You should all be pretty familiar with the Audi R8 by now; Audi took on the junior supercars and somehow managed to get it spot on right from the start. Since the original appeared in 2006 we’ve had the V8, the more powerful V10, then the drop-top Spyder with both engines. Last year the ultimate version appeared in the shape of the more hardcore GT, and now that approach has been applied to the roadster to create the GT Spyder. It's the perfect storm -- a beautiful, smart, fast sports car that gives all its major rivals a real run for their money.
The years have been particularly kind to the R8 and despite being older than many of its rivals it still turns heads for all the right reasons. The GT spec includes lots of additional elements on the outside; a big carbon fibre rear wing, little carbon fins by the front air intakes and unique wheels. Purists may prefer the elegance of the basic car but the GT Spyder is undeniably a stunner.
Under the skin, Audi has achieved substantial weight saving. Use of carbon fibre, a space frame body, extruded aluminium sections and an engine frame made of magnesium help reduce weight by 85kg over the standard R8 V10 Spyder, which is a good thing as that car was, relatively speaking, a bit on the heavy side.
Practicality is probably not on your list of priorities should you choose to buy an R8 -- this is a supercar after all. There's not a lot of space to stash your odds and ends but there are enough seats for you and an admirer and the cockpit provides plenty of legroom and decent headroom -- especially with the roof down. Don't expect to take much with you on those dirty weekends away, though. The boot, which lives at the front of the car rather than the back, offers up just 100 litres. A small rucksack of essentials is about all it'll accommodate.
Performance & handling
The GT Spyder excels in the areas you'd expect. With power and torque up to 552bhp and 540Nm respectively, this car is devastatingly quick. Our first flat-out blast through the gears caused uncontrolled bouts of grins and the sort of language our grannies would disown us for. 0-62mph is despatched in only 3.8 seconds and with the roof down you can hear all the glorious noises from that mighty V10 engine. It’s the kind of car you’ll drive in the wrong gear deliberately just to hear it sing.
There’s just as much pleasure to be had through the bends. For a car with such huge reserves of grip and performance, the GT Spyder is remarkably friendly; the steering is very communicative and responsive without being twitchy, and the gentle understeer can be balanced out with the throttle. It will slide all day if you want it to but if you lack confidence you can activate Sport mode, which lets you get the back end out knowing the electronic stability systems will step in if you lose control. It is huge fun and yet very accessible.
Economy & environment
If you have green issues in mind then this is clearly not the car for you. The GT Spyder sticks with the old-school approach for power with a big, naturally-aspirated V10 rather than a more efficient turbo engine, so the figures are something to keep quiet about; CO2 emissions of 332g/km are higher than normal for a car of this class and while combined fuel consumption of 19.9mpg is par for the course, stops at the petrol station will be something of a regular occurrence. That said, anyone with enough cash to be considering an R8 GT Spyder will think nothing of sticking another 80 litres of super unleaded in the tank.
Equipment & value
This is not a cheap car of course. In fact it is £25,000 more than a regular R8 V10 Spyder, although you do get a lot of extra stuff for your money. There’s the lightweight bucket seats, you can have the Bang & Olufsen audio system at 'no extra cost', carbon ceramic brakes are standard, you get uprated suspension, extra carbon fibre exterior bits and of course increased power.
That said you can still go to town with the options list and add a whole heap more carbon fibre trim. Tick all the boxes and you can stick another £6,000 on the list price, and that’s before you choose either one of the exclusive paint finishes or different wheels.
The last thing you’ll want to think about is crashing your new R8 but should the worst happen there aren’t many better places to be. The lightweight aluminium chassis construction is immensely strong even without a roof, while the reassurance of electronic stability program, carbon ceramic brakes and Quattro four-wheel drive will help prevent trouble in the first place.
It’s hard not to like any R8 variant as they combine proper supercar looks and performance with sufficient comfort and usability to be used on a regular basis. The GT Spyder is an R8 turned up to 11, and although it costs significantly more you do get extra for your cash.
Serious rivals to the R8 GT Spyder also cost more money. A Ferrari 458 Italia Spider is arguably even more special but costs another £50k at least, while an Aston Martin DBS Volante is more of a big GT car than a proper supercar -- and again is more pricey. Only the Mercedes-Benz SLS Roadster runs it close, but why buy one of those when you can have the stunning gullwing Coupe version?
Audi will only make 333 examples of the R8 GT Spyder, just 66 of which will come to the UK. With that in mind those that want one had better act quickly.
Model tested: Audi R8 GT Spyder
Engine: 5.2-litre V10 petrol
Acceleration: 0-62mph in 3.8 seconds
Top speed: 197mph