The sublime new Audi R8 GT Spyder

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Old 18-Jun-2011
The sublime new Audi R8 GT Spyder

UNP ImageWhat would you rather lose; your sight or hearing? Well obviously you wouldn't want to lose either, but come on, if you had to choose?

Confronted with this new Audi, we'd frankly rather just jump off Burj Khalifa than have to pick between our eyes and ears. On the one hand, you're missing out on the titanium grey trim elements of the new drop-top GT Spyder, the front splitter, aero flics, bigger diffuser, matte carbon-fibre windscreen frame, oh, and the R8 that comes with all this too. It looks astoundingly good. It should be made illegal on account of it having the effect of a mind-altering narcotic.

On the other hand, there's the imminent sound frenzy coming inches from behind you, assaulting your brain's ventral cochlear nucleus with an overdose of noise. That comes with the territory of Audi's sublime, rev-happy 5.2-litre V10 tuned here to deliver 552bhp. Oh boy, this is hard... Can we compromise and give away one eye and one ear each? It's totally worth it.

The new convertible version of the most extreme R8 to date raises the game by offering wind-in-the-hair thrills; like, hurricane force winds when you consider the 317kph top speed and 0-100kph time of 3.8 seconds. That's two-tenths slower than the hard-top R8 GT, but it's quicker than a Lambo Gallardo Spyder, and matches the new Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Roadster.

And you can bet that it turns and stops on a dime, as with the weight savings and chassis reinforcements, it's just a 5.2-litre R8 that swapped its trainers for studded track and field shoes.

The R8 GT Spyder is limited to a total of 333 examples worldwide, available for order this summer with deliveries commencing in early 2012. It's well worth the wait, because Audi has trimmed 85kg from the already low weight of the R8 V10 Spyder, meaning the GT tips the scales at 1,640kg (still 115kg heavier than the hard-top). Engineers took the aluminium space frame and added a magnesium engine frame to improve rigidity as well as shed 5.5kg. They went as far as dabbling with the six-speed transmission, wheels, brakes and bucket seats in the cabin to throw out another 31.5kg. And as in the non-GT specimen Spyders, the roof is a lightweight fabric job, which lowers in 19 seconds at speeds of up to 50kph.

But it's really the glorious wail of a V10 at 8,000rpm that makes an R8 GT. The 5.2-litre with an aluminium crankcase draws its fuel from Audi's FSI direct injection system, and features dry-sump lubrication for a low centre of gravity, steady oil supply and better aero (the lower placement of the engine ensures a smooth stream of air over the back of the car).

Despite the relatively long piston stroke of 92.80mm (cylinder bore is 84.50mm), the engine revs like a turbo prop producing 540Nm of torque at 6,500rpm — all the more reason to keep the needle as close to the red zone as your ears can handle.

The R tronic sequential manual transmission features an electrohydraulic clutch shifting through each gear in less than a tenth of a second: slower than a PDK or Ferrari's F1 ‘box, but a lot more dramatic with its violent back-kicks.

Depending on your mood, the transmission operates in Normal, Sport or Manual mode, with steering column-mounted shift paddles.

As with the rest of the R8 range, the GT Spyder is rear-wheel biased (up to 85 per cent of the torque goes to the rear axle), although if the situation calls for it (you muck up that hairpin exit) the system sends cavalry reinforcements to the front axle. With a limited slip differential living at the back, and knowing the excellent 5.2 R8, this GT chassis should provide benchmark-levels of traction and stability.

Aluminium double wishbones locate the wheels, and the body sits 10mm lower than stock, on 19in wheels wrapped in 235/35 and 295/30 tyres front and rear. Brakes are carbon ceramics, meaning that even if the Electronic Stabilisation Program can't save you, the anchor pedal will.

Now, all you need to do is sign on the dotted line on that organ-donor card and decide what'll it be: ear, eye, or maybe a limb. Hey, there's no clutch pedal here, and how often do you use your left leg anyway?

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