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Review

FIRST DRIVE: Audi R8 GT Spyder car review

29/08/12

YOU MIGHT know someone like this: fantastically good-looking, highly intelligent, charismatic and extremely nice. Anyone with one or more of these attributes is bad enough but combined it makes for a thoroughly irritating combination, chiefly because you’ve no reason not to like them. And so it is with Audi’s R8. It started off as an athletic Coupe, turned even more brawny with the introduction of the V10 and more glamorous with the Spyder version. Then they rolled out the harder and lighter GT Coupe which seemingly had it all.

So now Audi has created arguably the most irritatingly perfect R8 of them of all with the introduction of the R8 GT Spyder. It combines the hardcore specification of the GT which comprises of lots of lightweight carbonfibre, more power and tauter suspension and then slots it into the glorious drop top bodyshell of the Spyder – so it’s like that supermodel with a PhD in astrophysics that makes a mean roast potato and raises money for charity at the same time… It’s the looks that get you first though. The carbonfibre add-ons can be hidden by darker shades but in the matte white finish that the test car appeared in, the slivers of lightweight material add purpose to the shape. The grey alloy wheels help too – it would take a particularly hard heart not to find the R8 GT Spyder a totally arresting shape.

There’s no skimping on the inside too, which benefits from a similar range of enhancements. For a start there are lightweight bucket seats which not only help to shave a few pounds and grip you tightly but also look fantastic. There’s more carbonfibre detailing, the gorgeous flat-bottomed steering wheel is finished in Alcantara and the white instruments catch the eye a little more. Elsewhere the cabin is the typical high quality affair that works well and is easy to understand – why would you want your supercar to be anything else?

But this isn’t a shiny limited edition with extra bells and whistles, it is the ultimate R8. Weight-saving has cut 85kg compared to the R8 V10 Spyder (so a hefty mate you’ve decided to leave at home) and on top of that it has 552bhp wrung from that magnificent V10 engine with 398lb.ft of torque to back it up.

Rolling gently down the pitlane at Silverstone (at pit lane speeds of course) and with the R tronic gearbox taking care of the shifts and the V10 emitting a controlled burble it’s easy to be lulled into a false sense of serenity. With the sun shining and the roof down you could bowl around in the GT Spyder feeling like a million dollars and working on your tan at the same time.

And that would be fine apart from it being a total waste of some first class engineering. What you really need to do is fully exercise that mighty powerplant and push the chassis as hard as you dare. But doing so isn’t quite as easy as you might think. Despite being seemingly prepared for 0-62mph in 3.8 seconds and a top speed of 197mph, the first full throttle blast through the gears delivers a sensational punch, accompanied by a terrific V10 wail – and possibly some expletives. It feels even faster than the figures suggest with every gearchange snapping through thanks to the very fast R tronic gearbox. You’ll not find a faster or more sensorial supercar for less than twice the price.

And while you might expect a car with this much power and performance to be thoroughly intimidating, the balance that the Quattro four-wheel drive system provides means the complete opposite is true. Those wonderful bucket seats clamp you in place and the tactile steering wheel feeds back plenty of info about what the car is up to. Start to press on and for a long time the GT Spyder just grips and grips. Beyond that there is some gentle understeer to inform you that you are near the car’s limits, but it is not the kind of wash-out understeer you might get with a normal four-wheel drive car – you can still be quick and still keep it on the black stuff. And of course if you have the ESP in Sport mode or switched off altogether you can power through with the tail flicking out, again helped by the balance of the four-wheel drive.

The opportunities to drive a car like this so hard may be few and far between, but when you do you’ll love it. And when you can’t you can savour the noise, the quality and the pure delight you get from just being behind the wheel. This is a sadly rare machine – just 43 will be coming to the UK – and every single one of those 43 lucky blighters will have themselves a stunning and utterly thrilling supercar.

Audi R8 GT Spyder, £158,145 Engine: 5.2-litre petrol producing 552bhp and 398lb.ft of torque Transmission: Seven-speed automated manual driving all four wheels Performance: Top speed 197mph, 0-62mph in 3.8 seconds Economy: 19.9mpg combined Emissions: 332g/km

  • Enginespetrol
  • Power5 (high performance)
  • 0-60 mph
  • Economy1 (poor fuel economy)
  • CO2g/km
  • Insurance groups1 (very high costs)
  • Airbags
  • Seats2

Motors.co.uk value verdict:    stars

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