2020 Audi R8 Spyder review: It never gets old

Top up or top down, the R8 is a spectator.

Steven Ewing / Roadshow

I’ve been lucky enough to drive pretty much every iteration of the Audi R8 since it hit the scene more than a decade ago and all I can say is it never gets old. Do I miss the original V8 coupe / manual? Heck yes I do. Is this Spyder V10 Performance 2020 model an absolute catch? Heck yes it is.

Like it

  • Powerful and great sounding V10 engine
  • Sharp chops
  • Easy to drive day by day
  • Virtual Cockpit technology is among the best

I do not like

  • The style changes do not improve the overall design
  • Some driver assistance functions are missing

Small tweaks for 2020

The R8 has received a few updates for 2020, most notably some cosmetic changes that I hesitate to call updates. The small non-functional fangs on the sides of the dashboard are stylistic for style reasons and around the rear, the honeycomb mesh above the air intakes covers the entire width of the car. I’m not really a fan of either tweak, but I’ll say I love the huge tailpipes and the black badges are great too. The design is obviously subjective and hey, people keep gawking at this thing as it passes by.

Audi’s Virtual Cockpit technology is where you’ll find all the infotainment features, and just like the R8 itself, VC is still a treat after all these years. Some people complain about the lack of a central multimedia screen in the dashboard, but that would kill the interior design. You can manage the Virtual Cockpit via the buttons on the steering wheel, but there are redundant controls on the center console, so your passenger can still cheat your music choice even if they can’t fully see the display.

The R8 is an easy car to pass the time in; it is much more comfortable than other supercars. The seats are supportive, there is plenty of room for two adults and thanks to the low hood and dashboard, you have a great view of what awaits you. All climate controls are close at hand and intuitive to use, and the 2020 R8 has a wireless charging pad for your phone in a closet just before the electronic shifting.

This V10 is 10/10

Can’t say enough, I love Audi’s 5.2 liter naturally aspirated V10. Mounted amidships and linked to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, that large, free-breathing engine produces 602 horsepower and 413 lb-ft of torque in this Performance model. (Audi offered a less powerful version with 562 hp and 406 lb-ft, but that is it leaving after model year 2020.) The rear bias all-wheel drive system sends the front and rear torque as needed and while I continue to give the pre-upgrade, rear-wheel drive R8 RWS nod as the best-handling version of the Audi supercar, you can’t argue with the Quattro’s utterly unflappable AWD prowess.

The cabin of the R8 is clean and comfortable.

Steven Ewing / Roadshow

Never lift the throttle and the R8 will reach speeds in excess of 200 mph. Hit it hard from the line and this V10 Performance Spyder will hit 60 mph in 3.3 seconds, though Audi admits its acceleration data is somewhat conservative. Numbers aside, the launch of the R8 is a blast and the best experience with the Spyder. That big V10 is hidden behind your ears and the louder it gets, the deeper you’ll go deep into the throttle. This is the Audi engine with the best sound by far.

I will always keep the R8 at its best with a manual transmission, but supercar buyers don’t want to change themselves anymore and the automatic S-Tronic is actually pretty good. You can move through the gears with the steering wheel-mounted paddles, but they’re small and not exactly satisfying to use, though at least now they’re made of metal instead of plastic. Switching between Comfort and Dynamic modes slightly alters the transmission mapping, although it is sometimes a little too eager to shift gears in the latter setting. Honestly, leave the powertrain in the Car for the best experience. Even when the engine is on slow fire, it’s still a crazy 602hp V10.

The V10 Performance can be optioned with a carbon fiber sway bar that saves 4.4 pounds of weight, which you’ll never notice unless you’re the type who likes to take supercars to truck scales. A more significant update for the 2020 R8 is the retuned variable-ratio steering system, which is said to have a more progressive feel not unlike that of the aforementioned R8 RWS. The all-wheel drive R8 is quick to turn and offers an adequate amount of feedback. The steering is a little light for my liking in Comfort mode, but just run the R8 in its individual setting and you can default it to the heaviest dynamic setting. There, I fixed it.

Great car, great road, good weather.

Steven Ewing / Roadshow

Oddly, the V10 Performance uses a fixed suspension configuration instead of the adaptive and magnetic dampers used on the R8 base. That’s not a complaint, necessarily – the steel springs are soft enough to offer a compliant ride on bumpy city roads, but are also firm enough to offer excellent handling when you’re enjoying a brisk ride. I feel that Audi could probably fool some buyers with a few extra bucks by offering the adaptive dampers on the Performance car, but if the top-tier R8 is set up perfectly right from the start, why complicate matters?

The everyday supercar

All of which brings me to what I have always loved most about the R8: it really feels like the best definition of “everyday supercar”, however esoteric a segment may be. He’s perfectly happy just doing a few low speed errands or sitting in traffic on the freeway. (Which reminds me, adaptive cruise control would be a nice addition.) It’s as comfortable and high-tech as any other modern Audi, but has no problem keeping up with the world’s coolest sports cars, some of which, don’t forget, carry significantly higher price tags than the still very expensive $ 198,850 starting price of the 2020 R8 V10 Performance Coupe (including $ 1,250 for the destination and a $ 1,700 gas consumption fee). With a few key options like the carbon fiber front spoiler, Bang & Olufsen sound system, diamond-stitched seats, red brake calipers and more, the 2020 R8 Spyder seen here costs $ 225,945, additional costs included.

On that note, as much as I like the Spyder experience, it would be difficult to pick it over the Coupe. No matter the $ 12,200 price increase for the privilege of going topless, I think the R8 Coupe looks a lot cooler and you can see the engine through the glass rear window, which is sweet. Then again, all R8s are good R8s. And now they’re fun like they’ve never been.

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