There are people at Porsche who say that Audi doesn't care about the 911. That chasing BMW's volumes rather than making 20,000 specialist sports cars a year is what captures Audi's attention.
They may be right, but even so it's uncanny how closely the specification of the new R8 Spyder, launched first in V10 form, matches that of Porsche's 911 Turbo cabriolet. And, as with the 911, Audi thinks that those who buy its fixed-head R8 probably don't fit the same profile as choosers of its soft-top supercar.
Which means, presumably, Audi has tweaked the R8 Spyder's character to suit. Quite so. At least as many R8 Spyders will be specified with the R-Tronic robotized manual gearbox as will be fitted with the 6-speed manual. Also, an extended leather package is standard and the R8 Spyder arrives with springs and dampers that are marginally softer than the coupe's, to provide a more forgiving ride.
Moreover, the Spyder carries a 220lb weight penalty over the coupe, the inevitable result of fitting it with a good-looking hood (which gives little away to the coupe in terms of refinement) and a superb mechanism that allows it to stow or raise, in 19sec, at vehicle speeds of up to 30mph.
Removing the roof, of course, isn't without compromise. And, in the R8 Spyder, you notice it within about 30 seconds, on the first occasion you meet a complex set of bumps. It's subtle and masked by a well resolved low-speed ride, but it's there all right, just like it always is: the little shimmy and flex in the chassis that tells you the front and rear axles are not conjoined by metal above your head.
Audi says the Spyder's body is only 13lbs heavier than the coupe's and that the new soft-top weighs only 93lbs – but these are slightly misleading figures on their own. At the front and rear there are underfloor plates, plastic on the coupe but aluminum here, heavier and stressed so they contribute to the structural rigidity of the Spyder. Ditto the engine cover, which, although carbon fiber, isn't without a weight penalty because it too is strong enough to enhance torsional stiffness. Overall, rigidity has fallen by 20 percent compared with the coupe.
Still, all the better to hear the engine, right? Right. Audi's decision to launch only with the V10 is understandable. If people are as desperate to buy a Spyder as Audi thinks, it might as well sell them the expensive version, so a V8 will follow only once fervor subsides.
Hood down, there's only a small amount of wind buffeting, which a deflector and glass rear window minimize further; that window can be dropped for some draft-free engine noise action.
And a lovely noise the V10 makes too: crisp, pure, powerful, with some burble allowed on the overrun and blipped down-changes by the R-Tronic transmission of our test car. That's one of the gearbox's few highlights; it's sometimes obstinate in full auto mode and smoother if you make changes yourself.
The engine itself is beyond reproach and needs no reinforcement to cope with the extra weight. As long as you spin it beyond its torque peak of 390lb-ft at 6500rpm toward the power peak of 518hp at 8,000, you'll make terrific progress; both gearboxes are good for providing 0-62mph in 4.1sec, with a top whack of 195mph.
The chassis changes have only blunted the R8's natural incisiveness a little. There's a touch less precision on turn-in, but roll rates are still low and grip levels still high. The steering has the same weight and speed as the coupe and, overall, even though we would probably prefer to drive the coupe, most of the character is still there.
In short, the dynamism has been turned down and the exoticism turned up. It's possible that only half of that is true of a soft-top 911 Turbo, which could make the R8 Spyder a more compelling proposition than its obvious rival. We'll find out soon enough.