A few weeks back ShortList gathered a panel of motoring experts, shut them in a room and made them thrash out a list of their favourite cars of 2010. The Audi R8 Spyder sat smugly atop of the Cabriolets & Roadsters pile that also contained the Maserati GranCabrio, Nissan 370 Z, Lotus Elise and Mercedes E-Class cabriolet- all of which are great cars but somehow it feels the R8 Spyder hasn’t been done justice placed alongside these mere motoring mortals.
It’s not until you slide into the R8’s sumptuous leather seats, fire up the V10 engine and power through the gear box that you realise this car is special, almost perfectly special. The model I was lucky enough to take for a spin was the sparkling 2010 Audi R8 Spyder 5.2 litre V10 in Brilliant Red. First thing to notice are the contrasting side-panels that feature on the hard-top version have been removed, giving the car and altogether more complete look. I didn’t think it was possible but they’ve actually made the R8 more desirable with this soft top version. The sleek lines, aggressive stance and almost satanic front headlights give the car a menacing presence- it instantly demands attention.
It also seems that the visually-impaired have been catered for when it comes to enjoying the theatre produced by the R8 and that becomes apparent as soon as I fire the monster up. The V10 engine is quite frankly scary. A deep bellow soon fades into and idling grunt, depress the accelerator and the thing rasps and wails. It sounds like Chewbacca with a hangover… and a sore throat… after he’s stubbed his toe on a low-slung piece of wooden furniture… while singing a Louis Armstrong song in slow motion. You get the picture, this thing is noisy. So far, so good. All the supercar boxes have been ticked. Jaw-dropping looks, check. Head-turning soundtrack, check. Wallet-crushing price tag (£116,000), check.
So here comes the bit that all supercar buyers dread, the sparse, unforgiving interior and panic that there may not even be a radio. No such panic with Audi, it’s German engineered after all so that means reverse parking camera, all-round sensors, a brilliant sat-nav system, Bluetooth phone connectivity and a Bang & Olufsen sound system that any music aficionado would kill to have in their front room. The centre console on the audi R8 would make an F-15 fighter jet blush. Now, supercar superfans will be scoffing at the fact that comfort shouldn’t be a factor when it comes to purchasing a car of this magnitude but many of those critics won’t actually own one and probably never will. I’ve driven Aston Martins whose gearboxes have blown in the outside lane of the M4. I’ve driven a Lotus that decided to lose traction on a slip road and nearly kill me. I’ve driven a Ferrari whose windscreen wipers refused to work during a torrential storm. All fantastic cars but if I had to live with that I wouldn’t be best pleased. Just one weekend with the R8 and you realise this car wouldn’t let you down, the build quality is distinctly Audi, distinctly German. It even managed around 20 miles per gallon on the 200-odd mile round trip, which when compared to a Bentley GTC makes the R8 look like a SmartCar.
So what’s it like to drive? In short, amazing. During the rapid sprint up to the north Norfolk coast the V10 engine pulled in every gear and shouted about it a lot too. The chassis was solid even though this is a soft-top and the Quattro four-wheel-drive system meant the car didn’t threaten to kill me at every bend. 0-60 was dispatched in neck-breaking haste, Audi claim it’s 3.9 seconds and I would heartily agree if I wasn’t too busy picking my kidneys from the floor. But one of my favourite features is a small rear window that’s handily situated just in front of the engine unit. Because Audi are geniuses they have made this window retractable, so when my iPod started to bore me, I pressed a button and pure V10 opera was instantly injected into the cabin. Ditch the Led Zeppelin CD’s, the wailing and bellowing of this Audi is the only soundtrack you will ever need.