What is it?
The fastest and potentially most hair-raising version of the Audi’s mid-engined supercar: this is the new R8 GT.
Ever since it scooped our Best Handling Car gong in 2007, it’s been obvious to all and sundry at Autocar how spectacular a track-focussed version of the beautifully benign Audi R8 might be. And although it’s taken three years, Audi’s finally crumbled under the pressure of requests from R8 devotees and is making one.
The R8 GT takes all the lessons that Audi’s performance specialists at Quattro GmbH have learned running the motorsport-compliant R8 LMS cup car, and manifests them in a road-legal track car based on the already brilliant R8 V10. All of which means that this thing could be one of the best sports cars of the last five years.
What’s it like?
The 552bhp, 398lb ft, 5.2-litre V10 engine in this car is just the beginning of its performance makeover. Versus a regular V10, it’s got lightweight bucket seats, polycarbonate and extra-thin glass where there used to be the regular stuff, and various carbonfibre, magnesium and lightweight aluminium body components.
The GT’s rear hatch, made of CFRP, saves 6.6kg versus the standard R8 V10. The CFRP rear bumper and sideblades represent savings of 5.2kg and 1.5kg. The fixed CFRP rear wing is good for a 1.2kg saving, and the aluminium bonnet is thinner and saves 2.6kg. A lighter braking system and battery, lighter air intakes, and the removal of the engine compartment’s sound deadening save an additional 19.5kg, and add up to a total saving of 100kg against the ‘regular’ 301bhp-per-tonne car; the GT packs 362bhp-per-tonne.
Aside from the weight reductions, the R8 GT’s lower ride height and stiffer springs and dampers bring it extra track suitability, as does Audi’s optional race package, which includes a rollover bar, four-point harnesses, a fire extinguisher and a battery kill switch.
There isn’t much added drama about the noise the R8 GT makes. Thumbing the starter button produces an idle that’s no louder than a regular R8 V10’s, perhaps in response to customers worried about circuit noise regulations.
The car’s only available with Audi’s automated manual R-tronic gearbox, so you throw the level into manual mode for the most direct control over proceedings.
Audi’s claim for the GT is that it’s three tenths quicker than the V10 to 62mph, taking 3.6 seconds for the dash; it certainly feels faster, mostly in the farthest 3000rpm of the engine’s rev range. But the main difference you feel driving the GT is the benefit of its stiffer structure and firmer chassis, which grants you even more grip and a more precise choice of line through fast driven corners.
Even with its standard limited slip differential on the rear axle, the GT remains a very easy car to drive fast. It’s also still a moderately comfortable one over bumps, although there’s even greater damper control available via the fully adjustable coilover suspension.
Should I buy one?
If you’re an R8 convert, you can afford it and you’ve already got a place in the queue, without question yes. If not you’ll struggle, because only 33 of these cars will come to the UK, and all are accounted for with interest to spare. And we thought £142k might be too much to ask for an Audi…
Even this most hardcore R8 still seems to lack something, though: that ultimate purist’s sense of occasion, perhaps. It doesn’t have the really hardcore dynamic temperament of a truly focussed circuit special like a Porsche 911 GT3 RS. It’s almost too easy to exploit on the limit; too approachable. Some would say that it doesn’t offer enough of a challenge to really accomplished drivers.
But then again, if those are the biggest criticisms we can level at the R8 GT, Audi can surely consider it a roaring success. It is a very fast and capable circuit car with handling that’s at once immediately responsive and yet still flattering and benign. Few other cars like it offer up their performance abilities so squarely and unequivocally.
Audi R8 GT
Price: £142,585; Top speed: 199mph; 0-62mph: 3.6sec; Engine, type, cc: V10, petrol, 5204cc; Power: 552bhp at 8000rpm; Torque: 398lb ft at 6500rpm; Kerb weight: 1525kg; Economy: 20.6mpg; CO2: 323g/km; Gearbox: 6spd robotised manual