This is very much a comparison of past versus future. Both of these cars represent the best of where they come from. The BMW i8 Roadster is the convertible supercar that showcases just how bright the future of cars is. However, the Audi R8 V10 Spyder is also a convertible supercar but one that represents the best of where we came from. They’re both also around the same price, at least once you get into that pricing territory, with the i8 Roadster starting at $163,000 and the Audi R8 V10 Spyder starting at $177,000. So which one would you rather buy, the future or the past?
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Let’s start with specs. The BMW i8 Roadster is a mid-engine plug-in hybrid supercar. It has a carbon fiber passenger cell, like an F1 car, and lightweight thermoplastic body panels. Its powertrain consists of a 1.5 liter turbocharged three-cylinder engine and an electric motor mated to a six-speed automatic gearbox that power the rear wheels and makes 228 hp and 236 lb-ft of torque. While an additional electric motor powers the front wheels, to give it true, real-time torque vectoring all-wheel drive, and makes an additional 141 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque. The i8 Roadster get nail 60 mph in the high three-second — low four-second range. So it’s properly quick.
As for the Audi R8 V0 Spyder, we’re talking about the standard version, not the more potent ‘V10 Plus’ version. So that sports a mid-engine, naturally-aspirated 5.2 liter V10 that makes 540 hp and 398 lb-ft of torque. That V10 breathes free without any fancy turbochargers and screams to 8,250 rpm. It’s a proper engine. That wonderful engine is paired with a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox and powers all four wheels, via Quattro all-wheel drive. The R8 V10 Spyder can nail 60 mph in about 3.2 seconds, so it’s a bit quicker than the i8 Roadster. It also has a much higher top speed of 198 mph, while the i8 Roadster can only do 155 mph.
As far as looks, the BMW i8 Roadster is certainly the high-tech, futuristic looking car of the two. It’s a stunning machine that looks like it came form the year 2055. While the Audi R8 Spyder is more of a traditional mid-engine supercar in its styling. It’s a great looking car but it’s a bit reserved by supercar standards. It’s hard to choose between these two because they’re both stunning cars. I think it would depend on the day for me. If I wanted to cruise more and go in style, I’d take the BMW i8 Roadster. If I wanted a serious driving machine with a bit more thrills, I’d take the R8 Spyder.
On the inside, these two cars are oddly revered. It’s the BMW i8 Roadster that has the more traditional car interior, one that’s more subdued. While the Audi R8 V10 Spyder has the more high-tech looking cabin. The Audi’s Virtual Cockpit is more techy and stylish that the i8’s gauges and its interior overall just seems a bit more techy than the i8’s. It also seems a bit more special, with its diamond quilted leather seats. Having said that, the i8 Roadster does have a really nice interior, especially with the orange highlights.
Choosing between these two is really choosing between two philosophical differences. The BMW i8 Roadster is a car for the trend-setter, the person who wants something that plows forward, something unique and forward thinking. While the Audi R8 V10 Spyder is for someone who wants something purer, more visceral. They want to feel the speed and performance through their hands, feet and butt and hear that spine-tingling, free-breathing V10.
I’ve driven neither, so I can’t personally say which is better. Our own Horatiu has driven both and says it’s too hard to choose because they’re both so different. The BMW i8 Roadster is a supercar for the mind, as it engages the question of what a supercar is to become. The Audi R8 Spyder is a car for the heart, as it engages the inner enthusiast and is a highlight reel of where we’ve been. Which do you buy? Simply put, whichever one excites you more.