My week with the 2015 Audi R8 Spyder was absolutely miserable. Not because of the car. It was great. No, I was miserable because of my life. Apparently I’m not R8 material. That’s because while I really wanted to go fast, my world is a little too slow.
You see the Audi R8 is a true super car. It’s capable of accelerating from zero to 60 mph in less than four seconds. It’s not built for comfort. It’s not designed just to look pretty. It exists purely to go fast. That 200 mph speedometer isn’t just for show, and what I wouldn’t give to see the needle touch that number. My problem is that I live in the real world of commuting and traffic. Oh sure, every chance I got I’d move from a dead stop to about 50 or 60 miles an hour. What a rush. With the top down I could hear that V10 reaching for more. The problem is that 60 miles an hour came way too soon. My obnoxious sense of social responsibility together with my fear of both accidents and tickets prevented me from pushing the R8 where it really belongs. Not even curvy roads were enough. Sure, the car handles great. But it handles even better at speed. It doesn’t just want a serpentine combination of curves, it wants to take them quickly. And when I say quickly, I mean at the limits of its all-wheel drive Quattro adhesion. This car simply wanted, and deserved, more than I could give.
It was like dating a super model but only getting to hold her hand. Frustrating doesn’t begin to describe it.
Time for a little R8 history. The car first hit the streets in 2007. It had a head start in its performance life because the R8 was designed around the platform used for the Lamborghini Gallardo. Most people don’t realize that the Italian supercar maker is owned by Audi. Even stranger to some is that both are owned by Volkswagen. The R8 was well received from the start. It apparently got the best from its Italian/German heritage.
The R8 is a two-seater sports car and nothing more. The mid-engine design means the trunk is up front. On second thought, let’s not call it a trunk. That implies you could actually fit a suitcase inside. This R8 has more of a grocery bag receptacle. In fact, if Audi wanted to make a little extra money they could design an overnight bag that would fit into the oddly shaped space. Owners would buy it and 50 years from now it would be a collector’s item. There is also a small locking space behind and between the two seats, just don’t plan on using it for more than a couple of wallets or one very small purse.
What really matters with the R8 is the engine. My test car had the 5.2 liter V10 engine. Audi says it pumps out 525 horsepower and I believe it. There is a base 4.2 liter V8 with a mere 430 horsepower. I’m sure it’s fast, I’m just not sure it snap my head back with the same ferociousness. Of course, if you really want to get carried away you could go for the 550 horsepower edition. Just to show you that I don’t belong in an R8, I’m going to mention the mileage. Expect to get 19 mpg on the highway and 12 mpg in the city. I’m almost ashamed to say I averaged about 13 mpg during my week. Obviously I didn’t push it hard enough.
I never got a chance to drive the old R8 with the R Tronic shifting system. I’m sure it seemed pretty quick. But the new S Tronic is even better. It’s a dual clutch system that shifts better than anything you or I could do on our best day. Don’t call it an automatic. In fact, it doesn’t have a “park” mode. You just shift into neutral and use the parking brake. Using the paddle shifters was fun, but to be honest the best part was using the R8’s sport mode. It makes a huge difference. The shift points change radically. Even better, it electronically blips the throttle to match revs as its downshifting. It sounds cool from the inside, and will make those around you think you really know how to drive this spectacular piece of machinery. I especially loved how the rear window could slide down which gave you the chance to hear the engine even when you didn’t want the wind ruffling your hair.
The car wasn’t designed for comfort, but it’s not uncomfortable. Interestingly, what I noticed is that the interior wasn’t very luxurious. The Nappa leather seats were supportive, and the bits and pieces were properly upscale. But the big bucks weren’t spent on the cockpit. In fact, I thought the display screen was pretty mediocre. With the top down the reflection was so bad I couldn’t read it at all. Of course that only really mattered to me when I was backing up and wanted the camera. After all, I didn’t want to come within three feet of anything that might dent the R8. And if the display was mediocre, the sun shade was downright lame. I’m not even sure why they bothered.
But then, you’re not buying the R8 for the display or the sun shade. Some of you will buy it to go fast, but others will want it to impress their friends. And trust me, they will be impressed. Even my non-car buddies wanted to know what I was driving. People would stop next to me at a traffic light and make automotively-lewd comments. Because the top lowers quickly and easily, you can get the full experience of their envy. I can never decide if the R8 is handsome. It’s not as curvy as some of the other super cars. It’s styling is more brute-like. It’s not messing around with any more fluff than it has to.
Now for the reality check. While the base R8 coupe starts at about $115,000, the starting price for the 525 horsepower Spyder was 175,000. throw in the cool diamond stitch leather, the sport exhaust and some other extras, and suddenly the R8 sticker was $186,050. Is it worth it? I want to scream yes! But the reality is that it’s only worth the money if you occasionally get to push the R8’s limits. If not, this spectacular piece of machinery may simply be a reminder that your life isn’t ready for a super car.