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Audi R8 V8 Spyder

Does the S tronic gearbox make Audi R8 Spyder even more appealing? We hit UK roads to find out

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Audi has listened to criticisms of the R8. By including more equipment as standard and replacing the clunky R tronic gearbox, the company has come close to perfection with the R8. Even this convertible – normally the less thrilling version – is very sharp. And its abilities really come into focus when you realise how usable and comfortable it is.

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Normally a barely noticeable facelift is disappointing, but when it comes to the incredible-looking Audi R8 Spyder, it’s a relief – not much needed changing.

And you’ll be even more relieved to learn that the jerky R tronic auto gearbox has now been ditched for a dual-clutch S tronic. We tried it in the V8-powered Spyder for the first time.

The remaining changes consist only of some tweaked headlights and bumpers, plus Nappa leather trim and sat-nav are now included as standard.

Behind the wheel, you’re in familiar R8 territory, thanks to the high-set driving position which makes the car less intimidating. Set off and you’ll find the Audi’s character has been transformed by the new gearbox. Shifts are much smoother than with the old R tronic, so dawdling around town is no longer a jerky experience.

And upping the pace reveals the seven-speed S tronic to be even more involving than the old gearbox, too. You can stick the R8 in Sport mode and let the gearbox shift in the blink of an eye for you, or use the steering wheel-mounted paddles to take full control. Each downshift is accompanied by a bark of flaring revs – making you want to drive everywhere with the roof down.

Although there’s no increase in power from the 424bhp 4.2-litre V8 engine, the new gearbox has boosted performance. The 0-62mph sprint now takes only 4.5 seconds – three-tenths quicker than an R tronic V8 Spyder.

No changes have been made to the suspension, so handling is as sure-footed and thrilling as ever. But even more impressive than how the R8 tackles corners is the way that it deals with rough roads. It’s even more comfortable than the new Porsche 911, which is quite an achievement given that the Audi is arguably a more performance-focused model.

For all its everyday usability. the R8 Spyder is still very much a supercar, and that shows in its 22.8mpg fuel economy (although the manual’s figures drop to 19.6mpg).

And while you have to pay £2,900 more for the new S tronic box, that’s still a big improvement on the almost £5,000 Audi was asking for the inferior R tronic gearbox.

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