Nice, France–Just driven the new 2011 Audi R8 Spyder 5.2 FSI quattro. Having an open-top version of the already competent and exciting R8 V-10 coupe, the thrill-factor in driving the car just went up a few notches.
To catch the sunshine, simply depress a button on the center console and the well-insulated cloth top will stow in 19 seconds, at vehicle speeds up to 31 mph. With the top up or down, the Spyder keeps its sleek R8 exterior styling theme. In fact, the two large air openings that run the length of the engine cover in the back, the more traditional side air intakes–in lieu of the coupe's sideblades behind the doors, are arguably better looking.
Despite being a convertible, the Spyder's chassis weighs only 13 lbs heavier than the coupe. So driving through winding mountain roads in south of France, the car's 525-bhp V-10 has no problem serving up power whenever the driver demands it. Thanks to an already competent chassis and suspension setup, the open-top R8 carves up the curves with confidence-inspiring ease and stability. With the top down, the thrilling driving experience is enhanced by a louder throaty engine note that can only be heard without a hardtop masking it. According to Audi, 0-60 mph acceleration is in the 4-sec range, with a top speed of 194.5 mph.
One unique feature of the Spyder is the series of microphones that are embedded in the seatbelts. This allows for better voice transmission for the driver and the passenger, especially when the top is down with the wind blowing in the background. We made some calls with the top down while revving the engine, and the caller on the other side heard us clearly with only hints of noise in the background. What a great idea!
Expect the R8 Spyder 5.2 FSI quattro to arrive in the US late this year as the 2011 model. No pricing has been announced yet, but we estimate the sticker price should hover around $160k.