L.A. Auto Show: R8 V-10 Spyder North American debut
Just a friendly reminder not to forget this 525-horsepower, $170,000 (roughly) roadster over here. It's the red one, in case you were wondering. While you're undoubtedly a concerned eco-citizen, focused only on driving cars that make the planet a better place to live, do take caution not to limit your appetite for Audi's presence at the L.A. Auto Show to its "green machines," like the Green Car of the Year, the 2010 Audi A3 TDI, or its other diesel offering, the Q7 TDI.
Or maybe you were lamenting the fact that Audi chose not to use the L.A. venue to showcase its forthcoming 2011 A8, as many auto journalists could be heard doing at the Audi exhibit. That car, which debuted in Miami in November, is a marvel of whiz-bang technology and interior design, yet an underwhelming letdown from the outside. You know what doesn't have an underwhelming exterior? This here R8 Spyder. (For a full panorama shot of the R8 at the L.A. Auto Show, click here.)
One may think lopping the top off a car that derives such a large amount of its presence from its roofline and striking "sideblades" would lend itself to aesthetic difficulties or odd proportions. Except the R8 is so aesthetically sound you could let international golfing superstars drive it into a tree at two in the morning and it would still look good.
Aside from removing the R8 coupe's signature sideblades and replacing them with more traditional side panels made from carbon fiber, the only other design change Audi had to make to create the Spyder was the engine cover. Rather than a glass lid through which one could gaze lustfully at the 5.2-liter V-10, Audi used a vented unit, also made from carbon fiber, that has two subtle cowls behind the driver and passenger headrests. Also built into the Spyder's bulkhead are a pair of spring-tensioned plates ready to pop out in the unlikely event that you manage to roll one of these low-slung babies.
Beneath the rear deck lid sits a lightweight power convertible top weighing in at a little more than 66 pounds. It scoots into its cubby in 19 seconds and allows drivers to operate the top at speeds up to 31 mph. The top sits on top of the engine when folded, rendering the coupe's glass lid unfeasible.
By using the aforementioned carbon-fiber body panels and choosing to go with a cloth top as opposed to falling victim to the hardtop craze sweeping design studios, Audi says it was able to make the Spyder weigh a measly 13.23 pounds more than the coupe. This, despite adding structural reinforcements to various parts of the body.
The Spyder does have a heated glass rear window that is independent from the car's top and can be raised or lowered regardless of the position of the roof a la the BMW 6-series convertibles.
Powertrain remains the same. The V-10 can be paired with either a six-speed manual transmission or the R tronic, an optional six-speed auto with paddle shifters and normal, sport, full auto and full manual settings.
The rest of the options list is pretty short on a car like this. The only other one of note is the "world's first" seat belt microphone for the car's hands-free system. Three small microphones lie in each seat belt and a fourth resides in the frame of the windshield, allowing you to talk on the phone with the top down on the freeway. Though if your friends are like mine, they'll call you just to hear the sound of the engine rather than anything insignificant you have to pontificate on.
No word yet on availability or price for the U.S., but I'm sure your local Audi dealer will be happy to call you from the seat belt to let you know when the Spyder hits showrooms.
So really, before you let the kids drag you to Honda's Insight booth or the GMC truck exhibit, take a gander at Audi's R8 V-10 Spyder. You should be able to find it; it's the red one.
-- David Undercoffler
Photos credit: David Undercoffler / Los Angeles Times