2017 Audi R8 Spyder: Faster, Lighter and More Dynamic

Published on October 19, 2016 in First Drives by Jacques Deshaies

COSTA BRAVA, Spain – The title says it all for the second-generation R8 Spyder. The new head honcho at Audi Sport was proud to present the vehicle to us and also took the time to inform us of his new role within the group: he’ll be laying the groundwork for a separate division known as Audi Sport. This portion of Audi AG now governs the R and RS models, including the R8.

Last year, we had the second-generation coupe, and now 2017 witnesses the arrival of the convertible version. It has the same redefined look as the R8 coupe, but with a few mandatory structural transformations to compensate for the absence of a hardtop. This Spyder is 36 mm wider than the first generation. This mostly benefits the trunk, whose capacity rises from 100 to 112 litres.

Photo: Audi

Not as heavy

The 2017 Audi R8 Spyder is 25 kg lighter and 55% more structurally rigid—simple improvements that help it lower its 0-100 km/h time by 0.2 seconds. This version of the R8 Spyder brings some notable innovations, including its soft top, which can close in less than 20 seconds and at a speed of up to 50 km/h.

Note that the soft top weighs a mere 44 kg. When the top is down, you can reduce turbulence by installing a net behind the seatbacks. In other good news, with the top up, the rear windshield can be lowered to let some fresh air into the cabin.

From a structural standpoint, this R8 features an aluminum-carbon fibre chassis. The main cage components are reinforced at the base and windshield uprights. This version of the R8 weighs in at 1720 kg, with more than 79.6% of the overall structure made of aluminum. The engineers’ design and manufacturing methods helped reduce the weight of each of the components by 10%. What’s more, the chassis’ torsional rigidity is 50% better. The result is surprisingly efficient.

For sport driving, the 2017 R8 cabriolet is a gem. Firmly anchored to the ground and with a very precise ride, it loses absolutely none of its dynamism as a result of having a soft top. And the sound of the V8 is something else! Press the ignition, and this R8 makes its intentions known. Furthermore, the sound can be amplified thanks to a small wheel-mounted button. That’s when your fellow motorists will discover this Audi’s true potential.

Photo: Jacques Deshaies

The V10’s song

Several rumours were circulating about the return of the V8 in the R8, but that news is complete fiction: the cabriolet has the same V10 as the coupe. This 5.2-litre engine generates 540 spellbindingly melodious horsepower and clocks in at 3.6 seconds for the 0-100 km/h sprint. That’s 15 more horsepower than the first generation. This improved V10 also benefits from a 10% reduction in fuel consumption. It uses cylinder deactivation and a stop/start system to pull this off. According to the manufacturer, the R8 cabrio’s fuel economy averages 11.7 L/100 km.

When equipped with a seven-speed, twin-clutch automatic gearbox, this R8 is fun to drive in manual mode thanks to shifters mounted behind the steering wheel. However, selecting Performance mode will give you the same conditions, as it enables the 2017 Audi R8 Spyder to operate as though it were in Manual mode. The gearbox upshifts and downshifts at diabolical speed.

Meticulous passenger compartment

Once inside the cabin, your eyes are in for a feast. The cockpit-style dashboard design is excellent. The virtual dashboard puts all of the car’s data right before your eyes, while keeping the main gauges like the odometer and tachometer. The quality of the materials remains irreproachable, just like the overall execution.

The seats offer maximum support and are conspicuously comfortable for a car in this class. The Bang & Olufsen audio system comes factory standard. Small speakers are installed in the headrests to let you really make the most of it—even with the top down!

Audi dealerships will start carrying this version of the new R8 beginning next spring. Since this R8 Spyder is a 2017, its price should be about $195,000 according to our hosts—and that’s not counting options. Nonetheless, it remains a very attractive exotic car. It’s timeless, dynamic and an industry icon.

Test drive report
Test model 2017 Audi R8
Trim level V10 Spyder
Price range $184,000 – $213,900
Price as tested N/A
Warranty (basic) N/A
Warranty (powertrain) N/A
Fuel economy (city/highway/observed) N/A
Options N/A
Competitive models Acura NSX, Aston Martin Vanquish, Ferrari 488, Lamborghini Huracán, McLaren 650S, Mercedes-Benz AMG GT, Nissan GT-R, Porsche 911
Strong points
  • Enticing silhouette
  • Spectacular passenger compartment
  • Exemplary handling
  • Good performance for price
  • Sound of the V10
Weak points
  • High maintenance costs
  • Expensive options
  • Small trunk
Editor's rating
Fuel economy 4.0/5 Thanks to the cylinder deactivation system, its fuel consumption is among the most reasonable.
Comfort 4.0/5 Surprisingly, this Audi is remarkably comfortable for a high-level sports car.
Performance 5.0/5 This R8 offers one of the last naturally aspirated powertrains. Good times guaranteed!
Infotainment 4.5/5 With the virtual dashboard, the driver controls everything.
Driving 4.5/5 Driving this car is pure enjoyment!
Overall 4.5/5 In short, the Audi R8 is a veritable thoroughbred for half the price of a Ferrari. Another bonus is the wide network of dealerships. Basically, it’s one of my personal favourites.
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