Largely built by hand at a special facility near Neckarsulm, Germany, this second-generation model has a 50% improvement in rigidity and is built on a newly developed Audi Space Frame constructed using aluminium and carbon fibre.
Powering the R8 is a naturally aspirated ten-cylinder 5.2-litre petrol engine. The V10 is offered in two outputs, standard and Plus. Standard models produce 533bhp and 398lb ft of torque resulting in a sprint from standstill to 62mph in just 3.6 seconds (for the Spyder).
The Plus model gets an extra 69bhp (602bhp) and 15lb ft (413) of torque with 0-62mph being reduced by 0.3 seconds and top speed increased to 203mph from 197mph for the Spyder.
It features dual injection to optimise engine response and a freewheeling mode to improve economy, while launch control gets you off the line as quickly as possible.
Connected to a seven-speed S tronic dual-clutch transmission, up to 100% of the power can be sent to either end of the R8.
There are four settings through the Audi Drive Select to set up the R8 as you wish – comfort, normal, dynamic and individual.
Keeping the rain off you is a lightweight fabric top that tapers into two fins. However, when the clouds clear and the sun beams, the electrically operated roof (from either the remote key or a button between the seats) opens in 20 seconds and at speeds of up to 31mph.
The rear window can be raised to act as a wind deflector to keep the cabin bluster free.
Inside, you’ll be searching the dash for an infotainment screen and cursing Audi for its tight-fisted approach to standard equipment, before taking it all back and applauding the innovative 12.3in Audi Virtual cockpit containing a 3D sat nav.
It’s a brilliant system in other Audi’s with the dash mounted screen but in the R8 allows the dash to stay clean, simplified and clutter free. It’s controlled by the MMI rotary dial between the seats while you can change the digital cockpit layout through controls on the steering wheel. It even has seatbelts installed with microphones.
The R8 gets keyless access and a steering wheel mounted red starter button, climate control and heated seats.
The R8 Spyder costs £132,020. However, our test car is finished in Ara blue crystal effect exterior paint, with a black fabric roof and black fine Nappa leather sports seats with diamond design.
Our test car came fitted with optional: 19in five-arm twin-spoke alloy wheels (£950); ceramic brakes (£7,700); LED headlights with Audi Laser lights (£3,150); Audi smartphone interface (£250); pedals in stainless steel (£325); sound and comfort pack (Bang and Olufsen Sound System, Extended Leather Upholstery, Pneumatic seat backrest and side bolster adjustment for sport seats, illuminated aluminium door sills) (£3,950); driver assistance pack (cruise control & rear view camera) (£650); sport exhaust system (£1800); R8 three-spoke flat-bottomed multifunctional steering wheel (£1500); pneumatic seat backrest and side bolster adjustment (£475); Audi phone box wireless charging (£450). Price as tested £153,220.
How does it drive?
Utilising the Audi Drive Select function allows you to set up the R8 Spyder to suit the driving experience you want, perhaps all the time or just on a particular day or route.
Comfort mode does just that. It tames the powerful R8 leaving it with a compliant, comfortable ride that does an astonishing job at absorbing the cracks and divots on UK roads, even on rougher country lanes.
In this mode, the engine is quiet and you can cruise along and use the R8 as a GT car.
However, and it’s a huge however, if you’re wanting to drive more enthusiastically then pop the R8 into Dynamic mode. Hear the engine rev up, the exhaust starts to sing while the ride stiffens and the steering gets more weight.
Despite the firmer suspension, it’s still not uncomfortable, the R8 Spyder simply becomes more urgent and feels more alive.
Gear changes are faster while gears are held for longer to exploit the 533bhp and 398lb ft of torque, both of which reach their peaks at high revs - 7800rpm and 6500rpm, respectively.
If you stamp on the throttle there’s a brutal surge of power, however, if you moderate it you can utilise all that grunt in a more progressive manner. The R8 simply shortens the road ahead, transforming the horizon to the right now.
Accompanying your progress is a stunning soundtrack from an engine positioned just behind your shoulder and twin exhausts poking out of the back. Pulling away there’s a deep grumble that metamorphoses into a scream of power and urgency as the revs rise. As you slow for a corner, flick up a gear or two and fire crackers are set off from the rear diffuser.
With the Spyder in almost any setting, it handles brilliantly. Firstly, down to a lack of body movement even during hard cornering and secondly due to the phenomenal amounts of grip keeping the R8 tethered to the tarmac.
Happen to accelerate hard mid-corner and the R8 will understeer. It’s resolved by feathering the accelerator or waiting for the corner to pass.
With the roof down and side windows and rear screen raised, buffeting is kept to a minimum.
What's it like inside?
First off you’ll need to find the hidden door handles that cling to the underside of the deep creases along the flanks. Once opened you’ll be surprised how large the doors are and need to pop that into your memory bank for when you are parking the R8.
Slip into the Nappa leather sports seats and the console feels like it wraps itself around you. The driver’s seat, steering wheel and instrument cluster appear individually carved out of the dash like a single seat racing car.
It’s a simplified design with central dash mounted air vents, three suspended controls for the ventilation system, some toggle switches and MMI controls between the seats.
Behind this are the roof, rear glass screen and electronic parking brake buttons.
In truth, you sit a little too high in the electronically adjustable driver’s seat, not quite hunkered down in the sumptuous driver-focused cabin that you’d like. The driver’s seat fails to slide back far enough and may cause some issues for taller drivers.
The steering wheel is limited on height adjustment and stays low and when you combine that with the high seat, it leaves a narrow aperture for your legs to slide through.
There are several storage locations within the cabin. Ahead of the gear lever under a push back cover is a mobile phone tray with two UBS connectors and an auxiliary socket. This car had the optional wireless phone charger fitted.
Between the seats under a flip up cover is two cupholders and on the rear bulk head is a lockable storage box with two shelves. Each door has a narrow compartment while the glove box is well-sized.
Beware not to embarrass yourself standing at the rear of the R8 trying to open the boot. With the mid-engined configuration, you have to head towards the headlights.
Opened in the cabin or from the key fob, the bonnet boot has 112-litre of storage capacity. It’s a deep rectangular well, similar to a Porsche 911. At the top is useful wider useful section and there’s a 12-volt socket.
On an official combined cycle, the V10 returns 24.1mpg and emits 277g/km of CO2. However, during testing, we managed to average just 14mpg.
Company car users will face a 37% BIK banding.
The R8 Spyder falls into insurance band 50E.
It gets a three-year 60,000-mile warranty.
The R8 provides explosive performance, a thunderous soundtrack, brilliant handling, tenacious grip and a supple ride.
Sadly, the driver’s seat is slightly confined for head room and how far the seat can go back due to the bulkhead while some of the options list should be included as standard for a vehicle with such a premium price.