Twelve months ago, the Audi R8 V10 left us in no doubt as to where our Performance Car Of The Year trophy would be heading. As always, the winner gets the chance to defend its crown against the latest crop of contenders – and this year, the champ is back in stunning Spyder form.
The drop-top looks even more glamorous than its coupé cousin, and once its fabric hood is stowed the delicious roar of the mighty V10 engine can be savoured with even greater intensity. Power is the same as before, at 518bhp, but extra chassis strengthening means the Spyder is 100kg heavier than the coupé, which does have an effect on outright performance. However, the R8 retains its dynamic excellence, despite the changes.
Around the twisty Anglesey track, it was only four tenths of a second slower than the tin-top version.
In fact, the Spyder feels incredibly rigid from behind the wheel and is every bit as good to drive. Easy to master at low speed, with perfectly weighted controls and vice-free handling, the R8 is the most accessible of mid-engined supercars.
Magnetic ride dampers, which come as standard, mean it offers the comfort of an executive saloon.
Yet Audi’s well honed four-wheel-drive set-up makesthe R8 playful, engaging – and devastatingly fast. The eye-catching, open-gate manual box has lost none of its appeal in the past 12 months, and the distinctive click-clack that accompanies each gearchange only adds to the sense of occasion.
Unlike lots of open-topped versions of great coupés, the R8 hasn’t been compromised in the quest for style or wind-in-the-hair motoring.
The Spyder commands a £3,390 premium over its coupé companion, but loses none of its appeal – and for some buyers that will make it even more desirable than before. Few previous winners have come this close to retaining their crown.