The do-it-all wondercar. Some folks search for it like Ponce De Len after the Fountain of Youth. Others declare the very concept anathema: The jack of all trades is master of none, they harp. Both are right, and both are wrong. The proof? The ten-cylinder, carbon-and-aluminum 2017 Audi R8 V10 Spyder.
As a cargo hauler, people mover, or dog transporter, the R8 is terrible. Three bags of groceries? Hope you like eating in the parking lot, because only two are going home with you. Score one for the nopeniks.
But as a convertible sports car, the R8 is amazing, and not just because of its mid-engine balance and 540 hp and 398 lb-ft of torque on tap. It’s not even amazing because of its 3.5-second 0-60 mph time or its race-bred pedigree. In fact, it’s amazing because of everything else.
First, you have to look at it, because unlike the previous R8 Spyder, this one looks great whether the top is up or down. Add to the already comely exterior styling a brilliant Ibis white paint job, a carbon-laced and diamond-stitched red leather interior, and the carbon exterior appearance package, and it’s a head-turner before you ever hear the engine note.
A sports car, of course, and especially a super sports car, should handle well. The R8 Spyder does — incredibly so. For street use, its edge is no less razor-sharp than that of its hardtop alternative, the R8 coupe. And let’s face it, no matter what top your R8 has, it’s never going to be eking out the last tenth of a second for the win at your local club race (and if it is, you should buy an Audi customer racing car, or at least a Spec Miata).
Ranging from stark, rocky xeriscapes to fog-shrouded, moody green echo chambers, the San Gabriel mountains host not just the national forest, but Angeles Crest Highway and Upper Big Tujunga Canyon Road — playgrounds not just for the R8 Spyder’s raucous V-10 and mid-engine balance, but for the drop top’s slower-paced, scenic side.
Put the drive mode selector in Comfort (or Auto, if you must), lean the seat back (if the bulkhead will let you — my long-legged 6’2″ frame left me sitting fairly upright, though still comfortable), and look around. There’s more to life than checkered flags and finish lines. Your passenger, seated only slightly awkwardly in the limited adjustment of the right-hand seat, for one. Impeccable ride quality, or a stunning infotainment system mounted exclusively in front of the driver — Audi’s Virtual Cockpit — for another. Surprisingly little wind buffeting with the top down and windows up, if you need a third.
Can you back off and enjoy the cruise in a hard-topped R8, or any other enclosed supercar? Sure. Will it be fun? You betcha. Are there other, more “exotic” supercars with top-down ability? Duh, of course there are. But nothing matches the easy pleasure of dancing the R8 Spyder’s robotic top back, listening to the purr of the V-10 engine at half-drowse, smiling at whoever’s lucky enough to be in the passenger seat, and just enjoying the drive.