The endless road
Few cars can deliver the sheer exhilaration of motoring like the new Audi R8 Spyder.
3 January, 2018
There is no mistaking the look of confusion painted on the faces of the sea of SUV drivers as we pass the entry gates to the Kosciuszko National Park. This is the last phase of our climb to the Perisher Ski Fields’ car park, and this is surely the exclusive domain of 4WDs, SUVs and other vehicle types designated by acronyms?
A best-in-recent-memory snowfall has draped a thick, white blanket of powder over the NSW Alps, and while the bright winter sun is currently bouncing off the impossibly deep-blue paintwork of our Audi, patches of slippery ice and banks of fresh snow still lurk in the shadows, just waiting to reach out and grab a passing tyre.
It’s not the kind of place you might expect to see the all-new Audi R8 Spyder – convertible roof lowered and V10 engine howling in the mountain air – as it whips past a procession of slow-moving family trucks.
To be fair, a two-seat supercar isn’t the obvious snow-vehicle pick in Audi’s model range – most four-ringed models making the trip understandably have a Q badge glued to their metallic rumps – but it just so happens the R8 Spyder has a secret weapon. Actually, it has four of them.
Audi’s quattro all-wheel drive system is standard fit on the R8 Spyder; a super-smart setup that, in normal driving conditions, sends most of the engine’s power to the rear tyres. But if it senses a loss of grip (say, if you’re driving in snow or ice), it will immediately channel up to 100 percent of power to the front wheels, as required.
That system, combined with 19-inch alloy wheels that offer the kind of grip that would make an octopus feel inadequate, make the R8 Spyder a surprisingly perfect pick for a weekend dash to the snowfields. At least with the roof up.
"...convertible roof lowered and V10 engine howling in the mountain air – as it whips past a procession of slow-moving family trucks."
"This is the very definition of an everyday, super-capable supercar."
Setting off from Sydney in the pre-dawn darkness, the R8 Spyder’s 5.2-litre V10 barks to life, an audible hint at the prodigious power lurking within. Surprisingly, that’s the only real show of supercar-ness we’ll experience for the next few hours.
This is the very definition of an everyday, super-capable supercar, and with the Comfort driving mode selected (the four-mode system also includes Auto, Individual and Dynamic settings) it drives much the same as any other Audi. Happily soaking up bumps in the road and cruising comfortably – and quietly – along the freeway. In fact, the only reminder you’re driving something truly special comes when you try to count the number of heads that turn your way as the stunning R8 Spyder passes traffic on the open road.
Soon enough, though, the freeway ends, and the wondrous roads that ring the NSW Snowy Mountains finally unfurl, like beautiful ribbons dropped from a great height across the mountain peaks.
It’s here we finally engage Dynamic mode, the R8 Spyder noticeably tensing – the exhaust increasing in volume, and dropping at least an octave – as that big V10 engine primes itself to unlock the full force of its 397kW and 540Nm. It’s enough to see 100km/h fly by in an astonishing 3.6 seconds, and if you were to keep your right foot buried in the carpet, the R8 Spyder would keep pushing on to a top speed of 318km/h.
That is very, very fast. But it feels much faster, with the Spyder near-teleporting you into the future, accompanied by a ferocious growl from the exhaust as you continue to gather speed at a genuinely incomprehensible pace.
The Spyder turns its shapely nose up at those recommended speed signs that sit at the entrance to corners, too, because the grip is just incredible, the tyres sticking to the road surface in the unrelenting way a rock climber grips a finger-hold.
It’s so exhilarating, in fact, that upon arriving at Perisher, we immediately abandon our plans to tackle the slopes and instead quickly turn around and head back down the mountain for another frantic blast. And then we keep going, back out toward Jindabyne before turning onto the Snowy Mountains Highway, a snaking stretch of perfect bitumen that climbs from outside Cooma through Adaminaby, all the way up to foot of the Mount Selwyn ski fields.
Convertible roof open and rear wind-deflector deployed, the Spyder pouncing from corner to corner, it’s impossible to imagine a better road, or a better car, on which to spend a cold but sun-soaked winter’s afternoon. A beaming smile is standard attire here, and even the near-freezing temperatures can’t wipe it from our faces.
The Spyder literally eats up the corners, with seemingly no end to the amount of grip that’s available. But it’s the way it pours on acceleration between corners that’s truly staggering.
So, downsides? Well, the R8 Spyder’s configuration is such that it’s not designed for those who insisting on overpacking. But then, driving this thing is so fun, so addictive, that you find yourself instantly rewriting plans as you refuse to leave the driver’s seat. So, and you can trust us on this, it’s best to not make any plans at all.
"Convertible roof open and rear wind-deflector deployed, the Spyder pouncing from corner to corner, it’s impossible to imagine a better road, or a better car, on which to spend a cold but sun-soaked winter’s afternoon."
Want to ensure you always receive the latest news and features from Audi? Subscribe now to the Audi Magazine newsletter.