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Along Came a Spyder

The dazzling 2011 Audi R8 Spyder V10 tempts drivers to behave very badly.

Author Mike Guy Photography Courtesy of Audi

Image – Courtesy of Audi

FEW THINGS SCARE BUZZARDS on a lonely desert road like the roar of a pegged V10 engine on a straightaway. And few modern cars deploy the V10 with such sublime perfection as the Audi R8 Spyder Quattro. After testing the all-wheel-drive system and the 14.4- inch brakes on the roads winding out of the Palomar Range outside San Diego, I’m looking to stretch the engine’s legs a bit.

When the R8 first hit the road in 2007, it signaled something like a call to arms for Audi’s design team. Inspired by the company’s LeMans race car and built on a Lamborghini Gallardo platform (Audi and Lambo are siblings in the Volkswagen family), the R8 was devastatingly fast, with a malevolent look. It was the first supercar to emerge from Audi’s shop in Munich, and for the money ($160,000), few cars could match it.

Now comes the next evolution of this monster: the 2011 R8 Spyder V10, a convertible version of the old R8 that is faster, techier and—naturally—pricier than the previous iteration. According to one of Audi’s engineers, “The goal with the Spyder is to take everything visceral about the R8 and amplify it.”

Amplify it indeed. The Spyder has a growling 5.2-liter V10 engine that generates 525 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of torque. There’s a slew of additional technical features that should quiet the nerdiest of car nerds. Audi “Magnetic Ride” automatically adjusts the chassis to the terrain, and even the underbody has an aerodynamic shape. Like many top-end rides, it can connect with your phone via Bluetooth, but the R8 also has microphones in the seatbelts, so you can quietly make dinner plans while the top is down. There’s also a “launch control,” which maximizes acceleration from a dead stop. The Spyder clocks zero to 60 in 3.7 seconds.

As the R8 blasts eastward on Route 75 toward the Salton Sea and the desert beyond, I contemplate testing its reported top speed (195 mph). Instead, I call my wife to discuss dinner. Doing the right thing never felt so good.


The R8 Spyder’s finer points

The LED running lights on the grill are as sinister as the car’s price ($160,000 and up).

Newly installed side vents feed air to the rear brakes and the gearbox. They also look cool.

The 5.2-liter midchassis V10 engine churns out 525 horsepower and hits 60 mph in 3.7 seconds.

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