Audi R8 GT Spyder

July 2012

picture of car from the front

Stunning Spyder shape is enhanced in GT form

Ratings

Overall Rating 9Overall rating

Value for money Rating 7Value for money

Space and Practicality Rating 2Costs

Space and Practicality Rating 3Space and practicality

Controls and display Rating 7Controls and display

Comfort Rating 7Comfort

Security Rating 8Car security

Safety Rating 8Car safety


Likes

  • Stunning appearance
  • Breathtaking performance and noise
  • Very sharp driving dynamics
  • Still maintains a good level of usability

Gripes

  • Potentially tricky when driven to extremes
  • Few examples to reach the UK
  • Inevitably an expensive car to buy and run
  • Most rivals have been replaced during its lifespan

Audi's R8 supercar has been on sale since 2006 but numerous iterations since then have maintained its appeal and provided versions to suit more discerning tastes. The latest model combines the hardcore upgrades from the GT version combined with the seductive lines of the drop-top to create the GT Spyder, and in doing so it is the most expensive R8 to date.

Providing the basis for the GT Spyder is the existing V10 model, and in this respect it follows the template for the rest of the range. Audi uses the same aluminium space frame construction process, designed to give huge torsional strength but with the promise of lighter weight than with steel.

In the GT Spyder however the pared-back approach is taken a step further and it manages to achieve an overall weight loss of 100kg, a significant amount especially given the car's four-wheel drive configuration. The changes made to achieve this weight loss include thinner glass or polycarbonate in its place, lighter sheet metal and the use of carbon fibre for several panels have all contributed, with further savings in the cabin and with mechanical components.

Despite already being a spectacularly powerful car, Audi has sought to improve that still further by increasing the output of the 5.2-litre V10 engine by approximately six percent. Unlike the other models in the range, the GT comes only in V10 form and solely with the R tronic automated manual gearbox, although it can operate in three different modes.

Further enhancements have been made to the chassis and suspension to fully exploit the extra power, including a retuned ESP system, manually adjustable coilover suspension with a lower ride height and a quicker steering rack.

Our verdict on the Audi R8 GT Spyder

There's no doubt that Audi's recent success has been largely built on seeking out market niches, and flooding them with new products. The German firm's initial foray into supercar territory with the R8 was proof that it was possible for another model to succeed in an already crowded market. The GT series is a niche model with a motorsport connection, and the Spyder variant is that niche within the niche and will appeal to a very discerning buyer.

Costs
Costs rating 2

The most expensive version of the most expensive model in the premium Audi line-up is sure to come with significant running costs. Insurance premiums will be at the top of the scale and the V10 engine has a terrific thirst. At least four-wheel drive helps to spread tyre wear somewhat.

Space and practicality
Space and Practicality Rating 3

The only exterior luggage compartment is the space in the R8's nose with the same 100-litre capacity as the standard Spyder versions. Deep rather than wide, it will accept a couple of soft overnight bags.

picture of car from the rear

Low stance and large exhaust pipes hint at the performance

Controls and display
Controls and Display Rating 7

The GT Spyder's controls adhere to traditional norms and will be familiar to Audi drivers. The large colour display projects information with clarity as do the brightly lit and stylish dials in the instrument binnacle. The ventilation and audio systems are controlled using a neat interface that's simple to master.

Comfort
Comfort Rating 7

Supportive seats, a comfortable and adjustable driving position and a surprisingly spacious cabin all contribute to a pleasant driving experience. When you're not pushing the car hard, wind, road and engine noise is pleasingly minimal, and the optional sports suspension does an excellent job of soaking up road imperfections. Even though the GT is more focused and dynamic than the rest of the range, it still retains much of the usability that makes the R8 so appealing.

Car security
Security Rating 8

An alarm with immobiliser, central locking, lockable glovebox and valet key are to be expected on a car this expensive and are absolutely essential.

Car safety
Safety Rating 8

The quattro four-wheel drive system is a real benefit in terms of traction, but to be on the safe side ESP with traction control, anti-slip regulator and a full compliment of braking aids are standard. Tyre pressure monitoring is also present as are driver and passenger front and side airbags.

Driver appeal
Driver Appeal Rating 9

Even though this is the ultimate R8 it is still manageable around town thanks to adaptive steering and a tractable low speed nature. The open road is where the full performance of the V10 engine and tremendous grip offered by the rear biased four-wheel drive system come into their own. Superbly responsive in terms of throttle, brake and steering input, it's a huge thrill to drive at speed. Loosening the ESP system to Sport mode reveals the rear bias of the power delivery and the GT can feel surprisingly willing to drift and move around.

picture of car interior

Cabin is enhanced with bespoke materials

Family car appeal
Family Appeal Rating 2

With only two seats and very limited storage the R8 GT just can't perform family duties. It is most definitely a choice for more mature pairings although the front passenger airbag can be deactivated and Isofix points are present for a child seat.

First car appeal
First car Rating 1

No R8 is suitable for an inexperienced driver despite its friendly nature, never mind the fact that it is a car for the wealthy driver only.

Quality and image
Quality and Image Rating 9

The R8 GT Spyder is unquestionably one of the most desirable cars money can buy thanks to its distinctive styling, great performance and Audi's constantly rising reputation. The step up from a regular makes it even more desirable, and its rarity will no doubt boost its image. Quality is excellent, with the car finished impeccably inside and out.

Accessibility
Accessibility Rating

The R8 coupe has relatively long doors so despite the low roof the aperture is still more than adequate. However the standard bucket seats have very high sides which means the driver and passenger have to launch themselves in rather than slide smoothly into place.

Stereo and ICE (In car entertainment)

A standard fit Bang and Olufsen sound system offers superb sound quality with 12 speakers filling the relatively compact cabin. Audi's integrated sat-nav, audio, multimedia and climate control interface is tried and tested and intuitive to operate. Sat-nav is standard, although the navigation can be a touch slow at times. An upgrade to the advanced system on the new A8 would be welcome.

picture of car in detail

Rear wing is one of several additional carbon fibre elements

Colours and trim

Bold whites and reds sit along side more discreet blacks, greys, blues, browns and silvers in the R8 colour options chart, but the model's deliberately eye catching exterior design means there's little chance of shying away behind the wheel regardless of colour. LED lighting attracts further attention. Inside, leather is naturally the standard finish with or without the sports seat option, and even the dashboard gets a leather lining. Carbon fibre dominates the cabin as there are extra carbon panels included as standard and it helps to lift the appearance still further.

Parking

The R8's parking sensors are absolutely essential, thanks in part to the car's deceptive overhangs and low ride height, although the over the shoulder view is obviously much improved with the roof folded down. The R8's wide stance is rarely an issue, and the car's power steering offers plenty of low speed assistance.

Spare wheel

Standard fit is a tyre mobility system with an inflation device.

 

Range information

Petrol engine option - 4.2-litre (414bhp); 5.2-litre (518bhp, 552bhp). Transmission options: six-speed manual gearbox or six-speed R-tronic sequential manual gearbox. Trim levels; Coupe, Spyder, GT.

 

Alternative cars

McLaren MP4-12C Spyder Incredible attention to detail and stunning performance

Ferrari 458 Italia Spyder Even more expensive but a masterpiece

Mercedes-Benz SL63 AMG More cruiser than outright supercar but very effective and desirable

Aston Martin DBS Volante Beautiful to look at and fast, but a softer proposition overall



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July 2012