Overall rating: 5/5
Just 333 examples of this limited-run R8 GT Spyder will be made and not one is likely to be sold in Ireland. It's 85kg lighter, 35hp and 10Nm more powerful than the current V10. Not strictly a stripped out hardcore track car, this is a model built for fast road use - the weight saving and extra power ensuring it's the sharpest R8 you can buy.
In the Metal:
Audi's R8 may be a little familiar to us now, it being launched in 2007, but it still looks modern, fresh and exciting - even amongst supercar elite. The additions to this Spyder - aerodynamic flics on the front bumpers, darkened tail-lights, round exhausts, extended diffuser, smaller wing mirrors and carbon fibre rear wing - make it much more obvious. The result is that this flashy supercar from a rather mainstream brand has just become a lot more in your face. Finished in white with anthracite wheels our test example looked particularly good.
Despite its racer-for-the-road intentions, the GT Spyder remains utterly civilised inside - yes there is a pair of Alcantara-trimmed bucket seats (saving 31.5kg), but there are no harnesses or roll cage here. You're also treated to typically excellent Audi build quality and attention to detail, the matte carbon fibre encircling the driver's cockpit a particular highlight. For those that so care the GT Spyder retains the 100-litre load space in the front too.
You might expect the roofless nature of the R8 GT to be at odds with its purpose. After all, this is a car that may not be built exclusively for the track, but one which is certainly focused on providing the sharpest and most extreme experience in the R8 line-up. Losing a roof, reducing the structural rigidity of a coupé is not the most followed path to improving dynamics.
However, expect what you will, the result is actually something rather different. For a start you have the noise. It's present in the R8 GT coupé as well, but there you have to contend with the extra sound deadening of that tin-top roof. In the Spyder it's just you and the exhaust, its glorious and hard-edged note present from the moment you twist the key.
The acceleration is expectedly ferocious, the 0-100km/h sprint dispensed with in under four seconds, while the top speed is 317km/h - though you'd pop an eardrum trying that with the canvas roof lowered. But straight line speed is not the be all and end all here; the R8 GT is about quickness of reaction and balance, which it appears to have in spades.
Variable and adaptive dampers are out the window, in their place fixed rate items tuned for fast responses and better control at speed. And though we didn't try the Spyder on the road, it's reasonable to expect the GT to be less forgiving on the public road. But on a relatively smooth tarmac, or indeed a race circuit like Silverstone, a small lack of compliance matters not.
Remaining almost resolutely flat through the bends, the R8 GT Spyder turns in sharply and with quick reactions to your inputs through the Alcantara wheel. In direct comparison to the R8 GT coupé there is a fraction more understeer, and even some extra tyre squeal, but this is as likely to be down to the different tyres (the coupé we tested wore Pirellis, the Spyder Continentals) as it is to a different dynamic set up.
Regardless, grip in the dry at least is astounding. If ever there was a supercar to flatter and inspire confidence, even within those who don't regard themselves as wizardly helmsman, the R8 (and the GT version in particular) is it. A rearward bias in the four-wheel drive system will allow the rear end to step out slightly in Sport mode, but you have to be driving very quickly indeed. Turn it off completely and that grip means you'll be travelling at a surprising rate before you'll have to add any corrections to maintain your trajectory - and when you do, you'll have to be quick!
Which is something the gearbox claims to be, the R-Tronic system seemingly able to change cogs in one tenth of a second. Quicker than a human hand and leg combination or not, it feels slow in real life and each change is accompanied by a small lurch as forward momentum is seemingly lost. Rival systems are quicker, and when the firm has the excellent open-gate manual gearbox on offer in lesser R8s it seems criminal for it not to be offered here.
At least the carbon ceramic brakes are more effective. On the road their sharp nature may take some getting used to, effective modulation of the pedal required for a smooth stop, but on a track where you really depend on their bite and effectiveness to haul you down from massive speeds they are fantastic. Even after repeated stops from big speeds, time and time again, lap after lap, they remained effective with absolutely no fade.
What you get for your Money:
Exclusive or not, you're sure to be getting the most capable and talented R8 currently available. And though it's also the most focused, there's no need to make do without the pleasantries normally associated - the GT Spyder still has climate control, satnav, Bluetooth and you can even add a Bang & Olufsen audio system as a no cost option. Bear in mind though, that the purchase price takes you perilously close to Ferrari 458 Spider money.
Buy an R8 GT coupé and it's 115kg lighter than this R8 GT Spyder, but even the roofless version is 85kg lighter than the regular R8 V10 Spyder. As mentioned before the seats account for around 31.5kg of this, but the rest is gained from some thinner body panels, judicious use of carbon fibre, less sound deadening and even thinner carpets. Of course, in a lightweight car it's the driver that makes the biggest weight difference - maybe some lettuce would have helped my case...
You can consider this to be a run-out model for the current Audi R8, as a significantly updated version will be launched later this year. Boasting tweaked looks, more technology, more power and a proper dual-clutch gearbox, it promises to be better than ever.
First things first, the R8 GT Spyder is a great car, and petrolheads should applaud Audi for its very creation - it really is that good. However, the standard R8 Spyder is a great car too, especially when fitted with the storming V10 engine and six-speed manual gearbox. And it's the gearbox that is the stumbling block for us - with every clumsy change of the R-Tronic we'd be wishing we were shifting gear ourselves. Take our advice, let someone else enjoy the exclusivity of the GT and spend your money on a manual V10 Spyder with some choice options instead.