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THE STEERING COLUMN

Audi R8 Spyder review: A Stark choice

Audi's R8 Spyder has had its wild side tamed, but remains an everyday thriller

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THE last time I drove an Audi R8 Spyder some years ago, someone asked me if it was Tony Stark's car. I answered yes, even though I have no idea who Tony Stark is, and have an inherent suspicion of anyone with an adjective for a name. Yet, I feel I know all about this Stark chap from his choice of car.

He's obviously wealthy, given that the R8 Spyder is the most expensive Audi money can buy. This latest one costs S$872,888 with Certificate Of Entitlement, which puts it in the pricing neighbourhood of some properly exotic machines, such as Lamborghini's Huracan Spyder (a snip at S$888,000 without COE).

This Stark guy must have nerves of iron, too, given the R8's handling characteristics.

Twitchy through corners in a way that sometimes turned your knuckles white, it could also be a handful in a straight line, bucking left and right when you braked hard from high speed.

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After a ground-up revamp, though, the R8 Spyder seems to have had its wildness tamed.

With a stronger, lighter body, the Audi is still razor sharp through bends, responding with precision and alacrity when you turn the wheel.

But it's far more stable and forgiving than before. Gone is the fear that a sudden jink on the steering or panicked jab on the brake pedal in the middle of a high-speed corner would be enough to send you skittering off into the scenery. Instead, the R8 now feels like it has a claw-like hold on the road, giving the driver more confidence than ever to push it hard.

That's in spite of a small increase in power, too. The Audi's mighty, 5.2-litre V10 engine has spent time in the gym, and now generates 540 horsepower (an increase of 15). That's a notch down from the amount of raw oomph that the average supercar offers these days, but it's still enough to hurl the R8 Spyder to 100km/h in just 3.6 seconds.

There's a marvellous howl from the engine to go with the acceleration, too. But the soundtrack gets especially spine-tingling once the revs climb past 6,000rpm, which is when those ten cylinders begin to hit properly hard. At the same time, the power delivery is so smooth and linear that the Audi's acceleration seldom feels scary or ferocious.

If anything, the bowel-clenching moments tend to come at sensible speeds. From behind the wheel it's tough to see over your shoulders, so changing lanes is a bit of a nail-biter. Meanwhile, steep carpark ramps tend to look awful menacing, given the way the R8's handsome chin sticks out. Still, over a weekend with the car, the Audi cleared them all like a champ.

In fact, it's a plausible choice for an everyday car. The suspension is firm but never wearisomely harsh, and the cabin has plenty of storage compartments. The interface for the digital instruments takes some getting used to, but isn't something a six-year-old couldn't explain to you. And while the boot is a token item, no one buys a car like this for trips to Ikea.

With the cloth top overhead, the R8 Spyder feels as solid as a coupe, and is an admirably refined car for the breed. It's really only the sort who can't sleep with a pea under seven mattress who would find the Audi uncomfortable.

Still, for all that, the R8 Spyder is best enjoyed with the roof down, especially since folding it is merely the work of pressing a button for 20 seconds.

Driving it that way only intensifies all the sensations of speed and movement, and of course it lets the soundtrack from the engine fill your ears all the more richly. As with any bona fide supercar, however, if you're to properly savour its delights you might as well hand your licence to the cops with a bow tied around it.

But there's little arguing that the R8 Spyder is an improved car that satisfies on a number of levels, with more performance that you can extract with less fear, and the day-to-day usability that you'd expect of any Audi.

Tony Stark, I suspect, would have approved.

  • The Steering Column is a new regular feature about motoring. The writer has reviewed cars in Singapore for 22 years. He believes in V8 engines, rear wheel-drive, and world peace.

Audi R8 Spyder 5.2 FSI

Engine 5,204cc, 40V, V10

Power 540hp at 7800rpm

Torque 540Nm at 6500rpm

Gearbox 7-speed dual-clutch

Top speed 318km/h

0-100kmh 3.6 seconds

Fuel efficiency 11.7L/100km

CO2 277g/km

Price S$872,888 with COE

Available now


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