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Audi R8 V10 Spyder review (2010 onwards)
Model: Audi R8 Spyder
Bodystyle: two-seat roadster
Engine: 5.2-litre V10 petrol
Transmission: six-speed manual
GALLERY: Audi R8 V10 Spyder
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What is it?
Audi R8, arguably the prettiest mid-engine car of the past 10 years, with a can opener taken to its aluminium roof to create an open-topped car to crave. All the dynamics are intact and roof-down life is fast, exciting, fun and strangely practical.
The 5.2-litre V10 is a step up in performance from the throaty V8 of the original hard-top Audi R8 and comes twinned with an old-fashioned Ferrari-style 'gated' manual gearbox (an automated manual is an option) and quattro four-wheel drive.
Where does it fit?
Cheaper than the Lamborghini from the same stable - which its compact dimensions make look lardy - and a bit more than many Porsche and less than some. The Audi is firmly in that bracket but also taking a swipe at more expensive Ferrari models - though it's a very different beast from the rather girlie Ferrari California.
With its mid-engine power, sensationally controlled handling and remarkable ability to be driven in urban conditions easily and without bad temper, the Audi R8 is theoretically a supercar you could use every day.
Is it for you?
If you are a sucker for a soft top the Spyder will be the Audi R8 for you. Little or nothing is lost dynamically and a great deal of pleasure is gained with the top removed. Down in 20 seconds, the canvas roof resembled that of the BMW 6 Series, with a pair of buttresses stretching across the engine compartment and straddling the huge silver ventilators.
The Audi is genuinely a pleasure to drive in the city, ambling about with its burbling V10 audible even roof up thanks to a charming little heated rear window which can be lowered independently.
Inside it is Germanic, firm and beautifully put together with chunky swathes of carbonfibre trim which are solid to the touch. The interior has a professional rather than opulent feel - more cockpit of a private jet than the passenger compartment.
What does it do well?
To say a car which goes from 0-62mph in 4.1 seconds and on to 194 mph is good around town and not too uneconomic is to test this autobahn and open road charger against criteria any supercar would find difficult to meet.
But the Audi R8 Spyder is a genuinely practical supercar if that isn't an oxymoron. The noise, the clunky metallic gear change, the superb point-and-shoot steering, the all-wheel-drive security are all great at any speed and only become preconditions for the sort of competence the Audi has when you're above 100 mph.
At high speeds the Audi R8 is secure, remarkably draft-free top-down and making a roar that is hard to find outside an F1 track. The Bang & Olufsen stereo is sensational.
What doesn't it do well?
It is unacceptable in a car costing £112k and onwards that the engine compartment opening switch does not work. Doubly so when the panels you have to remove to expose the emergency release have already clearly been opened by heavy-handed previous reviewers.
It's not on. Coming after the electric window switch came off in our Ferrari California test car recently, it seems the manufacturers of cars at this level risk taking the mickey out of well-heeled buyers.
Everywhere else the Audi was bulletproof - from the interior materials to the deep lustre paintwork. Like many cars of this type luggage space is laughable - an A4 manila folder behind the seats perhaps and a crushable overnight bag for a very intimate couple in the front bonnet.
But there was a doubt that crept over me before I handed the Audi R8 back. Is it special enough? It is a wonderful car but the interior isn't much more impressive than the superb TT and for a car supposedly in a different league that enhanced status should be more evident.
What's it like to live with?
A slow circuit around the Finchley Road Waitrose car park - a challenge to anything bigger than a Smart - showed how nimble the Spyder can be. And also how the front boot can swallow half a dozen not-too-full supermarket bags.
A blast up the M1 afterwards with the top down made me briefly wish I had a highway or twisting B-road on the way to work every day for the Audi R8 Spyder to bring out the "I just want to go for a drive" feeling that few cars on this crowded island inspire.
Top up and lowering the little rear window is intoxicating at any speed and is an almost musical experience with a more metallic and irregular beat from the V10 versus a V8.
Inside is a comfortable, tactile place to be with leather, carbonfibre and superbly clear instruments and switchgear - trademark Audi but again not really special. The iPod deck in a little cubby between the driver and passenger is a gem as are the navigation and controls.
How green is it?
With a V10 delivering 525hp, green is not quite the criteria anyone would use to judge the Spyder by. It didn't seem to slurp quite at the rate of the Ferrari California and it certainly wasn't actually obscene like the Bentley Continental we had recently, but bank on returning 19.0mpg.
Would we buy it?
Can a car be too good? Too perfect in its handling and too competent all around the performance curve from 'down to the shops' to 'stop it you'll get caught'? No. If the pursuit of perfection despite the inevitable compromises are what engineers live for then the answer has to be no.
The Audi R8 is as close to perfect as a supercar of this price bracket has yet come - perhaps matched only by the new McLaren MC-12. But that perfection comes at a small price - flair, something unspoken or something in the DNA of a car which makes it that little bit special, that little bit different.
For me, the Audi R8 Spyder was by far the best engineered, most solid, most impressive supercar I've tested but I can't help feeling there was just a little something missing from that very flawless quality. (And no, it wasn't that bonnet catch).
Compare the Audi R8 with its rivals with Car Guide
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