Audi R8 Spyder [TYPE 4S] (2015 - 2018) used car review

Brilliant breakdown + serious savings

Brilliant breakdown + serious savings

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Brilliant breakdown + serious savings

By Jonathan Crouch


Audi's R8 Spyder got sharper, smarter and faster in second generation 'Type 4S' form. Turning away from the tide towards turbocharging, it used an aurally magnificent normally aspirated 5.2-litre V10 and promised race-bred but road-ready four wheel drive performance able to justify its claimed supercar status. Rivals had to take this car very seriously indeed. Here, we look at the pre-facelift 2018-2018-era 'Type 4S' Spyder models.


2dr Convertible (5.2 V10 - 540PS/610PS])


Create a credible supercar and it's almost expected that you'll make it available not only in coupe form but also in open-topped guise. Audi's R8 delivered on that brief in first generation 'Type 42' form but there were a few compromises to be made in choosing the convertible version. That wasn't the case with this much more sophisticated MK2 'Type 4S' R8 Spyder model.

As any automotive engineer will tell you, the problem in creating a cabrio from a coupe lies in the huge reduction in torsional stiffness you'll create by lopping off the roof that would normally provide much of it. It's taken a great deal of modern technology to get close to sorting this problem, much of which wasn't available to Audi when they introduced the first generation 'Type 42' version of this R8 Spyder back in 2011. As a result, back then, choosing an open-topped R8 over the fixed-top version wasn't really something an enthusiast would ever have done. It just didn't feel as sharp. As a result, the rag top version of this ultimate Audi sportscar remained a boutique buyer's choice; you certainly would never have seen one on a track day.

But things changed. The Ingolstadt brand based this second generation 'Type 4S' R8 model, launched in 2015, on an 'ASF' 'Audi Space Frame' that for the MK2 version was fundamentally fortified with hi-tech 'Carbon Fibre Reinforced Polymer'. That made an awful lot of difference, especially to this Spyder variant, improving the structural rigidity of this model by a massive 50%. According to Ingolstadt, this created the stiffest open-topped car ever made. At the same time, Audi reduced weight, added in torque vectoring for improved corner turn-in and sharpened up the quattro four wheel drive system. We were promised that the result will be a very different proposition - a proper driver's machine: a proper supercar.

It certainly has a proper supercar engine. While rivals were turning to turbocharged power in this era, Audi stuck to the fabulously vocal normally aspirated 5.2-litre V10 that was also used by Lamborghini. What that created was the fastest, the most powerful and the most desirable open-topped Audi ever made. A rare rear-driven variant was offered as an alternative to the quattro version between 2017 and 2018. The MK2 R8 Spyder was lightly facelifted in 2018. Here though, we look at the pre-facelift 2015-2018-era versions of this model.

What You Get

In MK2 form, visually, the R8 Spyder remained much as it had been, a distinctive cocktail of low-slung curves and delightful design extravagance, though in this second generation version, the influential shape of the previous model was expressed in a tauter, more technically precise way. As before, we're talking Ferrari - but with a German twist. Inside, you're introduced to what the Ingolstadt brand calls a 'luxury-level racing atmosphere' and an interior that remains an object lesson in how to package a two seat sportscar.

As before, one of the cockpit's key distinguishing features is what the stylists call the 'monoposto', a stylised large arc that encircles the driver's area of the cockpit, starting in the door and ending at the centre tunnel. But if that's familiar, there's also plenty in this second generation model that was different too, the changes beginning with the grippy, flat-bottomed R8 performance steering wheel. Extra round satellite buttons were added to control engine start-up and driving dynamics. Plus there was an extra cost steering wheel original buyers could add that included two further smaller round controls - a dial on the left to set the car up for different weather conditions and a button on the right to alter the exhaust note.

As for all the infotainment functionality, well, as with Ingolstadt's humbler TT Roadster, that was all relocated to the 'Audi Virtual Cockpit', a 12.3-inch high resolution instrument binnacle display that completely replaced the usual set of conventional dials.

The fabric top itself weighs only 44kgs and opens or closes in just 20 seconds at speeds of up to 31mph. You'd usually activate the process from inside the car but you can also do so from outside by using the standard 'Advanced Key'. The hood mechanism's acrobatics deliver an intricate piece of street theatre, the hood compartment cover moving fluidly on two seven-link hinges. When closed, the top integrates neatly into the design line, stretching low above the body and extending to the rear in two long slender fins.

The fins surround a rear window that has its own retracting mechanism, activated by a press of the button below the gearstick. This means that even when the weather's inclement and the roof's up, you can still retract the glass pane and get a richer dose of the wonderful V10 engine's aural fireworks. But of course for that, there's nothing quite like having the top down. The main button for the hood is right next to the other one, activating a folding process that sees the soft top sandwiching itself in 'Z' formation into the flat storage compartment over the engine. With the roof open, having the rear window up can reduce buffeting but to fully deal with that, you'll be better off installing the proper clip-on textile wind deflector that comes included with the car and is stored in the boot. Audi says that with this in place, wind flow around the head can be reduced by up to 90%.

What You Pay

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What to Look For

Most owners in our survey seemed happy. Make sure the car is in perfect condition. There's no reason why it shouldn't be but any dents, scratches or interior damage will knock values hard. Obviously, check the workings of the powered hood, but we've heard of no issues with that. Putting it through a car wash roof-up before you sign the cheque is always a clever idea though. Check for crash damage at the front and inspect the tyres for signs of uneven wear. The majority of cars that crop up on the used market will have been equipped to well above standard spec. Typically, there will be around £10,000 worth of extras fitted and demand for the R8 Spyder is such that sellers will be able to reflect this outlay in the asking price.

As for future residuals, well avoid outlandish colour combinations and this Audi should be a sound bet by supercar standards. The running gear is tried and tested and shouldn't throw up too many problems. Otherwise insist on a full service record. You can expect a clutch to last a minimum of 20,000 miles, and you should budget about £3,500 for a new one. Lower rear wishbones could also fail, requiring a new unit and hub - this could cost about £3,000 in parts alone. Magnetic dampers have been known to sometimes fail, too, at a cost of around £800 each.

Replacement Parts

(approx based on a 2017 R8 Spyder 540PS - Ex Vat) An air filter costs in the £43 bracket. An oil filter costs in the £14 bracket. A fuel filter costs in the £8 bracket. A pollen filter costs in the £44 bracket. Front brake discs are in the £363-£445 bracket. A rear brake pad set costs in the £34-£106 bracket, dependent on brand. It's in the £34-£64 bracket mainly for front pads. And the bespoke tyres are fearsomely expensive to replace; bear that in mind before you go track day showboating.

On the Road

That V10 normally aspirated engine comes mated to 7-speed S tronic auto transmission and delivers 540PS in standard form, good enough to catapult this car to 62mph from rest in just 3.6s en route to 197mph. Power is upped to 610PS if you go for the 'V10 plus' variant. Either way, in an R8, torque usually travels to the tarmac in this MK2 model via a bespoke quattro set-up able to flash 100% of power to either axle instantly on demand and as a result, traction levels are astonishingly high. A rare rear-driven 540PS model was offered between 2017 and 2018 if (rather bravely) you don't feel the need for 4WD in your R8. Thanks to an impressive 50% improvement in torsional rigidity over the previous model, all versions of this car feel agile, though a slight vagueness in the steering masks some of the improvements that were made. In this MK2 form, the R8 Spyder also benefitted from lighter weight and a torque vectoring system that deals with tight turns at speed by dialling out understeer and channelling power to the wheels that can best use it.

As usual with Audi, there's a 'Drive Select' driving dynamics system so that you can tweak throttle response, steering, stability control thresholds and gearshift timings to suit the kind of progress you want to make. You can specify in a special 'Performance' mode and all system graphics are delivered via the customisable screen of the brilliant 'Audi Virtual Cockpit' display that replaced the previous conventional instrument dials. The 'Drive Select' set-up can control the suspension too if, as we'd suggest, you find a car whose original owner paid the extra for the optional 'Audi Magnetic Ride' system. If that original owner ticked the box for the Sport exhaust option too, you'll be able to better enjoy that melodic 5.2-litre V10 out back before you have to pay for its pleasures - combined fuel economy sees this Audi deliver just 24.1mpg on the combined cycle and put out 277g/km of CO2 (both NEDC figures).

We'd certainly choose our R8 in this open-topped 'Spyder' guise over the Coupe model any day of the week. With the roof down, the lack of buffeting is truly impressive, especially if you keep this electrically-retracting rear window raised and click the clip-on fabric wind deflector into place. When the weather clouds over, the fabric top can be raised in just 20 seconds at speeds of up to 31mph and once the hood is up, you'll get levels of cruising refinement that are almost indistinguishable from those of the Coupe variant.


We absolutely loved the MK2 model R8 Coupe. But we're struggling to think of reasons why we might buy one. The reason why is that this Spyder version can provide so much more and now do so with so few compromises. All right, so Audi's four rings don't give this car the rarefied appeal of rival Lamborghini or Ferrari competitors, but in most meaningful respects, this second generation open-topped R8 model can match them car-for-car. Unlike its Italian rivals, it feels bullet-proof. And unlike, say, a Porsche 911 Turbo Cabriolet, it makes a six-figure statement. Audi clearly benchmarked both approaches and blended Latin exclusivity with Teutonic day-to-day usability, creating a finished product that's difficult to beat if you want a car of this kind you could drive every day.

Don't get us wrong; an R8 Spyder isn't quite as agile as its Coupe counterpart. That fixed-top model is, after all, still 40% stiffer. This convertible variant also comes with a significant price premium. And, like the Coupe, its normally aspirated engine struggles to deliver acceptable levels of running cost efficiency. But we'll take that. After all, it's because of that normally aspirated V10 that this car is as desirable as it is. And it's because of that unit that you'll be so tempted to choose this Spyder body style. You'll want to listen to that gloriously throbbing soundtrack over and over again. In years to come, we'll look back on this powerplant as one of the last, great engines of its era. And look back on this R8 as one of the great open-topped Audis of all time. There's nothing quite like it.

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