Motoring | Test Drives

The amazing Spyder

The Audi R8 GT is arguably one of the best sportscars out there, and now Ingolstadt has added a touch of glamour to it by chopping the roof off. Matt Joy takes one for a spin

  • By Matt Joy, wheels
  • Published: 13:43 September 16, 2012
  • Wheels

R8 GT Spyder
  • Image Credit: Supplied picture
  • R8 GT Spyder combines the hardcore specification of the GT, which comprises lots of lightweight carbon fibre, more power and tauter suspension, and then slots it into the glorious drop-top bodyshell of the Spyder.
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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, they make for a thoroughly irritating person — chiefly because you’ve no reason not to like them. And it’s the same with Audi’s R8. It started off as an athletic coupé, 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 coupé, which seemingly had it all.

But now Audi has created arguably the most irritatingly perfect R8 of them all, with the introduction of the R8 GT Spyder. It combines the hardcore specification of the GT, which comprises lots of lightweight carbon fibre, more power and tauter suspension, and then slots it into the glorious drop-top bodyshell of the Spyder — so it’s like a supermodel with a PhD in astrophysics who also cooks a mean roast and raises money for charity at the same time…

It’s the looks that get you first though. The carbon-fibre 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 sight. There’s no skimping on the inside either, which benefits from a similar range of enhancements. For a start there are lightweight bucket seats, which not only help to shed a few pounds and grip you tightly, but also look fantastic.

There’s more carbon-fibre detailing, the gorgeous flat-bottomed steering wheel is finished in Alcantara and the white instruments catch the eye. 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 just a shiny limited-edition machine with extra bells and whistles; it is the ultimate R8.

Weight-saving measures have cut a whopping 85kg from the new GT Spyder compared to the R8 V10 Spyder, and on top of that it wrings 552bhp from that magnificent V10 engine with 540Nm of torque to back it up. Rolling gently down the pit lane 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 0-100kph in 3.8 seconds with a top speed of 317kph, the first full-throttle blast through the gears delivers a sensational punch, accompanied by a terrific V10-wail (and possibly some expletives).

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It feels even faster than the figures suggest, with every gear change snapping through thanks to the super-fast R tronic gearbox. You won’t 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 be quick and still keep it on the black stuff. And of course, if you have the ESP in Sport mode or have it switched off altogether, you can power through with the tail flicking out, again helped by the balance of the four-wheel drive.

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. Sadly, this is a rare machine — just 333 will be built. And every single lucky blighter that owns one will have themselves a stunning and utterly thrilling supercar.

Specs and ratings

Model: R8 GT Spyder

Engine: 5.2-litre V10

Transmission: Six-speed R Tronic, AWD

Max power: 552bhp @ 8000rpm

Max torque: 340Nm @ 6,500rpm

Top speed: 317kph

0-100kph: 3.8sec
 
Price: Dh750,700

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