While convertibles typically aren’t the first choice of most car enthusiasts, dropping the top can add much more drama and excitement to a supercar. It’s for precisely that reason that the Audi R8 V10 Spyder is so exciting and desirable, even if it’s a bit slower than its coupe sibling. But it isn’t the only convertible sports car in its class, as the Porsche 911 Turbo Cabriolet is also a sensational drop-top supercar. So which one is better? Motor Trend finds out in this new Head2Head video.
Despite both cars having drop-top roofs and all-wheel drive, they couldn’t be more different. The Audi R8 has a naturally-aspirated V10 engine that makes 540 hp and 398 lb-ft of torque. That engine is mounted in between the axles, making it mid-engine. While the Porsche 911 Turbo has a twin-turbocharged flat-six engine that makes 540 hp and 486 lb-ft of torque. Whereas the Audi’s engine is mounted in the middle, the 911’s engine is mounted at the rear. The Porsche is also lighter, weighing in at 3,619 lbs, compared to the Audi R8’s 3,918 lbs. Although, the Audi R8 has a better weight distribution, thanks to its engine being in the middle, rather than out back.
But specs and performance figures aren’t really what these two cars are about. If you really wanted the absolute most powerful and fastest car in the segment, you wouldn’t buy a convertible. These cars are about real-world driving on real-world roads.
Pro racing driver Randy Pobst takes the wheel of the Porsche on some twisty California canyon roads. There, the 911 shines as a smooth, comfortable, predictable and very fast car. Pobst has a lot of confidence in the way the Porsche handles, in how much grip it has and he really likes how powerful it is. What’s surprising is how calm it is, though. MT’s Johnny Lieberman compares it to a Baby Bentley. It’s so smooth and comfortable that it actually lacks excitement. And its engine, thanks to two turbochargers, sounds a bit bland for a Porsche. So while it’s a great overall car, it’s lacking some of that excitement and thrill factor that you’d want from a convertible supercar.
In the Audi, things are exactly the opposite. It’s not nearly as predictable or as calm as the Porsche. Its suspension is comfortable and it’s wonderfully damped, thanks to its magnetic shocks, but it’s a bit looser and more keen to oversteer than the Porsche. However, that makes it more exciting, more thrilling and it really is a great handling car. But the entire experience is dominated by its noise. The naturally-aspirated V10 screaming behind your head is the stuff of automotive dreams and it’s the sort of thing that will make buyers remember it for years to come. Pobst has some issues with its gearbox, a seven-speed S-Tronic unit, which he feels isn’t programmed as well as it is in the “Plus” variant of the R8.
After a drive on the road, they take both cars to Willow Springs race track to see how they really handle with stability control off and at the limit. On track, the Porsche is impressive, despite being a comfortable cruising convertible on the road. Its chassis and suspension are predictable and its fat torque curve, thanks to its turbos, make it very fast. While the Audi R8 isn’t as great on track, where its suspension is a bit too soft and its gearbox just is never in the right gear. It also is a bit loose on corner entry, so the back end wants to step out and then it wants to oversteer even more on power exit.
In the end, the Porsche 911 Turbo Cabriolet crushed the Audi R8 V10 Spyder on the track, by about 2.5 seconds. However, MT deems the Audi R8 V10 Spyder the winner of the test for the simple fact that it’s far more thrilling and rewarding to drive. While the Porsche is great and surprisingly good on the track, you don’t buy a convertible to hit the track. You buy a convertible to thrill you on the road and the Audi R8 V10 Spyder does that better than the Porsche.