REVIEW DATE: 14 May 2010
The R8 GT is the fastest Audi road car of all time. Steve Walker takes a look.
Some people doubted whether Audi would actually build the R8 supercar. It would take the brand into uncharted territory, not a million miles away from that already occupied by its VW Group colleague Lamborghini. Audi built it. Then people doubted whether Audi would fit the 5.2-litre V10 engine to the R8, thus giving it the power to rival the fastest sportscars on the planet. Audi fitted it. By now most people have realised futility in underestimating the scope of Audi's ambition but the announcement of the R8 GT still came as an eye-opener.
As a first attempt at a supercar, the R8 isn't half bad. It immediately put the wind up the Porsche 911 and by the time the 518bhp V10 version arrived, the Ferraris and Lamborghinis of this world were having to sleep with the light on. Now Audi has taken things to another level with the R8 GT but how do you improve on an all-wheel-drive, mid-engined V10 supercar? With Audi engineers unable to decide whether more power or less weight was the best option, they split the difference and went for both. A direct challenger to ultra-focused track-orientated models like the Porsche 911 GT3, The Lamborghjini Gallardo Superleggera and the Aston Martin V12 Vantage, this is the ultimate R8 - for the time being at least.
The standard V8 R8 is brain-meltingly fast and incredibly agile, while the V10 feels like it could come out on top in a drag race with Halley's Comet. So where does that leave the R8 GT? Well, it's powered by a modified version of the V10 engine which is basically the same as that found in the Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera but with a different exhaust system. The power output is 552bhp, 35bhp up on the standard R8 V10, and there's 540Nm maximum torque. Against the clock, the car will reach 60mph in 3.6s and will eventually hit the wall at a top speed of 199mph.
"Audi is gunning from some of the finest supercars in the world on road and track"
A strengthened version of the R-Tronic twin clutch gearbox is fitted as standard to the GT and its quattro all-wheel-drive system sends power to the wheels with a big bias towards the rear end. Under normal driving, if such a thing is possible in a car like this, 85 percent of the available torque is directed aft but as much as 30 percent can go to the front wheels if the electronics deem that necessary to maintain traction. The braking system uses the carbon ceramic discs that are optional on other R8 models as standard with special red callipers that are exclusive to this model. These discs weigh 9 kilograms less than the equivalent steel items but that's by no means the extent of the R8 GT's weight loss regime.
When elevated up amongst the elite of the supercar world, the standard R8 is a little on the portly side at 1,620kg but the GT version sheds 95kg of that bulk with various carbonfibre components, modifications to the braking system, special bucket seats, a lighter windscreen and polycarbonate replacing the glass in the rear screen. It's still heavier than a 911 GT3, a Gallardo Superleggera or a Ferrari F430 but the additional lightness is a big help in bringing an extra soupcon of insanity to the R8 GT's performance.
Other modifications to the R8 GT include a more direct power steering set-up and lower, stiffer suspension that brings the car 10mm closer to the road. The R8's distinctive looks are also upgraded by matt titanium finishes for the single frame grille and a carbon fibre rear diffuser with a double lip to increase down force. There's more carbonfibre used for the trademark sideblades which cover the large intakes ahead of the front wheels and the headlights get mean-looking dark housings. All in all, it looks like a serious supercar.
You'll need north of £140,000 to secure one of the 33 R8 GTs that will be sold in the UK and you'll probably need to be quick as Audi is predicting strong demand. Unlike some of its track-focused rivals, which really do take the whole weight loss thing to extremes and have decidedly Spartan equipment lists, the R8 GT comes with lots of stuff. Standard kit includes a DVD satellite navigation system, climate control and electric seating adjustment. An excellent Bang & Olufsen stereo packing 465 watts of music power is available as an option.
The GT model has its origins with the R8 LMS GT3 track car that Audi developed for competition use and much of the technology and modifications present on the GT are shared with that model. It's likely that many of GTs that come to the UK will get regular workouts on circuits and Audi offers a range of options including a roll bar, four-point belts and a kill switch for the battery to buyers keen to engage in a spot of motorsport.
The R8 GT is no thirstier than the R8 V10. The official fuel economy figure is a creditable 20.6mpg which, in turn, is only fractionally worse than the V8 model but if you're routinely hitting that 8,700rpm redline as every good R8 GT owner really should, returns will be a lot worse. Keeping it fuelled up will be an irrelevance for people who can afford the asking price anyway but in general terms, the R8 should be a slightly more affordable car to run than rivals with more exotic badges.
Audi is gunning from some of the finest supercars in the world on road and track with its R8 GT. More power, less weight and a whole bundle of added aggression is the basic recipe and it elevates Audi to the level of Ferraris, Lamborghinis and top-end Porsche 911s. With 552bhp and a 3.6s 0-60mph time, this hardcore version of Audi's four-wheel-drive, mid-engined supercar won't be embarrassed in that company either.
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|OVERALL||8.2 OUT OF 10|
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