Audi R8 Spyder Review: The Supercar You’ll Drive Topless However Damn Cold It Is

After taking the keys to the new 2017 R8 Spyder for a week, I made a pledge to drive it at all times with the roof down whatever the weather. I didn’t regret that decision…

As I scythe past the gigantic lorry that’s been spoiling my fun for the last few corners, my eyes widen in shock as I’m treated to a massive blast of wailing V10 noise bouncing off the side. It’s even louder than I thought, this R8 Spyder.

With temperatures firmly in single digit territory, I’m wrapped up in my thickest coat and warmest scarf, the seat warmers are set to maximum bum waftage, and I can just about hear the heater blasting out air at the top of its lungs. Well, whenever I lift off and the glorious V10 cacophony dies down, that is.

Audi - Audi R8 Spyder Review: The Supercar You’ll Drive Topless However Damn Cold It Is - Features

I’m grinning like a bloody idiot, but deep down, my inner petrolhead geek wants to shout at me. Drop. Top. Supercars. Make. No. Sense. A supercar is supposed to be performance perfection - a mid-engined, purpose-built monster that’s all about warping your perception of what’s possible for a road car. So why the hell would you take a giant tin opener to the roof and destroy such a machine’s rigidity, while also upping the weight figure with a complicated folding roof and all that extra strengthening underneath?

Audi - Audi R8 Spyder Review: The Supercar You’ll Drive Topless However Damn Cold It Is - Features

Sure, McLaren with its fancy carbonfibre Monocell can offer you a 650S Spider that’s just as stiff as the coupe while gaining only a tiny bit of weight, but you’ll have no such luck with the convertible R8. It may be twice as rigid as the old drop-top R8, but you still lose a third of the coupe’s stiffness, and the extra bulk onboard pushes the weight figure up into the bonafide fatty territory of over 1700kg.

Audi - Audi R8 Spyder Review: The Supercar You’ll Drive Topless However Damn Cold It Is - Features

So you’d have to be mad to get one of these over the tin top, right? Well no, actually. And it’s all to do with that magnificent 10-cylinder ode to internal combustion that’s exploding just behind my chilly ears.

Naturally-aspirated supercars are becoming few and far between, so it seems absolutely right to enjoy this one in an alfresco setting. With that in mind, when taking the keys a few days ago, I made a pledge: during the week I’m spending with this thing, I will drive it everywhere with the roof down (except for one outing to assess the fabric roof, which revealed it to be very good), wherever I go, whatever the weather, and however dark it is outside.

Audi - Audi R8 Spyder Review: The Supercar You’ll Drive Topless However Damn Cold It Is - Features

Right now I’m on the way back from driving a rather different kind of Audi, and the whole roof down commitment thing is seeming like a good call. I’ve dropped both windows and the rear glass in the interest of soaking up as much noise as possible, with a V10 shriek bouncing off every surface around me. In the R8 Spyder, the whole world is your amphitheatre, with the symphony of horsepower being the only performance.

There is apparently a V10 Plus version of the Spyder coming at some point, but I’m not sure it’s entirely necessary. With 533bhp, this ‘normal’ version hits 0-62mph in 3.6 seconds - a tenth slower than the equivalent coupe, but having the roof down livens up the feeling of acceleration to such an extent that it actually feels quicker.

Audi - Audi R8 Spyder Review: The Supercar You’ll Drive Topless However Damn Cold It Is - Features

That’s not to say that the R8 Spyder is just about shouty noises and scary levels of forward momentum. No, it’s damn near as good to drive as the coupe although it’s just had its senses ever so slightly dulled thanks to the aforementioned weight gain and rigidity loss. It’s maybe a little less eager to turn in, but it’s still capable of latching itself onto the tarmac like a stubborn son’bitch, refusing to budge even now the rain is starting to come down.

A tighter, undulating set of bends is coming up, giving me more chances to get on and off the throttle to experience the V10’s thrust. It does reveal a few chinks in the R8’s armour, though - like the coupe it has an annoying tendency to understeer during tighter bends, and if you push past that, you have to be jolly quick to react to the rear when it does go. Perhaps due to being more exposed, you do feel the colossal width of the R8 a lot more in Spyder form, too.

Audi - Audi R8 Spyder Review: The Supercar You’ll Drive Topless However Damn Cold It Is - Features

The biggest issue though, is the way this particular R8 is specced. The R8 I last drove was a masterclass in simplicity and all the better for it, but this one has all the wrong boxes ticked.

Audi - Audi R8 Spyder Review: The Supercar You’ll Drive Topless However Damn Cold It Is - Features

There are the carbon ceramic brakes which feel a tad needless here, and end up being a little inconsistent unless you’re driving like a hooligan to keep enough heat in them. I don’t mind the adaptive dampers so much - although I prefer the longer travel and natural feel of the passive ones - but what I do mind very much is the Dynamic Steering. It’s lacking in feedback, and as it varies the ratio depending on how you’re driving, you’re never sure quite how much lock you’re going to get.

Audi - Audi R8 Spyder Review: The Supercar You’ll Drive Topless However Damn Cold It Is - Features

With a slightly different spec though, the Spyder is the R8 I’d have without a shadow of a doubt, even if it is a little more cramped than the coupe. In fact, as I’m coming to the end of this road and preparing for a boring dual carriageway slog home for the remainder of the journey, I’m realising that it’d be very, very high up on my wish list if I were actually packing the sort of cash to get a supercar.

Every drive in this car is a real occasion. It’s unnecessary, it’s spectacularly shouty and I’ve fallen for it hard in a very short space of time.

You know what? That dual carriageway can wait. I’m turning back and having another crack at this road….