeled fantasies than any other — Lamborghini’s Countach — required that the driver sit in the door sill and use the clutch with their right foot to safely reverse, so dismal was its rearward visibility. Early Ferrari manumatics shifted so abruptly that it felt like you were being slammed in the back of the head with a phone book every time you speed-shifted at redline. Such were the compromises called for supercar ownership. Thus, perhaps the most remarkable thing about Audi’s R8 is how precious little compromise has been made to either style or substance.
That the R8 is comely is hardly in doubt. A decade since its introduction with relatively minor stylistic revisions, Audi’s supercar is still a major draw even when parked next to its more, shall we say, Italian competitors. Indeed, the most common refrain I’ve heard of late as to its attraction is that it’s the adult supercar, its silhouette a promise of power and poise at speed without some of the juvenile appendages attached to its southern European brethren. That’s especially true of the Spyder, its soft top a classic for the ages and even the chrome windshield surround — usually a plaint for more attention — seems classy. If a Lamborghini Huracan is just a little too overt for your taste, then the R8 is for you.
That’s especially true since the Lambo and Audi are twins from another mother, built on essentially the same carbon fibre and aluminum chassis and sporting not quite identical, but certainly related, V10s. The 5.2L has recently been fortified to 540 horsepower in the Spyder, the 610-hp V10 Plus currently only offered in the coupe, but it will be available in the 2018 model here in Canada.
Fear not, it’s more than enough. Certainly, it sounds the part: With its redline now boosted to 8,700 rpm, the R8 literally screams before it needs shifting, by which time, even in first gear, you’ve exceeded almost every speed limit in Canada. Bump the seven-speed dual-clutch trannie up to second and with seconds, you’ll have well surpassed pretty much every province’s do-not-pass-go, go-straight-to-jail, dangerous driving limit. Indeed, it takes but 3.6 seconds to scoot to 100 kilometres an hour and 11.8 to get to 200 km/h, which means that full-throttle fun in public is best kept to decidedly bursts. Audi doesn’t pump the Spyder up as a racetrack weapon, but if you want to enjoy maximum R8 goodness, you’re going to need somewhere other than a public road to exercise the big V10, even in its ‘standard’ form.
A racetrack might also be the best place to exploit the R8’s chassis as well. Not nearly as firmly suspended as Ferrari 488 — or as the most dramatic example of Lambo’s Huracan, the Performante — the R8 is nonetheless extremely handy, this particular version of Audi’s Quattro all-wheel-drive system definitely biased to the rear. Grip, through the 245/30ZR20 front and 305/30ZR20 rear Pirelli PZeros, is enormous. Even the brakes are prodigious — eight pistons in each front caliper! But since most Canadian Spyders will never see the racetrack or the autobahn, the optional carbon ceramic discs, like on my test unit, are an ($11,300!) indulgence. Whatever the braking material, the whoa power is exemplary. And, even with its top lopped off, the chassis is sufficiently rigid — 50 percent more than its predecessor, says Audi — that cowl shake is virtually non-existent. Yes, that aforementioned Lambo — the aerodynamically-enhanced Huracan Performante — is handier, but you’ll have to find a racetrack (and a high-speed one at that) to really appreciate the difference.
Nor is there much penalty extracted for this handiness. The Spyder’s magnetorheological — that’s a big, long word to describe a shock damper fluid that thickens when fed an electrical signal from a car’s computer — the R8 fairly glides along. Oh, there’s no mistaking the little two-seater for a Rolls-Royce, but neither will the R8’s ride beat your lower spine into porridge. Throw in that aforementioned AWD system and you have a ragtop supercar that could conceivably be driven on any Canadian road in any Canadian weather.
Audi’s revision of the R8’s interior is just as comely as the exterior. A new Virtual Cockpit holds centre stage in the dash, the speedo/tacho/instrument cluster configurable to a number of different looks — tachometer dominant, navigation system front and centre, etc. — depending on the mode selected. The stitching, materials and build quality onside is also fantastic. Ditto for the Bang & Olufsen audio system; more than five years since its introduction, no one has caught up to B & O for automotive sound clarity.
There is one audio-related oddity, however, and it has to do with the styling I have paid so many compliments to. For some reason, Audi decided that the “in” thing to do would be to have different colour treatments on the doors. So while, on my tester, the passenger door’s speaker grille and surround matched the red leather motif of the rest of the interior, the same pieces on the driver’s door were black. At first, I thought that this might be a rare production error at Neckarsulm — the plant that builds the R8 — part. But, no, it’s deliberate, some creative guru obviously thinking that mismatched socks will be the latest fashion trend amongst the rich and supercar-oriented. It’s no small thing, hard to miss as soon as you sit in either seat. Certainly, it immediately started many a conversation which may be Audi’s intention. I’m an old fogey and like my speakers matching. You’ll have to ask someone far younger is this is a “thing.”
Colour quirks aside, there’s much to recommend the R8 Spyder. More than rapid enough, blessed with comportment that balances ride and handling amazingly and sensuously styled, it really is the adult’s supercar
Type of vehicle
All-wheel-drive, mid-engine sports coupe
5.2L DOHC V10
540 hp @ 7,800 rpm; 398 lb-ft of torque @ 6,500 rpm
Four-wheel disc with ABS
245/30 ZR20 / Rear: 305/30 ZR20
Price: Base / As Tested
Natural Resources Canada Fuel Economy
(L/100km) 17.2 city, 11.3 hwy.
5.2-litre DOHC V10, 7-speed dual clutch S-tronic transmission, Quattro all-wheel-drive, Audi magnetic ride suspension, Electromechanical power steering (EPS), 8-piston fixed caliper front brakes, 4-piston fixed caliper rear brakes, Power door locks, windows and mirrors, climate control air conditioning, Bang & Olufsen audio system, Virtual Cockpit gauge set, Sirius XM radio, Central Remote Locking (inc. Fuel Door), steering wheel-mounted audio controls, Audi MMI navigation system, MMI touch with hand-writing recognition, smartphone interface, cruise control, information display, Advanced parking system with rearview camera, tilt steering wheel, Nappa leather, power seats, heated front seats, Tire Pressure Monitor, EBD – Electronic rear Brake force Distribution, Brake Assist, Electronic Stability Conttol, Electro-mechanical parking brake (EPB),High Beam Assistant, dual front air bags, dual side air bags, knee air bags
Daytona Grey paint ($890), Ceramic Brakes ($11,300), Contrast stitching ($400), Bang & Olufsen sound system ($2,300), 20 inch wheels ($1,500), Carbon Interior package ($3,800), Carbon Exterior package ($5,500), Diamond Quilted leather ($4,300)