The looks, the engine, the speed. The Audi delivers on all fronts.
But what happens when you cut the roof off?
Usually, cars get heavier, less dynamic, and less refined in drop-top form.
Has this terrible fate befallen the R8 as well?
To find out, we spent a week behind the wheel of a 2017 R8 V10 Spyder quattro S tronic, the new convertible variant of the supercar Audi unveiled at the 2016 New York Auto Show.
But first the facts. The Audi R8 V10 Spyder is powered by a 540-horsepower, 5.2-litre, naturally aspirated, V10 engine. Powers flows to all four wheels through Audi’s signature quattro all-wheel-drive system and a superb seven-speed twin-clutch gearbox.
According to the Audi, this combo can power the 3,957-pound droptop to 60 mph in 3.5 seconds on its way to a top speed of 198 mph.
The R8 is also equipped with Audi’s award-winning 12.3-inch virtual cockpit digital instrument display.
The 2017 R8 V10 Spyder starts at $US175,100 while our option laden test car retailed for $US191,350. For 2018, the base price of the car ticks up to $US177,100.
No roof, no problem
For the Spyder variant, Audi chose to go with a canvas top instead of the bulkier folding metal variety. The roof is neatly stored in an electrically controlled tonneau cover and can be activated in 20 seconds at speeds of up to 31 mph.
Lopping the roof off of a supercar can be a risky proposition. Losing the roof tends to compromise chassis rigidity which in turn compromises the car’s ability perform at the limits. Strengtheners added to the chassis to fix the problem also added weight, which further compromises performance.
Fortunately for Audi, things have worked out rather well. The Spyder feels solid and tightly put together. No hint of scuttle shake could be detected, even over the pothole-strewn roads of New Jersey. (“Scuttle shake” is annoying vibrations commonly exhibited by cars with lower chassis rigidity that experience too much flex.)
According to Audi, the Spyder’s new carbon fibre and lightweight aluminium chassis is 50% more rigid than the first generation R8 ragtop.
To drive to the V10 Spyder is terrific. The 5.2-litre V10 engine is a dying breed. Smaller-displacement engines with turbocharging have become the status quo these days. We were glad to be able to experience this joyful, unboosted, nothing-but-motor engine while it’s still here.
Step on the gas and the V10 revs freely with peak power coming at a stratospheric 7,800 rpm. Power delivery is swift and efficient. However, at no point does the R8 feel overwhelming or beyond the capability of the average driver.
In addition, the high pitched roar of the big V10 is a true aural pleasure. As evidenced by the fact that our test car’s Bang & Olufsen sound system spent most of the week on mute (except when BI’s Matt DeBord was listening to classic rock).
Around the twisty parts, R8 remains smooth and steady, devoid of the nasty habits and handling gremlins that often plague high-performance cars. While the Spyder is 220 pounds heavier than the Coupe, its performance handling hasn’t been noticeably affected.
Herein lies the true magic of the R8 V10; its multiple personalities. In V10 guise, the R8 works both as an everyday commuter car but also possesses the magnetism of a supercar. However, where it really shines is as a super-grand tourer, a GT car in a stunning supercar body.
A true grand tourer can cover large distances at high speed in style and luxury. Here, the V10 Spyder’s naturally relaxed demeanour isn’t a detriment, but a blessing. With the top down, the R8 V10 Spyder delivers that GT experience in with an added dose of sunshine.
(Those looking for a more hardcore experience should consider the stellar 610-horsepower R8 V10 Plus, which delivers Lamborghini-esque levels of frenetic insanity in a stylish Audi body.)
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my time with 2017 Audi R8 V10 Spyder. As a supercar, its V10 power, eye-catching looks, and precise handling make it a standout in the segment. But as a GT car, the R8 Spyder is nothing short of amazing.
After all, where else are you going to find a beautiful mid-engined, V10 exotic drop top you’d gladly take on a 500-mile road trip?
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