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The Audi R8 is a supercar swiss army knife.
It’s a V10-powered supercar, yet it’s no harder to drive than a base A3. It’s staggering how a car that is so capable can so easily double as a comfortable daily driver. The R8 is all about striking a balance. It’s fast but not terrifying, loud but not deafening, and above all else, approachable for most people. It won’t set track records or hit the quickest runs to 60, and it’s all the better for it.
There are plenty of other supercars for that. Thanks to turbocharging and electrified powertrains, almost every new six-figure exotic exceeds what’s enjoyable on a public road. The R8 then takes a different approach, focusing on enjoyment rather than all-out performance.
This 2022 Audi R8 V10 Performance Spyder RWD may just be the best of the bunch. With a naturally aspirated engine in the middle, power going to the rear wheels, and a retractable roof, it has the makings of a proper supercar. However, in its efforts to please, it doesn’t shine in any particular area. The R8 is excellent at many things but the best at none.
Thanks to a mid-cycle refresh for the 2019 model year, the second-gen Audi R8 is aging well. Significant updates to its front and rear bumpers, such as an aggressive front grille, sharp front blades, and a reworked rear diffuser, help push its design into proper supercar territory. It’s not that the pre-facelift model was ugly by any means, but the R8 is a halo car, and the older model played it way too safe with its styling.
The RWD Spyder also gets unique details to serve as quick visual cues that you’re looking at the rear-drive variant. Those updates mentioned above added in the facelift now feature gloss black paint as standard, giving this variant a sleeker look. 20-in five-spoke wheels come standard wrapped in Michelin Pilot Sport 4S summer tires, although a same-size titanium double spoke set is also available.
For now, the V10 Performance RWD is the cheapest drop-top R8 available, benefiting from a massive $52,600 discount compared to its AWD equivalent. However, you’d be hard-pressed to tell from a visual aspect. Even this “entry” level R8 looks almost indistinguishable from its pricey sibling, only separated by minor aero and color changes. Audi doesn’t make you pay up to get the best looks out of your six-figure supercar. However, saving the cash does bring massive upsides in the driving department.
Previous versions of the AWD Audi R8 established themselves as some of the most approachable supercars. They put down power so well that minimal driver effort translated into immense speed. This allowed owners to quickly build confidence behind the wheel, knowing their sports car wouldn’t bite back. But, while the older R8s handed your their limits on a silver platter, they were far from the most exciting options in their segment.
Flash forward, and this latest 2022 Audi R8 V10 Performance Spyder RWD is a different story. It still counts on the same naturally-aspirated 5.2-liter Lamborghini-sourced V10, but it now develops 562 horsepower and 406 foot-pounds of torque. All that power goes to the rear wheels via a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. On paper, that’s good for a 0-60 mph time of 3.7 seconds and a top speed of 204 mph.
Like its predecessors, the RWD Spyder’s power output is approachable. While peak power lives at a whopping 8,000 rpm, the ride up there is smooth and progressive. Unlike its Lamborghini sibling, the revs don’t just spike to redline. Instead, the R8 revs slowly, allowing for a proper build-up, urging its driver to work harder to extract power while rewarding them with endless V10 noises. Sure this translates into a supercar that’s far from the quickest. But while you give up the industry standard turbo shove and swoosh noises, you’re rewarded with drama and speed that’s exciting, not terrifying.
Don’t, for a second, however, believe that the RWD Spyder is either a slouch or dull to drive. Thanks to the loss of a front differential, drive shafts, and a substantial amount of weight, this rear-drive R8 comes alive in the corners. After just a few turns on a canyon road, it was evident that the RWD Spyder is likely the most enjoyable variant in the lineup. Its front end is now significantly more agile, and with quick steering to match, this R8 goes precisely where you point it without even a whiff of understeer.
As mentioned earlier, this RWD Spyder comes at a steep discount compared to its all-wheel drive equivalent. One of the most significant indicators of that cost difference is the lack of adaptive dampers. Rear-drive R8’s all come with fixed dampers, and from the driver’s seat, that’s a loss most owners won’t notice. That’s because this R8 is nicely suited for both canyons and around-town driving. Stable enough for a twisty road without being too stiff to handle road imperfections, this suspension setup strikes a nice balance.
With the top up, it’s tough to tell you’re in a convertible at all. There’s plenty of headroom, excellent visibility, and the cabin remains surprisingly quiet at highway speeds. Retract its roof, and you’re immediately rewarded with all the noise you’d want from the optional $3,600 exhaust system.
While Spyder is heavier thanks to added structural rigidity by 276 lb, it doesn’t feel so on the road. This isn’t to say it feels light. It’s just that all R8 variants feel relatively heavy, so there is no added penalty here. Thankfully, the heft means this car is stiff. There are no noticeable shakes over imperfections on the road, swaying me away from the coupe as my ideal pick.
Inside, the Audi R8 feels like a well-built premium product. It may share some switches and buttons with lower-priced models, but its dashboard layout is unique. As I learned in my recent Bugatti Chiron Super Sport drive, omitting a screen in the dash should help this interior age well, as tech elements are often some of the first to show their age in a car.
Like the French hypercar, the Audi R8 counts on a single 12.3-in digital instrument cluster in front of the driver for all vital info ranging from drive data to its infotainment system. It offers Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity, but its integration is far from ideal. Plug your phone in, and the cluster morphs, popping up the smartphone-based system as a rectangle in the center of the screen, pushing pertinent drive data to the sides. It’s far from pretty, but it works.
The R8’s 18-way adjustable chairs do an excellent job of holding you in place through the corners but retain more than enough comfort for a long drive. Like the rest of the car, the seats strike a nice balance between sporty and comfortable. Our tester’s ultra-bright Express Red leather interior commands attention, especially with the top down. Significant elements such as the dashboard, wheel, and center console feature contrasting black leather to tone things down.
While the Audi R8 is mechanically similar to the Lamborghini Huracan, the two are ergonomically quite different. Whereas the Italian supercar feels cramped, tight, and claustrophobic, the Audi has an open-air feeling, with plenty of visibility, headroom, and available space for passengers. The R8 makes better use of the available space. These differences mean the R8 is more than just a car for special occasions. It’s up to virtually any daily-driving task.
As mentioned earlier, the R8 is surprisingly quiet with its fabric top in place. It takes 20 seconds to retract and can do so at up to 31 mph. The whole thing weighs only 97 pounds contributing to the Spyder’s relatively low weight gain.
Starting at $160,900 plus a $1,495 destination charge, the 2022 Audi R8 V10 Performance Spyder RWD is the cheapest convertible variant available. Stepping up to its all-wheel-drive sibling and its improved capabilities and power will cost an additional $52,600 for a total of ($213,500). That places the Audi in Lamborghini pricing territory. A “base” Huracan EVO RWD Spyder comes in at $229,428 and has more power, sounds, and a raging bull in its badge, although it loses AWD.
Our tester, however, was far from base. Thanks to notable options such as the carbon exterior package ($4,800), premium package ($4,500), sport exhaust package ($3,600), and carbon interior package ($3,400) to name a few, this particular R8 costs $189,690. Pricing-wise, this aligns it with a comparable Porsche 911 or Aston Martin Vantage. However, unlike its competitors, it’s the only one with its engine in the middle and a naturally aspirated one at that.
The 2022 Audi R8 V10 Performance Spyder RWD is a wonderful sports car; quick, comfortable, enjoyable, and stunning to look at. It ticks most boxes for most people. It may not be the quickest or most capable mid-engined machine, but it rewards its driver with a fun experience, precisely what it should do.
This is the type of car for an early morning Sunday drive. The kind of car you can carry a blazing pace with as its engine sings with the top down. The R8 is all about enjoyment without terror. As its closest competitors dive deeper into one-upping each other by mere tenths of a second, the R8 is one of the last modern supercars that genuinely focuses on the driving experience above all else. It’s not the best at any one thing because it doesn’t need to be. That’s its charm.