I don’t have a problem in waking up early as I’m used to that by now. The reason why I usually wake up pretty early though, as early as 4:30, would be to take my dog for a walk or hit the gym maybe. So you can obviously expect how early I would have gotten up when there was an Audi R8 waiting to be driven on a highway. Let me start with the description of the car. Audi offers the R8 in two different body styles; the first is the Coupe which has a hard top and the second is the soft top named appropriately as the Spyder. Audi also offers two engines (three in international markets) for the R8. You can have it in the ‘less powerful’ 4.2 V8 also doing duty on the RS5. Or you can have the outrageous Lamborghini sourced 5.2 V10! The Spyder is available only with the 5.2 V10 and that is the car I drove.
Exterior wise, there is little to distinguish the Spyder from the Couple. The fabric roof is apparent and you can have it in a choice of three colors- Black, Red or Brown. Also the Spyder has its front windscreen frame in the Aluminium color and its not painted to the body color like the Coupe. These are the differences between the two. For the more insane of you though, I would like to add that the Spyder is 3mm longer than the Coupe and this extra length is focussed fully on the rear to store the roof. You also get V10 badges on the fenders of the car which are the only distinction from a normal V8.
The R8 has always been a handsome car and I don’t think I should go any further to explain how the car looks. All I can tell you is that the R8 looks even better with the roof down.
Now for the technicals. The R8 is powered by the Lamborghini sourced 5.2 V10 which makes 525bhp at 8000rpm. Peak torque of 53kgm is made at 6500rpm. You have the option of having the 6 Speed manual or the sequential 6 Speed R Tronic which is what I had. Audi’s traditional Quattro system sends power to all four wheels. Speaking about wheels, you get huge 19 inch 295/30 at the rear and 235/35 at the front. The grip level is top notch and these wheels help you in taking the R8 to its 313km/h top speed. The R8 goes from 0-100km/h in 4.1secs. For the more observant of you, that time may seem slow and you’re right. The Spyder is slower to the 100km/h dash by 0.2secs and has 3km/h of a lesser top speed than its Coupe cousin. There is a very good reason for this. Since there is no hard roof as such on the Spyder, Audi engineers had to add extra weight on the sides of the car to increase the rigidity and stability. As a result the Spyder is 100kg more heavier than the Coupe.
For the same reason mentioned above, I though the R8 Soyder wouldn’t be as fun around a corner as it would be a bit tail happy. There is literally nothing in front except the decently sized boot. Speaking of which, the boot is actually quite decent and you can definitely store a couple of suitcases laterally. I open the door and sit inside nevertheless. First thing I do is strap my seatbelt, and surprise surprise! It has the same cheap seatbelt fastener from the RS5 and I can’t imagine why Audi would do this on the R8 as well. A quick look through the cabin says a lot. Things are where they should be. You get a centralized screen which doubles as a music system. You get the fantastic Bang&Olufsen stereo. The gear shifter reminds me of a 70′s mike and it looks pretty cool. I receive the key and once again its the same VW key you get for a Polo/Vento and I let out a small sigh. Twist the key traditionally (no push to start here) and before you start the car, the rev counter and the speedo do a super-bike like swing and come back. That is the only time you can see the speedo touch 350km/h!
Start the car and the exhaust note makes the RS5 feel like a small kitten in comparison to the R8! The ‘vroom’ is enormous and you’re even more inclined to push the aluminium throttle to listen to the V10 sing. This has to be one of the best sounding cars available in India! And just when you think the noise is all what you could ask for, there is a small button which when depressed retracts the roof and puts it inside. The car sounds even more awesome now. Suraj, from Audi joins me in the passenger seat and after I adjust the superbly supportive seats, off we go.
The initial road out to the highway is in a pretty bad state and Suraj quickly reassures me that the R8 would not scrap its belly. I make a 90 degree turn to the right and I now have a straight, super flat, relatively empty highway. I pause for a second and this gives me the feeling of a plane taking off! And like all take-off’s, I build power to about 4000rpm and let go of the brakes. A huge screech and its apparent that the rear tires are scrambling for grip, a hint of white smoke and a massive force pushing you down to your seat! I glance at the speedo and the 5.2 is approaching its 8000rpm redline. A tug at the paddle and the entire process repeats itself again, only more mental than before. The speedo flashes past 120 and has no hopes of letting go! I’ve never driven a car in which the speedometer goes from 110 to 130 like as though it forgot to stop a bit. The way this car goes is absolutely mental and giving the R8 the 5.2 V10 has to be one of the best things ever done! It compliments the car very well. In terms of power and performance, an easy 10/10 for the Audi!
A few more acceleration bursts later, I decide to check out the in-gear acceleration as well. The familiar story of overtaking the car in front of you is accomplished before you realize what just happened! The gearbox is extremely quick even in its normal mode and has no hesitation to downshift at all. Impressed with the power of the car, I decide to show it some corners. I was a bit apprehensive given that the car weighs more at the rear and thought I would be forced to slow down during cornering. I was completely wrong. In the R8 Spyder, grip and handling go hand to hand. There is so much grip from those wide Pirelli PZero’s and the car is beautifully balanced and exhibits a certain poise which makes cornering super fun. This car has a Go-Kart like handling. The steering was very well weighed and actually felt like tugging those wheels. Even the smallest flick of the steering alters the direction of the car and this truly gives you an extraordinary driving experience. A 10/10 from my side for the handling department as well!
The brakes of the R8 are extremely powerful and provide much needed stopping power that is expected in a car of this nature. There is no squirming of tires under hard braking as well and there is always the option to include the Ceramic brakes. The ride is very good for a car of this class and most bumps and potholes were dealt with well. One thing I did realize after driving the car was its level of heat dissipation. The R8 seemed to emit a lot of heat from its radiators and it was actually uncomfortable standing behind the car. The tires were extremely hot as well. I think Chennai heat could be a factor in this though. The fuel efficiency is pretty decent for a car like this and you can expect a figure of more than 3kpl. Once again, 97 Octane is a must.
Now for that final question of buying the car. The R8 Spyder costs about 1.3Crores. Now you might think I’m mad, but I think that is fabulous value for money! You get entry to that fabulous supercar club with the R8. Add to that the fact that the R8 is a well acknowledged supercar throughout the globe and it is used in the Le-Man’s races as well. A few of you are saying that the soft top is not feasible for a hot country like India. Well, I live in Chennai where the heat is extreme, the car was tested during summer where we have a heat wave here and I can say without any doubts that is twice the fun to drive the R8 with the top down! If I had 1.3 C’s and I weren’t saving up for a Lambo or a Ferrari, the R8 Spyder is the one I would buy. Which says a lot because you actually experience the similar level of fun of a Lambo in a package which costs less than half! That is something you just can’t argue with!