Peter Arnold Chief sub-editor

Peter brings more than 35 years of experience to BRW as production editor, chief sub-editor and motoring writer. He has been Asia-Pacific markets editor for Bloomberg and page one sub editor of The Australian Financial Review.

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Motoring: Topless screamer

Published 31 May 2012 03:47, Updated 14 June 2012 15:31

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If you have to think about whether you can afford one of these supercars, you can’t.

It’s also important that for you, worrying about fuel consumption is a middle-class conceit and that you have a small circle of friends. And you can forget about playing golf, unless the clubs travel as your passenger – hence the small circle of friends.

Basically, the Audi R8 Spyder is a very big engine on wheels. There’s not much else. It has cloth for a roof and has aluminium and carbon-fibre panels.

Nevertheless, you and your companion (or golf clubs) will be quite comfortable, though you will have to pack very carefully for your weekend away at that luxury resort. The boot is only big enough to hold an idea and a couple of thoughts.

In fact, forget packing altogether. It’s easier to buy undies onsite – that’s why they have those boutiques in the lobby.

And you have to be prepared for a lot of attention as this is a gorgeous car and it has one of the meanest growls on the road.

Its song ranges from a menacing rip-your-head-off baritone to a scream louder than the two finalists in the women’s singles at Rod Laver Arena.

That’s courtesy of the awesome V10 engine that pushes out 386kW (525hp) of power without using a supercharger or turbocharger and is based on the one used in the Lamborghini Gallardo. It gets from 0 to 100km/h in 4.1 seconds and has a top speed of 313km/h.

Youch! For a simple person like me who doesn’t live at the racetrack and doesn’t get high on the smell of burnt rubber, every drive leaves your skin tingling with adrenaline.

Audi entered the supercar market in 2006 with the mid-engine R8 created by its performance subsidiary, quattro, and its success prompted it to create the convertible.

The R8s are relatively rare beasts. A limited edition R8 Carbon model will be sold in Australia this year but only 10 will be available and there will be only five of the convertible version of the fastest R8, the GT Spyder.

This R8 Spyder weighs just 1725kg (excluding driver) mainly as a result of its hand-assembled aluminium body, magnesium engine frame and side panels and engine cover of carbon-fibre composite. That’s 100kg more than a standard R8 but, without a roof, the Spyder needs more support along its underbelly.

Speaking of roof, the canvas cover slips theatrically onto the top of the engine in 19 seconds and can be put away up to 50km/h.

A feature of the car’s design is that the acute angles at the front give it quite good ground clearance so you don’t have to do the ultra-slow creep over speed bumps and other anomolies.

While overall this is an intensely good drive, one thing that is really annoying is the R-tronic sequential six-speed transmission, which uses a single-clutch automated manual gearbox. Translated, that means shift commands are transmitted electrically to a hydraulic system that changes the gears and manages the clutch.

As a result, around town it behaves like a learner driver, with more jerks than a merchant banking convention.

At speed, it’s not such an issue and bringing the paddle shifters into the equation smooths out the changes considerably, though not entirely.

That aside, the permanent all-wheel drive gives the car unbelievable grip and allows you to bring the power on early through corners. That makes for sensational driving in any twisty stuff.

Most of the time the power is distributed 85 per cent to the rear wheels and 15 per cent to the front but this is quickly redistributed at the first sign of slippage, making it very forgiving.

The R8 also has launch control and a dashboard lap timer if you want to unleash the racer within.

For extra thrills, set the magnetic ride suspension, powertrain and gearbox to “sport” and hang on. It’s a wild, wild ride.

Inside, the layout is simple and focused on getting the most out of the experience. Nevertheless, it does have a lovely Bang & Olufsen stereo system with 12 speakers, 10 channel amplifier and a total output of 465W.

Other tasty bits include sparkly feline LED headlights, sexy looking 19-inch five-twin spoke design alloy wheels, parking system warning sensors with rear view camera, Xenon headlights with LED daytime driving lights, sport seats upholstered in Alcantara leather, rain-sensing windscreen wipers and adaptive high beams.

Of course you can add options, such as ceramic brakes ($25,422), carbon fibre mirrors ($4070) and interior surfaces covered in nappa leather ($8700) but the iPod connection is a no-cost option.

This is the first car my wife has truly appreciated for what it is. After a weekend away with the top down, she says she now understands what the term “driver’s car” means. Hallelujah and pass the sunglasses.

For more:

Range Rover Evoque

Jaguar XF 2.2D

Audi A6 3.0 TDI and A6 2.0 TFSI

Mercedes-Benz CLS 63AMG

Peugeot 508

Nissan 270Z

Volvo V60 T6 AWD R-Design

Alfa Romeo 159

BMW 535d

Lexus IS350F

Volvo S60

Range Rover Autobiography

Lexus IS F

Audi A8L

Can Am Spyder

Alfa Romeo Giulietta and Mito

Jaguar XJ

Peugeot RCZ

Audi A7

Nissan GT-R

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