This is a story of sibling rivalry. A story of two similarly beefy, equally sexy, yet uniquely different Audi R8s. Both are equipped with V10 engines, but one is a hard top Coupe and the other a soft top Spyder. Both pack 525 horsepower but one is Black (Phantom Black Metallic to be exact) and the other is White (OK, not exactly white, but Suzuka Gray Pearl). Could a mother pick a favorite between these two? To see if such a thing was possible we took both cars out into the wild...into the suburban jungle.
It's not very often that one gets to spend the day with a quarter of a million dollars worth of automotive machinery, and when one does, it typically means that it's going to be one damn good day. A memorable day that requires both photos and video to prove it really happened. Not only wouldn't you believe it, but I myself would have thought it was all just some fabulous dream. Luckily we have the pinch-worthy proof!
As you might imagine, we were a bit limited on how far we could go or how aggressive we could be with these rather rare Audis. So, upon meeting the two cars and our co-driver Enrique Villa at Audi Stevens Creek
, we headed to a nearby venue which would both provide for a great backdrop as well as a place where we could get public feedback. We had our own "car guy" and somewhat biased opinions, so I also wanted to hear what the public thought of them. Is the convertible sexier than the coupe? Do people prefer the now iconic "side blades" of the coupe that the newer droptop lacks? The less expensive V8-powered R8 has been on the US market for a couple of years now, so would either of these two newer versions even draw any interest?
Well yeah, draw attention they did! You'd think we were shooting a pair of half naked models, not a couple of cars. No matter where we were set up, people would come over to get a closer look, ask questions about the cars, and take their own pics with their cellphone. There was expectedly more men than woman doing double takes of the R8s, but there was certainly no shortage of curious females as well. There is no doubt that the designers at Audi know what they're doing when it comes to appealing to both sexes. Unlike most cars, these do not seem to discriminate. Regardless of what's under the hood, or what technology the engineers might come up with, a hot car is a hot car. Right now Audi is designing sexy cars that both men and women want!
So, what did John and Jane Q. Public have to say? Well, aside from a lot of quiet staring and a number of superlatives (and a few expletives), they also had a lot of questions. The most popular subjects were regarding the engine and its horsepower, the car's price tag, and of course the movie Iron Man. Not everyone knew the model-name, but the vast majority knew it was an Audi and that it just so happens to be one of billionaire Tony Stark's favorite cars. Well done, Audi marketing department. That was product placement done right!
So let's talk a bit about the similarities between the R8 Coupe and Spyder. How much do these two cars have in common anyway? As of right now you can only get the convertible with the big-boy 5.2 liter V10, so we of course wanted a Coupe with the same power plant. As stated in the opening, the engine puts out 525 horsepower, and the torque is rated at 391 pound-feet.
A cool bit of tech I just had to talk about, is in the car's eyes. Audi has become quite popular these past few years thanks in part to the strips of LED daytime running lights which all began with the R8. Well the R8 V10 takes that another step forward. They're among the very few from any manufacturer with Full-LED headlights, meaning everything from the running lights and blinkers to the low and high beams utilize super efficient light emitting diodes. These are an option on the V8-powered Coupe, and also a feature of the newly released Audi A8.
For the transmission, these two R8s were equipped with Audi's R tronic® automatic, so they were equally as easy to drive. In that regard they're also as equally easy to get into trouble with. Just floor it and go like hell. The dual clutch transmission will shift faster than you could ever hope to row.
To slow things down, both the Coupe and Spyder utilize 14.4" rotors with 8-piston calipers up front and 14" rotors with 4-piston calipers at the back wheels. They also both run the same size wheels as standard, rolling on 19 inchers. But, when purchasing an R8, one has a few different design options to choose from. Our Spyder was equipped with the split 5-spoke design while the Coupe is wearing the 10-spoke "Y" design wheel more common to the V10.
With that let's discuss the differences, those obvious and a few less so. The Spyder of course has a soft retractable top, which Audi claims drops in 19 seconds. With the changes made to the B and C pillar that come with taking the roof off a car, it meant something different had to be done with the R8 Coupe's iconic "side blades". Those vertical pieces are a huge design element of the Coupe, available in several finishes from aluminum to carbon fiber. The major focal point of course moved from the sides of the car, to the top. It's how the convertible top is designed, both visually and mechanically, that will make or break a car. Here the designers have come up with yet another iconic design treatment. With the top down the Spyder has an embellishment on the tonneau cover, an almost prehistoric gill-like louver treatment. Thanks to that fancy top cover you care a little less about the fact that you can no longer see much of the engine out back. But this guy, he misses seeing that work-of-art block of aluminum which is so prominently on display with the Coupe.
The last major differences are a little less visible, and much more measurable. We all know the sacrifices that comes along with sexy, and that's weight. Unfortunately I came across varying numbers when researching the weight difference between two similarly equipped V10 R8s (even the Audi website didn't seem to have it right, listing the curb weight of both the Coupe and Spyder at the same 3,726 lbs.). One thing that didn't vary was that the hard top was just a few tenths of a second quicker than the softy. According to Audi, the Coupe does zero to 60 miles per hour in 3.7 seconds, while the Spyder hits it in 4 seconds even. Pretty damn respectable either way, but hey it's still a difference.
So do we really need to pick an overall favorite here? Is it even possible to pick a winner from these two beautiful beasts? No of course it isn't, that's a personal and wildly varying thing. I know which one I'd rather have and I'm positive you know yours as well. While the R8 is definitely a hit with both men and women alike, it did seem that each sex leaned more towards one than the other. Overall the guys seemed to be more drawn to the Coupe, while the ladies were apparently more interested in the Spyder. All I know for sure is that I can only dream to own one of these cars, and since I'm dreaming I might as well just own one of each. I'd love the Spyder for those top-down sunny-day romps around town while the Coupe would be my track car! Now just don't wake me up.