2021 Audi R8 Spyder RWD Review: Old Time Rock N Roll

The Audi R8 Spyder RWD’s V10-powered song echoes the best of the analogue, plugged-in, top-down motoring even in Singapore

SINGAPORE – If Bob Seger was a car guy, then electric cars would give us disco and non-turbo, high-revving engines would deliver old time rock n’ roll.

But the more fundamental point is: Does your inner five-year-old want a car that sounds like a screaming demon, or a ghost warbling through a ceiling fan? For supporters of bellowing Beezelbub, here’s your car: The Audi R8 Spyder 5.2 RWD. 

2021 Audi R8 Spyder RWD Review Singapore

Sadly, it’s already an endangered species. It sounds weird, given the R8 is relatively young, having only been introduced in 2006 –  compare that to Porsche’s decades of history with the 911.

We are already saying goodbye to the R8 since Audi’s performance flagship baton will now be passed onto its most powerful production car ever, the electrically-powered RS E-Tron GT, which is already in Singapore and expected to debut soon.

The Audi RS E-Tron GT takes over the halo/flagship role from the R8

Yes, gasoline engines will be around for a long time yet, but there won’t be cars like this R8 ever again. Why? It has a 5.2-litre V10 engine which sends power to the gearbox, then the rear wheels – not a single electron shuffled in between. There’s start-stop yes, but no hybrid system in sight. 

This is the second-gen R8, which debuted in 2015 and was facelifted in 2018, and this is our first (likely only) taste of it on local roads. It’s the first rear-wheel drive full-production R8, but not the first RWD R8: There was a 1,000-unit special edition RWS (Rear Wheel Series) R8 before the facelift. 

2021 Audi R8 Spyder RWD Review Singapore

This car is pretty much the same as that one, and should offer the same ‘puristic driving experience’ (German emphasis) for the lucky one in the driver’s seat. As with the RWS, ditching the all-wheel drive system makes the RWD a notable 65kg (or 1/3rd of a David Khoo) lighter. 

The R8 doesn’t look at all fossil-like in person, it simply looks meaner than ever. The facelift adds a few more creases and techno-wrinkles to the Spyder’s mien. It looks wider and meaner thanks to the enlarged grille and bigger air inlets, the new aero ‘fangs’ at the sides, while the signature R8 side ‘blade’ is in black.

Being a properly focused sports car, there’s nowhere to put your things. The frunk holds less than some motorcycles – 112-litres – and if you’re toting luggage in the cabin it’ll have to go down by your passenger’s feet. Speaking of passengers, there’s nothing for them to do either – gasoline addicts will thank Otto there is no infotainment screen at all, let alone a touch-enabled one.

All screen duties are handled by the driver’s 12.3-inch display via MMI Plus dial control system, which is only seen on the TT and Q2, now that the Q5 is facelifted. It’s capable of Android Auto and Apple CarPlay still, but Audi should just remove that functionality to emphasise the old-school cool of it all. Wireless device charging is a nice, modern touch tho.

But the pained screams of a FOMO-fied passenger denied CarPlay will be drowned out the moment you press the wheel-mounted start button: The V10 blares into life with an enormous bark, which seems louder in these times than ever, then an almost ear-splitting idle until it warms up and quietens down. 

This is as ‘monoposto’ as a two-seat sports car gets

There are drive modes of course, and in ‘Comfort’ the R8 settles down and displays the biddable side that’s made it such an effective sportscar. Ironically, driver vision is excellent, despite this being a low slung convertible, and even better than some coupe-SUVs.

2021 Audi R8 Spyder RWD Review Singapore - rear
Visibility on the R8 Spyder is excellent, even with the roof up

With the roof in place, it’s also surprisingly quiet – you won’t hear every diesel roar of a bus next to you (probably polluting more too), and talking is far from a shouting match. The R8 has sports car suspension, which is busy enough that it will discourage passengers from posting to Instagram Stories. It is still civil – you’ll bump over humps and thump into depressions a little, but it’s not an uncompromising, boneshaking ride and you won’t mind since it’s this way for a very clear reason: the thrill of driving.

Continue to Page 2: Old school wheely fun

about the author

Derryn Wong
CarBuyer's chief editor has a keen interest in all things mechanical, technological, animal and mineral. He's particularly fascinated by eco-cars and cars which make no logical sense. An avid motorcyclist and photographer, he also enjoys cats. Follow him on Instagram @werryndong