Improving on the standard R8 V10 coupe is no small task, but Audi has done it. With more power and less weight, the GT has sharper reactions and a greater sense of drama. Yet this isn’t at the expense of usability – after all, this is a road car, not a racer. You’ll find plenty of creature comforts, and the ride makes rivals seem unnecessarily harsh. There is only one downside to the R8 GT: all 33 UK-bound examples are already sold.
The Audi R8
has never been short on performance; even the ‘entry-level’ V8 coupe has 424bhp at its disposal. But that hasn’t stopped Audi from taking the world’s best all-round supercar to the limit – and we’ve had the chance to drive it on the track.
Video: watch part one of our video review of the Audi R8 GT
The R8 GT represents the pinnacle of the German firm’s range. It’s lighter, stiffer and more powerful than the V10 coupe on which it’s based. Taking lessons learned from the R8 LMS race car, 100kg has been stripped from the kerbweight, and the attention to detail is incredible.
Thinner glass in the windscreen saves 9kg, while the engine bay cover is made from polycarbonate. A healthy sprinkling of carbon fibre-reinforced plastic, used for the bumpers, side blades and rear bonnet, cuts another 13kg. Carbon-ceramic brakes, a smaller battery, bucket seats and lightweight carpeting take care of the rest.
Car group tests
Used car tests
With the total weight tumbling to 1,525kg, Audi could have kept the same 518bhp V10 and performance would have leapt. However, 34bhp has been added, boosting the total to 552bhp and cutting the 0-62mph time by three tenths to 3.6 seconds. Where conditions permit, 0-124mph takes only 10.8 seconds and the maximum speed is 199mph – making this Audi’s fastest road car ever.
Unlike hardcore Porsches such as the 911 GT3 RS, where the air-con and stereo have been sacrificed to shed every possible gram from the kerbweight, the R8 GT keeps creature comforts such as sat-nav, climate control and electric windows. So, has Audi made it too soft? No!
Twist the key and the V10 barks into life. Tickle the throttle and the car creeps forward smoothly and quietly, with no sign of the drama that’s about to unfold. After two restrained warm-up laps, we finally give it full throttle and the engine note takes on a much harder, metallic blare, screeching its way to beyond 8,000rpm and pinning us back in the seat. This is noticeably faster than any other R8, and in slippery conditions would show rear-wheel-drive rivals such as the Ferrari 458
Italia a clean pair of heels.
The R tronic sequential manual gearbox is a generation behind the super-slick twin-clutch box in the 458, yet that is not to say it’s slow. Full-bore upshifts take a tenth of a second, but the price you pay is jerkiness at low speeds.
From the first corner it’s clear that the GT’s handling is even more impressive. The lower weight allows the car to change direction in an instant, and the steering is light but direct, so the front end can be placed with precision. While the suspension has been lowered and given fixed-rate dampers, it’s perfectly judged, keeping the car flat and stable in bends and ensuring the ride remains exceptional.
Carry plenty of speed into a corner, and the GT simply digs in where lesser models would be getting out of shape. But if you prefer to slide around, the Audi is happy to oblige. With 85 per cent of the power being delivered to the rear tyres, and with the ESP in Sport mode or switched off completely, it feels very much like a rear-wheel-drive car when provoked.
What makes this model so remarkable is its everyday usability, and the way it feels so special at the same time. While the GT hasn’t lost sight of this philosophy, it’s sharpened the dynamics and upped the pace – and is the king of the R8 range.