Legend has it that when you drive a supercar, your biceps and pectorals enlarge by up to 30% and your testosterone levels climb rapidly, giving your confidence a much needed kick in the basement. On the down side, you become increasingly discourteous and you can’t seem to supress the desire to purchase (and wear) a large gold necklace.
These are typically physiological and mental responses to over-horsepowered (if there is truly such a thing) cars of the Italian breed. So, what occurs when your pricey steed is of German lineage? Case in point, one Audi R8 V10 Spyder ($162,000+) in
Mars God of War Red a calm Sepang Blue. Well, we found out as we got behind the wheel of this wündercar.
Our story continues after the jump.
From unintended acceleration in the Audi 5000 in the late 80s to Le Mans victories galore, the righteously quick Audi R8 embodies just how far brand has come.
The meaning of the term ‘supercar’ has changed somewhat over the past two decades. Today, they’re no longer the over-designed and undrive-able brand flagships (think: track-crushing but as comfortable as a spiked barcalounger) that were exemplified by the likes of the Lamborghini Countach and F40 — the exclamation marks of automotive world. Instead, Audi took on the monumental task of creating a true German supercar — one that would defy conventional wisdom and usurp a healthy amount of attention from the Italians. And it succeeded beyond measure, garnering the praise of the automotive world by harnessing tremendous power and world-class performance, while remaining nearly every-day drivable and shockingly composed. The R8 would be their declarative, yet functional period.
September provides some of the best top-down motoring in the Windy City. If you happen to be in an R8, and you’ve got your wits about you, you’ll spend less time gawking and more time driving.
To drive the R8 V10 Spyder, it’s a good idea to leave the flat-bill baseball cap and chest full of hair at home. Neither are required nor a good idea to drive this understated supercar. For us, receiving the keys to the R8 is tantamount to a visit to Hertz. A driver who tosses us the key and says, “Have fun” and off we go. Part of me expected, wished almost, for a square-jawed German hulk of a man to mutter, “papers, bitte” with teutonic fanfare.
Okay, so German supercars are nothing new. The BMW M1. The Mercedes-McLaren SLR. The Mercedes SLS AMG GT. But Audi? Well, if you consider Audi’s stellar Le Mans victories, as well as their spectacular S and RS models, there’s little doubt the boffins in Ingolstadt possess the technological know-how to make an ultra-quick automobile. And though the R8 road car utilizes the R8 Le Mans car nomenclature, the two are connected only by name. The power, however, is bottomless, and the fact that all four wheels chomp at the asphalt makes the R8 V10 the definition of composed fury.
Even though the R8 defies the conventional supercar, it easily has the chops to contend. The Lamborghini Gallardo sourced V10 engine is naturally aspirated, avoiding the whizzbangery of forced induction (turbos). Output is a healthy 525 horsepower, driving the Quattro system via a proper and gated six-speed manual transmission, hauling the Spyder from 0-60 in 4.1 seconds. It feels even faster. In fact, the R8 V10′s 391 lb-ft of torque are immediate, near instant, without utterly frightening you. The clutch is smooth and the action of the wonderful gated shifter is quick and precise. Kudos to Audi for not killing the manual option.
The turkey-platter-sized carbon-ceramic brake rotors are a $9,900 option (or the downpayment on a well-quipped Audi A4) and stop the car with authority. Plus, they look pretty damn serious. Even more serious are the tight tolerances between the caliper and wheel.
The top of the windshield peaks just above the waistline, appropriate for such a car. Thanksfully, entering and exiting the R8 V10 isn’t a feat for contortionists. The cabin is a comfortable place to be, though just shy of what we think befitting of $200K supercar. Despite the swaths of nougat leather, aluminum trimmings and carbon fiber shrouds, the R8′s interior lacks in bespoke appointments. It feels a tad clinical.
We’ve spent some time in the flagship A8 and by comparison, it makes the R8 seem, well, municipal. But this is an R8: you’re here to drive — not talk about dashboards and materials while nursing a Malbec over hor de oeuvres. This is about the drive and luckily, with one stomp of the go-pedal, the V10 remedies nearly any qualm, concern or ailment. Forget antiquing for your Lake Como villa. Where’s the nearest switchback?
It may be German, but the R8 garners attention like moths to a flame — and the R8 V10 Spyder is rarified driving. In fact, when a lucky owner takes delivery, Audi erects a billboard in the owner’s city. Seriously. Talk about exclusivity.
But the R8 don’t need no stinking billboards. Billboards can’t melt a set of Z-rated rubber or bend it like Beckham through the North Shore. Hell, the shape alone evokes speed (and tickets). Its unique look — from the sweeping LED headlights, gaping black maw and engine vents just aft of the headrests — is unlike any other supercar out there. But make no mistake, it doesn’t tip the aesthetic radar like, say, a Lamborghini Aventador. There’s still an air of sporty subtlety here. No massive spoiler, no scissor doors and no blacked out wheels with screaming yellow calipers. Instead, you’ll find a tastefully retractable spoiler that actuates when needed (like a good butler), elongated yet manageable doors and a perfectly aggressive set of five-spoke wheels served over gray calipers. Tasty.
Though the R8′s platform is modeled after the similarly VW-owned Lamborghini Gallardo, the R8 imparts a somewhat different impression to oglers. Its far less angular design doesn’t scream “Look at me!” The muted hood isn’t much more dramatic than the bottom of a saucer sled, and even the huge air intakes blend so well that an average observer might mistake it for an S5 Cabriolet (note the emphasis on “average observer”). But park it on a downtown Chicago street and it becomes a visual feast for pedestrians out for a weekday lunch as we so observed during our shoot. In fact, two Federal Reserve Bank law enforcement officers decided to abandon their posts to gape in awe of the R8. One even asked if it was a Lamborghini. A compliment to Audi, but not so much for the officer’s powers of observation.
When the mesmerizingly engineered soft-top is retracted or deployed, it’s like watching a scene out of Transformers. A play of moving b-pillars, fabric top and balletic cowl work to conceal everything, and the action is quick and crisp — but the R8 V10 Spyder still puts on quite a show in the process.
Of course, Audi is on the verge of selling its reworked R8 Coupe and Spyder at the end of this year, but it’s still hard to believe the R8 started selling four years ago. This V10 looks as good today as it did when it first rolled off its very limited production line. The V8 version was introduced first and then the automotive world waited with bated breath for the version sporting two extra cylinders. The 5.2 liter FSI engine is an audible wonder, especially in the Spyder, where the ferocious growl is apparent even with just a mild blip of the throttle. It hovers behind your shoulder, a pissed off Alpha Male Timber Wolf ready to devour its next automotive victim like a bloody tenderloin. To say the acceleration is ferocious is like saying the sun is kinda hot. So blistering is the acceleration that even the Quattro system needs to intervene with its mild-mannered traction control. But a boyish goose of the accelerator won’t send you into oblivion. It’s as composed as can be while thrilling every sense but taste.
It hovers behind your shoulder, a pissed off Alpha Male Timber Wolf ready to devour its next automotive victim like a bloody tenderloin.
Driving down Chicago’s beautiful Lake Shore Drive with its view of Lake Michigan and the skyline is a special fall treat, and that much more so in the R8 V10 Spyder. Sure, the drive’s 45 mph speed limit is painfully stultifying, but it’s a remarkable
75 45 mph when you’ve got a sonorous engine behind you and the envy of every driver around. As we pulled into Chicago’s L2O restaurant on the north side, valets dropped their other duties to helm the R8 while simultaneously elevating their behavior in hopes of a fat tip.
Wherever you are headed, the R8 in V10 garb transforms a drive, be it a fine dining experience or a (rapid) trip to the grocery store, into motoring pleasure. The car is built like a teutonic vault, and it seems Audi engineers took the time to do just about everything right so nothing detracts from the driving experience. Even the occasional misguided direction from the nav system won’t matter because it just means you’ll spend more time deeply immersed in the lacuna of the R8.
What Audi AG has wrought in the R8 V10 will undoubtedly go down in automotive history — not for the boisterous manner we love from our F40s and Countachs — but certainly as one of the most capable and utterly drivable supercars ever created. The R8 truly is the intelligent man’s pricey sports car because it doesn’t deliver its message like an iron-fisted punch to the solar plexus. Rather, the R8 communicates its style and power like a kung-fu master’s elegant pressure point to your brachial nerve. You barely feel his fingers hit when it lays you out flat.
ADVENTURE IS ONE CLICK AWAY
Subscribe to GP for a daily dose of the best in gear, adventure, design, tech and culture. 5pm sharp.