NEW YORK – Audi of the Americas President, Scott Keogh, strode onto the New York stage to the beat of Bowie’s “Starman”, the theme song for the company’s popular Super Bowl ad.

“We’re shooting for the moon,” said Keogh, noting that Audi’s birthdate coincided with 1969’s lunar landing. With 12 new models under development, 25 percent of which will feature some form of electrification, Audi apparently has no intention of resting on their sixty-consecutive-month-sales-growth laurels.

They credit the explosive growth in their R, and RS models to the R8, the car they claimed put Audi on the map by revolutionizing the luxury performance segment and pioneering the LED headlights that are now standard across the industry.

“There’s no ceiling on performance,” said Keogh. “And sometimes there’s no roof either.”

With that, the cloth was swept away to reveal the latest addition to the R8 lineup – the 2017 Audi R8 V10 Spyder.

The convertible variant of Audi’s R8 super car offers nearly the same performance as its hard top sibling – yet offers the added allure of open-air cruising.

At 1,612 kg, the new R8 Spyder is slightly heavier than its hard-top counterpart, but 15 percent lighter than the previous Spyder thanks to the latest version of Audi’s Space Frame chassis. The lightweight design’s extensive use of aluminum and carbon fibre not only helps reduce weight, but gives a 40 percent increase in rigidity.

The R8 Spyder is powered by the same naturally aspirated, 5.2L V10 as the coupe, producing 540 hp and 398 lb-ft of torque. This is virtually the same engine as in the R8 LMS race car that won the 24 Hours of Rolex – in fact the Audi R8 V10s share 50 percent of the same parts as the track car.

As with the coupe, there’s no manual gearbox offered with the Spyder. Instead, the V10 engines sends power to all four wheels via a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic But this drivetrain propels the Spyder from 0 to 100 km/h in 3.6 seconds and the car has a top speed of nearly 200 mph (320 km/h).

The driver can toggle between four different drive modes: Comfort, Dynamic, Performance and Individual depending on road conditions and the driver’s mood. Comfort features a fuel-saving function that decouples the driveline when the driver lifts off the throttle at speeds over 55 km/h.

The cloth roof weighs a scant 45 kg, and can be opened or closed in just 20 seconds at speeds up to 50 km/hr. It’s stowed neatly beneath a hard tonneau.

The cabin features a second generation “Virtual Cockpit” – Audi’s 12.3-inch high-definition colour display that originally debuted with the TT. Standard are 18-way power seats with Nappa leather, and a 550 watt, 13-speaker Bang & Olufsen Sound System.

Rumour has it that a more potent, 601 hp version of the R8 V10 plus is under development, and if that’s the case, it’s reasonable to expect it may eventually appear in the Spyder too.

The 2017 R8 Spyder will be produced in Neckarsulm, Germany, with pricing and release date to come later.

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