A Bull in a China Shop. My Time with the Audi R8 Spyder

Sometimes things happen and you're not quite sure how they happened and why you got to be so damn lucky but that they did and now you can't stop smiling and people want you to wipe that "damn look" off of your face before they say something cynical just to get you to stop smiling.  Thursday I experienced just that. A ring on the cell phone and a voice on the other line....

"Hello Mr. Smith.  This is Audi Concierge.  We've an opening in our R8 Private Drive this Saturday .... "

Needless to say, if you'd read my 25 Things post over the new year, you'd understand why I needed to change my pants after putting down the phone. Thank goodness I was not going commando because that would have necessitated reupholstering a chair. I was a poodle excited to see their owner for the thirtieth time.

Fast forward to Saturday.  I won't bore you with details.  Making the drive to the Lodge at Torrey Pines.  Meeting with Audi's product specialists.  Or even the nice little presentation by Steven (enjoy the rules of the road. Pssshhhh...).  No one really wants to hear about that stuff.  I will say there is nothing like the feeling of stepping into a private parking lot and finding eight Audi R8s bathed in the glow of the California sun.  Two coupes, the rest newly introduced Spyders. A mix of V8 and V10s.  Ours was red, a very cherry red V8 Spyder. Low slung, ready to pounce even with the engine quiet.  Inside, a set of keys, a map, and one of those Nextel radios (you didn't think they'd let us get that disconnected did you... these are $150,000 super cars).

A turn of the key.  A taught grumble from the V8 stowed behind our seats. Top down (19 seconds  precisely). Forget the stereo, we wouldn't need it anyway.  I distinctly recall needing to change my pants yet again.  Somewhere, the automobile Gods had determined that I would be behind the wheel of hand-built German beast.  Check for a pulse and we're off.

Here in Southern California the sight of a supercar on any stretch of our freeway is really no cause for celebration.  You might get one head turn.  A teenage boy slugging his father and pointing. Some middle aged toupee wearing gentleman letting a little smile show beneath his mustache. But when you have eight high powered exotics the scenery is much different. Heads turn. Windows roll down. You have conversations with random strangers at stop lights.  It's paparazzi like. Instant celebrity status though you know for a fact it isn't you they're gawking over.  One tap on the gas pedal and amidst the growl of the exhaust, you're gone.  Your fans far behind you.

I could talk about performance and motor specs and ... but I'm sure it'd bore you. I mean who needs to know that your particular V8 was capable of 187 miles per hour and had no problem making the 60 mark in just over four seconds.  Or that the v10 in our group could produce 10 miles more and make 60 in under four seconds. No no.  I'll leave that to the experts at Car & Driver or Automobile.  Instead, let's talk styling. You all know this is my foray and one that I take very seriously (even at 104 miles per hour. Shhh... don't tell Audi).

Let me say that Audi did a great deal of justice to the Spyder. Typical exotics are covered in extraneous lines, superfluous details, wasted opportunities to create seamless sightlines.  What you won't find littering the exterior are odd vents and crazy corners and superficial nothingness.  No line out of place.  If it weren't for the somewhat unflattering rear hood vents that had a strange resemblance to the raised hairs on a very pissed off dog's back and what has become Audi's trademark wide angle front grill, you'd have not much of an idea that you have a storm of a vehicle.  And by storm, I mean that you'll leave a lot of destruction in your wake but that people will still seek you out. Yeah.  Like a tornado.

In the Spyder, versus the standard Coupe, I'm happy to see the side fin disappear. I was never a huge fan of the off color piece of metal just behind the passenger and driver door. In some ways, the ability to add in that detail as an option was just a way to break up the sleek lines, maybe make it appear slower to the police vehicles you will inevitably pass on your way to higher insurance rates.

As for the interiors... wait... I forgot to look. Joking!  Audi has upped their ante over the years.  I remember driving an A3 a decade ago and remarking that the interior detailing in most of Audi's line up had absolutely no characteristics. A decade ago bland and unremarkable would have been favorable terms.  Times have changed.  The R8's interior was clean. There was minimal fuss and what fuss existed, only came from a light sprinkling of nickel finish and a few carbon fiber details.  Audi put a great deal of effort into not making this car a Ferrari or a Lambo or some other over-fibered example of macho-osity.  No, this is a gentleman's interior.  Well trimmed leather. A few satin nickel rings around important gauges.  A Formula-1 loop of carbon fiber ran from the driver side door handle, up over the wheel and down to the left of the navi screen.  It was like playing with the Hot Wheels of my childhood. Whee!

Of course, there is still some work to do, this is a first iteration mind you.  I wasn't a fan of the paddle shifters' ergonomics.  Flat and thin, the level of confidence from these pieces of plastic were minimal at best.  The push of the heating system was light at lower speeds. I found that the center console was lacking in user intuitive-ness (is that a word) and I gave up on pushing buttons in an effort to focus solely on the road ahead.  In other words, Audi has put a great deal of attention in making sure the driver is at one with the road, but that there are still a few speedbumps.  For some drivers, they'll set the radio, heat, and other controls once and never use them again.  For me, I drive.  Daily. To the tune of 30,000 miles a year.  Audi will get it... I'm sure of it. Especially if they continue to advertise the R8 as a daily driver.

Really the worst part about this car was giving the keys back at the end of our 90 minutes.  Stepping out of the driver's seat left me with this pang of emptiness. Someone had taken my candy and promised to not give it back. I was elated and sad at the same time.  Wait... Was I in love?  Or was it just the pure unadulterated lust of pushing a piece of machinery to it's limits and enjoying every glorifying moment.  The Audi would even have given me a ring... four of them to be exact.  Perfectly sized.  My size.

Back to the real world.

For more information about the Audi R8 and the R8 Spyder, click through to AudiUSA.com

D.Coop was not compensated for this post.

All images are copyright D.Coop and cannot be used without permission.