We’ve been paying a lot of attention to supercars in the past week, mainly due to the Frankfurt Auto Show and a lot of manufacturers pulling back the curtain on their latest creations. And today is no different, because Audi has unveiled their new R8 Spyder. The R8 has garnered an impressive following in the scant 3 years its been around, and with good reason, as it is essentially a top-notch supercar at a (relatively) reasonable price. Now, the R8 is getting the drop-top Spyder treatment and it’s about time.
One of the normal byproducts of making a coupe into a convertible is that addition of extra weight. The lack of a solid roof means that a car loses structural rigidity, forcing engineers to throw in a lot of extra structural members in the body. The R8 Spyder is not different, weighing in at 497 pounds more than it’s hard-top sibling, even though the entire roof assembly weighs 66 pounds.
You’ll notice in the title that this is the R8 5.2 FSI Spyder, meaning that it comes equipped with Audi’s 5.2-liter V10. The hard-top R8 has two engine options, a 4.2-liter V8 or that V10, and one would assume that the extra weight has forced Audi to go with the bigger engine for the Spyder in order to retain performance. The V10 engine is rated at 525 horsepower and 391 lb-ft of torque, which can propel it from 0 to 60 mph in only 4.1 seconds. The R8 Spyder also hits a top speed of 194.5 mph.
Aside from additional structural members, the underpinnings of the R8 Spyder are nearly identical to the the regular R8. The car is built on an aluminum spaceframe, but as a weight-saving measure, the new body work above the mid-mounted engine and the sills near the roof storage compartment are now made of carbon fiber. This helps keep the R8 Spyder’s center of gravity low. And, as is standard for nearly every Audi, the R8 Spyder is equipped with the company’s Quattro all-wheel drive system, another feature that makes the car rather unique in the supercar world.
On the styling front, the R8 Spyder has seen a few changes. One of the most noticeable is in the side vent. In the R8 coupe, the side vent is more of a slit, referred to as a side blade. It is useful from an engineering standpoint, but it gives the R8 a rather Spartan, utilitarian look. On the Spyder, that vent has been made wider and more curved, which nicely complements the new rear sill that covers the engine. The R8 coupe isn’t a bad looking car, but the Spyder is definitely the prettier one in the family.
The interior of the R8 Spyder is pure Audi, combining quality materials with a sensible, no-nonsense layout. The company has a reputation for make functional, practical interiors, and this car is no different. In fact, there is one nifty little feature in the R8 Spyder’s interior that is rather genius. Audi recognizes that a lot of people are now using BlueTooth phones that interface with their cars, rather than using a handheld. However, it’s tough to use these systems with the top down at highway speeds. You can hear the other person by cranking the stereo, but anything you say will be lost in the wind. Well, Audi has a solution: microphones in the seatbelts. Both belts have three small mics sewn into them (spaced to accommodate different sized people), and there is a fourth microphone in the windshield pillar for good measure. This is an optional extra, but it is a very slick solution.
There’s no news as to when the R8 Spyder will hit North America, but the middle of next year is a fair guess. As is normal for most Audi (and indeed most German) models, the Spyder will first be released in Europe before making its way across the Atlantic. Price has also yet to be determined, but the R8 5.2 FSI coupe starts at $146,000 in the States, so the Spyder will probably clock in at about $10,000 higher. Whatever the final price is, it’ll still be a lot less than some Italian supercars that deliver the same amount of features, but charge an extra $100,000 for the badge on the front.