What Car? says...
If you want a mid-engined supercar that’s also surprisingly usable and easy to drive, an Audi R8 would fit the bill nicely. Suppose, though, that you wanted all those qualities with added wind-in-the-hair action – what do you look for then? The answer, of course, is the Audi R8 Spyder.
Simply put, it’s the convertible version of the R8 coupé, and uses the same naturally aspirated 5.2-litre V10 petrol engine as the closed-top car, a unit it also shares with the Lamborghini Huracan no less.
The R8 Spyder's folding fabric roof is electrically operated and can be dropped or raised in under 20 seconds. And unlike some convertibles that can get a bit wobbly when the fixed roof is removed, the Spyder always feels as rigid as a rod of iron.
Like the coupé, the Spyder has gained power over the years, and two outputs are available. There’s a rear-wheel-drive model with 562bhp, or if you need more puff, there’s a 612bhp Quattro version with the added security of four-wheel drive.
Even the lower-powered version has more than enough grunt to compete with the Porsche 911 Cabriolet and the Roadster version of the Aston Martin Vantage. Otherwise, there are few rivals at this price point that combine supercar thrills with a healthy dose of fresh air and sunshine (weather permitting, of course).
So does all that make the Audi R8 Spyder the convertible sports car to go for? Over the next few pages of this review, we'll tell you whether the soft-top version is any less useable or fun to drive than the coupé, what the performance is like, how it compares with its prestigious rivals and more.
Once you've picked your next set of wheel, make sure you get it for the lowest price by searching our free What Car? New Car Deals pages to see what models are available at a pleasing discount. You'll find some excellent new convertible car deals.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
The Audi R8 Spyder’s colossal V10 petrol engine is wonderfully responsive from the minute you press the accelerator pedal. It doesn’t use a turbocharger, and that helps it to respond quickly and rip through the rev range. Power builds progressively, really coming to life above 5000rpm and delivering a truly scintillating noise all the way up to the engine’s 8500rpm limiter.
For most purposes, the 562bhp of the standard version is probably all you need – its 0-62mph time of less than 4.0sec is more than enough. Still, the added brutality of the Performance Quattro (0-62mpg in 3.2sec) is exceedingly hard to resist.
In either flavour, the car can play the comfortable droptop grand tourer. Thanks to its high gearing, the V10 can cruise along quite quietly at very low revs, offering just the merest hint of the explosive potential of that very large and flexible muscle that sits inches behind your head.
Both versions of the R8 Spyder come with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox. In auto mode, the changes are quick, but progress in town traffic can sometimes be jerky, and a sharp kickdown can feel a little less suave than it should. You can also change gear manually with paddles on the steering wheel, and you'll find the gearbox is smooth and swift.
There are four driving modes – comfort, auto, dynamic and individual – so you can soften or sharpen the car’s responses.
As far as its ride goes, the R8 Spyder is much comfier than you might expect for a performance-focused convertible car. It feels composed over all but the roughest of broken UK road surfaces, and the body feels almost as stiff as in the regular Audi R8, helping with comfort. You can have adaptive suspension as an option on Quattro models, but we reckon most will be happy with the standard set-up.
The steering is well weighted, responsive and direct, although keener drivers will find it doesn’t communicate information back from the road surface quite as well as the Porsche 911. There’s no doubting the grip, though – it’s like a limpet. And, while the four-wheel-drive system is rear-biased for playful dynamics, it’s always sure-footed and composed, and never feels as though it’s trying to catch you out. It also adds some extra security on wet surfaces.
When the time comes to slow down, the brakes' stopping performance is terrific and there’s lots of feel. Quattro models come with ceramic brakes, which resist fade for longer during bouts of fast track driving, but introduce a rather firm pedal feel and are harder to modulate around town.
With the roof up, the R8 Spyder is well-insulated from wind noise, although there’s some road noise at speed. With the roof down and the wind deflector fitted behind you, the buffeting is more than acceptable, even at motorway speeds.
The interior layout, fit and finish
The Audi R8 Spyder’s excellent driving position includes a steering wheel that adjusts for rake and reach, as well as seats that are electrically adjustable, with four-way lumbar and height adjustment. The lower spec of the two Quattro versions gets figure-hugging bucket seats, but the standard ones keep you firmly in place through fast corners.
It's easy to see out of, too. The low dashboard and deep windscreen give you a clear view of the road ahead, and while the rear window is small, standard front and rear parking sensors help when manoeuvring in tight spots. There’s also a rear-view camera that displays a small image on the driver’s digital instrument panel. Bright LED headlights are standard, and include a high-beam assist function that switches back to dipped beam when it detects other road users ahead of you.
Many of the R8 Spyder’s functions can be controlled using buttons on the steering wheel, including the driving modes and the screen set-ups for the 12.3in Virtual Cockpit driver's display. The Virtual Cockpit, which replaces analogue instruments with digitised dials, doubles up as the infotainment screen. It’s easy to use, with a rotary controller and shortcut buttons mounted behind the gearlever. The menus are simple and intuitive to navigate, and you it can mirror your smartphone.
The rest of the buttons are well-positioned and simple to use too, and the interior design looks minimalist but modern. Everything feels beautifully constructed and is finished with tactile materials, including soft Napa leather on the seats.
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
The R8 Spyder has plenty of shoulder room inside for the driver and passenger, and head room is reasonable, although if you're more than six feet tall, you'll wish the seats went back a bit further. The roof mechanism behind the seats limits the amount of recline to the backrest compared with a hardtop Audi R8.
If you have long legs, you have to put up with a very upright sitting position. That's not a problem you’ll encounter in the roomier Porsche 911 Cabriolet (which also has two small back seats).
The convertible roof installation removes the spacious secondary luggage area you get behind the seats in an R8 Coupé so you just have a 112-litre boot in the nose. It's big enough for a carry-on travel case plus a small soft shoulder bag at a push.
General storage space is not bad. You get shallow door pockets that’ll take a small bottle of water and a glovebox that’s big enough for a jar of coffee, while your takeaway latte will sit in one of the two cupholders.
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
Compared with convertible supercars from Ferrari and Lamborghini, the Audi R8 Spyder looks extremely good value. It’s similar in price to the Roadster version of the Aston Martin Vantage but still costs considerably more than most versions of the highly entertaining Porsche 911 Cabriolet.
With a 5.2-litre V10 engine, it's clearly not going to be cheap to run, and insurance, servicing costs, fuel consumption and road tax will be extremely high. Residual values aren’t quite as strong as those on a 911, but they’re sensible, so if you’re planning to sell in a few years, the trade-in value should still be good. If you want to finance one, the monthly payments will be high but competitive.
The R8 Spyder is well equipped. Highlights include automatic LED headlights, and heated and electrically adjustable sports seats trimmed with Napa leather. Climate control is standard, as is the 12.3in Virtual Cockpit, sat-nav, Bluetooth and DAB radio. You also get parking sensors front and rear, keyless entry and metallic paint.
Quattro Edition models come with a Bang & Olufsen sound system, red brake calipers, and a mix of gloss black and carbon exterior trim. The entry-level rear-wheel drive model – which is our recommended version – comes with 19in wheels, while the others all come with 20in ones.
In terms of safety and security, the R8 Spyder has four airbags, an alarm and an immobiliser. A tracker is available as an official dealer-fit accessory, and many buyers will consider having one installed for the extra security it provides.
As for reliability, Audi finished 21st out of 32 manufacturers in the 2022 What Car? Reliability Survey, just below Porsche in joint 19th (with Tesla). A three-year, 60,000 mile warranty comes as standard.
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|RRP price range||£143,735 - £179,840|
|Number of trims (see all)||2|
|Number of engines (see all)||2|
|Available fuel types (which is best for you?)||petrol|
|MPG range across all versions||20.3 - 20.9|
|Available doors options||2|
|Warranty||3 years / 60000 miles|
|Company car tax at 20% (min/max)||£10,440 / £13,111|
|Company car tax at 40% (min/max)||£20,879 / £26,223|