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Sweet Serotonin: 2020 Audi R8 V10 Performance Spyder Quattro Test

Audi’s updated R8 V10 is incredible, and a convertible top is just a bonus.

LOS ANGELES—For the Automobile staff, this has been the Year of Convertibles in simple automotive terms.  We've been working from home since March, and open-top driving has been a bright part of an otherwise dark time. Our staff has sampled the likes of the spectacular Lexus LC 500 Convertible, the still-striking Maserati GranTurismo Convertible, and Aston Martin's compelling Vantage Roadster,to name a few. If that roster isn't desirable enough, we recently tested the newly updated 2020 Audi R8 V10 Performance Spyder Quattro, with this example wearing stunning Suzuka Grey metallic paint with contrasting gloss-black accents. With the top down, the R8 is stunning.

2020 Audi R8 V10 Performance Spyder Quattro Test: A Redline to Remember

Click the red ignition button on the steering wheel, and the 5.2-liter V-10 engine pulses rhythmically and noticeably behind the seats. With the drive mode set to Audi's sporty Dynamic profile, the exhaust sizzles on-throttle and pops when you lift. The first time I pushed the revs past the 8,000-rpm mark, it felt as though the serotonin floodgates in my brain burst open fully for the first time in months.

The V-10 engine develops peak power all the way at the top of the powerband, so full-throttle acceleration initially feels pretty quick, but then the car seems to pick up even more pace. This is one of the most exciting drivetrains on the market today, and it is a testament to the joys of natural aspiration. By the numbers, the 2020 Audi R8 V10 Performance Spyder Quattro makes 602 horsepower at 8,100 rpm, and 443 lb-ft of torque at 6,700. Expect 0-60-mph runs in 3.3 seconds, with top speed reaching 204 mph.

Power is sent to a version of Audi's Quattro all-wheel-drive system via a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission that provides snappy gearchanges. Usually the torque split is 15 percent front/85 percent rear; in especially low-traction situations, the ratio is 30/70. In the real world, this means the R8 launches off the line with ease; the massive amount of off-the-line grip is helped by Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires.

2020 Audi R8 V10 Performance Spyder Quattro Test: More Than an Engine

With the top down, putting the 2020 Audi R8 V10 Performance Spyder Quattro to the test feels like you are strapped directly to the engine. But on the twisting roads in the Malibu hills, this convertible revealed it's so much more than just an engine with wheels; it's the whole package. Audi's cars are sometimes panned for having numb steering, but the R8's wheel provides lots of feel, and steering inputs yield direct and accurate responses from the chassis.

Among supercars, the Audi R8 V10 Performance Spyder is also approachable for a wide range of skill levels, but that doesn't stop it from being thrilling. Working the pedals and shift paddles, it's easy to meditate into an almost hypnotic rhythm as the screaming V-10 engine's exhaust notes cascade off of the canyon walls. If nothing else, it reminds you why convertible supercars are better when there isn't any turbocharging to stifle the sound.

On the other hand, if you are used to the modern turbo age and to driving cars that make a lot of low-end torque, you might need a bit of time to get used to keeping the revs high when driving the R8 V10 Performance Spyder enthusiastically.

When it's time to slow down, the car's carbon-ceramic six-piston front- and four-piston rear-brake calipers provide plenty of stopping power, with no fade. The Audi R8 still has a fixed-rate, steel-spring sport suspension; despite not having an active suspension's range of adjustability, this conventional setup seemed at home whether trundling through traffic on bad roads, or carving corners on the best pavement you can find. It was easy to predict the chassis' behavior, and body control was impeccable.

R8s are pretty rare, even in supercar-dense Los Angeles, and the convertible is an even less frequent sight. I got plenty of looks and longing gazes, even when driving in Malibu.

The Audi R8 has long had a reputation for being one of the planet's most usable supercars, and indeed it served rather handily as a great city car. Take it out of Dynamic mode, and the 2020 R8 V10 Performance Spyder manages to be docile as the transmission glides through gears and the engine fizzes away happily. The one and only cargo space, located under the front hood, can accommodate a moderate load of groceries, but forget about bringing much home if you need paper towels.

2020 Audi R8 V10 Performance Spyder Quattro Test: Sweet Styling and Luxurious Appointments

The 2020 Audi R8 Performance Spyder Quattro we tested carried an MSRP of $225,945, including options, gas-guzzler tax, and destination charge. (It starts at $210,050.) This car came equipped with optional Suzuka Grey metallic paint ($595), black Audi rings and badges ($300), red-painted brakes ($700), and a carbon-fiber diffuser, plus other carbon trim pieces ($7,200). The interior received the sport-seat package which adds notably supportive 18-way adjustable seats with diamond stitching ($3,700) as well as additional contrast stitching ($500). The cockpit also featured an upgraded Bang & Olufsen sound system ($1,900), rounding the cabin into a rather luxurious space.

The R8 also had some clever interior appointments, like cupholders stashed way behind the driver's and passenger's elbows, and a single large display for infotainment and gauge-cluster double duty. Audi also provided a mobile-phone bucket, which is always welcome in a supercar. The convertible top isn't the quickest but it can raise or lower while you wait at a stoplight, and unlike a lot of convertibles the car looks reasonably good with the roof closed.

In a lot of ways, the 2020 Audi R8 V10 Performance Spyder Quattro isn't at all the super advanced sports car Audi markets it to be; it even uses Marvel's superhero genius Tony Stark as a brand ambassador to help reinforce the image of its cars as representing futuristic tech. However, the Audi R8 V10 Performance Spyder's drivetrain, suspension, and brakes all use technology that has become fairly conventional in today's market. Still, the car is such a masterclass in all of these areas that it's easy to see how a risk-taking technologist capable of building an Iron Man suit would appreciate the bellowing V-10 engine, lightning-quick shifts, and driver-oriented interior. As far as hero cars go, this one delivers the goods in spades.

2020 Audi R8 V10 Performance Spyder Quattro Highlights

  • Ergonomic interior with fantastic materials
  • Design that stands out
  • Lots of grip with all-wheel drive and Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires
2020 Audi R8 V10 Performance Spyder Quattro Specifications
ON SALE Now
BASE PRICE $210,050/$225,945  (base/as tested)
ENGINE 5.2L DOHC 40-valve V-10; 602 hp @ 8,100 rpm, 443 lb-ft @ 6,700 rpm
TRANSMISSION 7-speed dual-clutch automatic
LAYOUT 2-door, 2-passenger, mid-engine, AWD convertible
EPA MILEAGE 13/20 mpg (city/hwy) (est)
L x W x H 174.4 x 76.4 x 49.0 in
WHEELBASE 104.3 in
WEIGHT 3,913 lb
0-60 MPH 3.3 sec (est)
TOP SPEED 204 mph