The Audi R8 has been one of my favourite cars and largely because of the way it combines a V10 powertrain nicked from Lamborghini alongside a proper supercar chassis. It is astonishing how Audi got the R8 right the first time since unlike Porsche, it largely had no history of making supercars.
Related: First look at the new Audi A6 and GT E-Tron luxury cars
While cars like the TT or the legendary Quattro showed Audi at its engineering and design peak, the R8 has bolstered its image as a major supercar player.
Audi R8: More powerful
However, while the next generation R8 replacement will no doubt be all electric, the current version is bowing out in a not-so sedate way.
Enter the RWD R8 V10 Performance Spyder. It’s basically the R8 being sharpened further and that mighty engine being squeezed out for more horsepower while also being RWD. Audi has always championed all-wheel drive with its Quattro technology but here the R8 is all about sending its immense power output to its rear wheels.
Its rear-wheel drive layout takes cues from its LMS race car sibling while no doubt adding a layer in terms of driver enjoyment. RWD typically makes for a more uncorrupted experience from behind the wheel and adding a thrill in terms of asking more from the driver.
A supercar bargain at $164,000?
It’s also more powerful – as if the V10 was slow in the first place! The naturally aspirated 5.2-liter V10 FSI motor makes 570 PS (562 HP) and 550 newton meters (405 ft-lb) of torque. Hence, this mid-engined rocket-ship can accelerate from zero to 100 km/h in 3.8 seconds. Top speed, rather worryingly, is 327 km/h for the Spyder with no roof!
While the earlier R8’s had a lovely gated manual gearbox, this one sticks to a 7-speed S-tronic. With so much horsepower and being sent to the rear wheel, there is enough drama on tap for the driver already to think about changing gear.
New Audi R8: Ageing interior
Largely hand-built using Aluminium and carbon-fibre, the R8 looks stealthy and bows down to the typical mid-engined supercar rulebook. However, there is a slab of German understated design which neatly fuses with the supercar theatrics.
The front grille is bigger and has a lower chin while the side still retains the ‘blade’ and the wedge shape. The interior seems to show its age but is still decked out with Alcantara and carbon along with bucket seats. It’s still a bit stark and minimalistic but somehow it works.
That said, the driving position is somewhat surprising for a German car since it is a bit of an issue for those who are tall. I did, however, love the simplicity and the whole concept of the driving experience dominating the show. The interior is merely to sit and steer.
At $164,095, the Spyder RWD Performance comes across as an unusual bargain since it occupies a niche all to itself. More exotic than mainstream sports cars and cheaper than convertible versions of other supercars, the roofless V10 experience should be enough for you to sign that cheque. After all, time and the V10 engine will not wait for you.
What we like
The last of the V10 supercars wrapped in a sensible Audi skin. Brilliant value.
What we don’t like
Ageing interior and weird driving position.
Before it goes electric, the R8 V10 Spyder is one lovely swansong.