With the arrival of the R8 Spyder, Audi's supercar adds a third model variant to the V-8 and V-10 coupes. The open-topped R8 makes its debut with the 5.2-liter V-10 engine, making the same 525 hp and 391 lb-ft as in the coupe and offering the same choice of six-speed manual or R tronic gearboxes.
With the standard rear-biased Quattro all-wheel-drive system and launch-control program, the Spyder is just fractionally slower than its hardtop sibling (which is lighter by 220 pounds), roaring to 62 mph in 4.1 seconds and to 125 mph in 12.7 seconds. Audi also claims that the power soft top is good all the way to the Spyder's 194-mph top speed. The Spyder not only loses the fixed roof but also the optional sideblades of the coupe. The car's top-up profile borrows a bit from the BMW 6-series convertible, with an upright, glass rear window (which can be powered up and down) tucked between the trailing edges of the top, which extend rearward. Another idea borrowed from BMW droptops is the use of special heat-reflective seat upholstery, in this case Nappa leather. The R8 Spyder does offer an entirely unique new feature, too, one that's perfectly suited to the cell-phone age: a series of microphones attached to the shoulder belts (with one more in the dash), to facilitate hands-free calls even during high-speed, top-down driving. The R8 Spyder goes on sale in Europe this spring but won't reach North America until summer 2010. When it arrives, as a 2011 model, it will be available both with V-10 and V-8 power.