If you were shopping for a muscular sports convertible and on a budget of up to a million dollars, what would you go for?
A Ferrari California is alluring, but a tad too tame for a Prancing Horse. A McLaren 650 Spider would be nice, but it costs more than a million bucks and there is no showroom here yet.
A Jaguar F-Type Convertible is fantastic value for money, but the car can be a bit of a wild cat. A Porsche 911 Convertible fits the bill on several fronts, but it is getting common.
Well, how about an Audi R8 Spyder 4.2 then? I know, it is not exactly a new model. In fact, it is rather long in the tooth now. Although the new R8 Coupe has just been unveiled, the Spyder version is at least two years away.
And like most cars at this mature stage of the product cycle, the R8 Spyder is generously equipped.
It has full LED headlights and tail-lights, the latest alloy wheels, glossy black interior accents, larger paddle shifters, microphones embedded in the seatbelt to make hands-free phone conversations crisp and clear (even with the top down) and, most significantly, a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission that is much friendlier to use than the previous robotised manual.
Cosmetic tweaks that differentiate it from the car that was launched five years ago include a wider front grille with a more tapered top corners in high-gloss black, front splitter in gloss black, along with radiator intakes and brake cooling ducts, large rear diffuser (also in gloss black) and round tailpipes on either side of the bumper.
These give the ragtop R8 a more modern and imposing presence, especially when those big oval exhausts stare at you from behind.
That angle of the car is probably what most road users will be most acquainted with. Even though it is not as maniacal as its V10 twin, the R8 Spyder 4.2 is still blisteringly quick.
It clocks a 4.5-second century sprint and a top whack of 300kmh.
What makes the car stand out is its driveability. Its seven-speed dual-clutch autobox obviously contributes hugely to this. Contrary to unfounded criticism that a dual-clutch gearbox robs a sports car of its aggression, the R8 is a sharp and hard racer that will satisfy many drivers.
Gear changes are still thumping and frenzied if you are heavy-footed. In Sport mode, you get the usual accompaniment of high revs and booming exhaust.
A full frontal assault to the senses is just a click away, when you retract the motorised roof (which takes all of 19 seconds to fold away). Or if the weather is unsuitable, just drop the wind deflector- cum-rear windscreen - the engine mounted behind that glass partition then sounds like it is just behind your ears.
The best part of the R8 Spyder - or for that matter, any R8 - is the all-wheel-drive system that helps keep those rubbers spinning the way they should be spinning.
With such a beefy V8 and a highly strung transmission, things can go awry rather quickly. Especially around a corner in the wet. Having the car's 430bhp and 430Nm distributed to two axles instead of just one makes a world of difference to how fast you can go. Not just conceptually, but also in a very real and tangible way.
As they say, power without control is useless. The Audi is still predominantly rear-wheel-driven, though, with only 30 per cent of torque going to the front wheels when needed. If all-wheel-drive is not enough to enhance traction, the car is also equipped with a mechanical limited slip differential and an electronic differential lock.
I cannot really think of anything I do not like about the car, except perhaps for how hefty its steering feels at crawling speed. In full lock, it makes a groaning sound too.
The test car has a glitchy hi-fi system that varies its volume on its own, which is a little annoying, if not downright creepy.
On the whole, I would probably pick this car over the others mentioned earlier. If I had that kind of dough in the first place, of course.
AUDI R8 SPYDER 4.2
Price: $778,200 with COE
Engine: 4,163cc 32-valve V8
Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic with paddle shift
Power: 430bhp at 7,900rpm
Torque: 430Nm at 4,500rpm
0-100kmh: 4.5 seconds
Top speed: 300kmh
Fuel consumption: 12.6 litres/100km
Agent: Premium Automobiles