Since 2006, the R8 has been the top dog in Audi’s performance lineup. Powered by a 5.2-liter V-10 shared with its Italian corporate cousin the Lamborghini Huracan, the R8 has remained one of the most enjoyable and livable supercars available on the market today. After a decade and a half, it’s time to say goodbye to the venerable V-10, but Audi’s top brass weren’t about to send it off to the dustbin of history without a proper farewell. So let’s welcome the limited-edition R8 GT — the alpha amongst the top dogs.
Full Disclosure: Audi wanted me to test the R8 GT so badly, the company flew me to Seville, Spain, which was much warmer than my home in Colorado, and let me loose on the local race track to burn through a bunch of tires for the day.
Limited to 333 units worldwide — sequentially numbered with a medallion on the shift knob, of course; only 150 examples will come to the U.S. — the R8 GT is hand-assembled at the Böllinger Höfe factory, which just happens to be the same line that produces Audi’s fierce R8 LMS race car. Coincidence? I think not. Audi wants to make sure the last of the V-10s is remembered for being the closest thing to a street-going race car the brand has ever produced.
The heart of the R8 GT is, of course, the 5.2 liter V-10, the same engine that powered the R8 V-10 Performance RWD. That car put out a healthy 562 hp. Moving up to the R8 GT nets you a substantial 40-hp gain, bumping the output to 602 hp and 413 lb-ft of torque, making this the most powerful rear-wheel-drive car Audi has ever produced.
The V-10 puts it power to the ground via a new 7-speed dual-clutch transmission. Not only are the shift times improved over the standard car’s gearbox, but the individual gear ratios have been shortened to improve acceleration in every gear.
Assisting in the acceleration department, Audi’s engineers looked for every way possible to shave weight from the car. Weight-saving measures include GT3 race car-inspired lightweight forged wheels, standard carbon-ceramic brakes, lightweight bucket seats, and sport suspension featuring a carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic anti-roll bar. These measures result in an overall net savings of 55 pounds, dropping the curb weight down to 3,516 pounds.
More power, quicker shifts and lighter weight together mean the new R8 GT storms to 60 mph in 3.3 seconds with a top speed of 199 mph.
The R8 GT has as much power as the fastest all-wheel-drive R8, but sends all of it to the rear axle alone. To control all that power — or extract maximum fun from those horses — Audi equipped the R8 GT with Torque Rear mode.
A knob on the steering wheel lets you select from seven traction-control settings. Level 1 allows barely any slippage, while Level 7 lets you indulge in extravagant tire punishment. This function also lets you adapt to the car, and its intense power output, as your familiarity, road conditions, and driving skills develop.
Clearly Audi expects these cars to be driven hard. All that power needs some control, and Audi engineers were happy to oblige. The GT comes with a carbon-fiber aero kit fitted as standard, including a front splitter, front bumper dive planes, side skirt covers, airflow controlling side elements on the rear bumper, a diffuser, and a rear wing with motorsport inspired gooseneck mounts to maintain optimum airflow.
Like I said, Audi’s engineers expected these cars to be driven hard, and I didn’t want to disappoint them. Which is how our group of journalists found ourselves at the Circuito Monteblanco, a great little test track just outside Seville, Spain.
Monteblanco has one of the highest FIA rating of any track in Europe (FIA T1 / F2), meaning it’s approved to host everything including Formula 1 testing. It’s a mix of high-speed sweepers and low-speed hairpins that test the mettle of even the best race cars, exposing flaws that might otherwise remain hidden on a lesser track.
Making things even tougher for the R8 GT was the light rain that made an unexpected appearance just before we were to take to the track. Fortunately our first few out-laps were lead-follows behind one of Audi’s test drivers, allowing us to get a feel for the track’s grip level and the car’s balance. Power in excess of 600 horses on a slippery track is not the most confidence inspiring thing — for us drivers or the assembled Audi brass alike.
There needn’t have been any concern, because as powerful at the GT is, it’s also one of the most accessible supercars I’ve ever driven. You would expect it to be a handful trying to put that much power down in damp conditions, but Audi’s engineers got it very right with the GT, allowing me to push harder and harder on a track that was never fully dry.
Fortunately, we were able to sneak in another session toward the end of the day, when the track had completely dried out, allowing me to really start testing the limits of the car. And those limits are very, very high.
With Torque Rear mode in Level 1, the car allows for very little wheelspin, basically saving you from doing anything silly. Level 7 basically says “you’re on your own, good luck,” giving you the ability to get very sideways without any electronic intervention.
Regardless of which level you choose, you can still spin the car (it’s got 600-plus horses after all), but the system does a good job of giving the nut behind the wheel a good margin to play with before things get too sideways.
The 2023 R8 GT pays tribute to the original 2012 R8 GT via a black interior with red highlights and special embroidery on the seats. The new R8 GT is only available in three colors here in the US: Tango red, Daytona gray, and Mythos black. In total, just 150 examples will be shipped to the US, 50 in each of those paint colors; unfortunately, the Suzuka gray matte paint on the media test cars won’t be available here, but US buyers do get one bonus: Sport exhaust, which is louder than what’s available on the Euro-market car due to Europe’s more stringent regulations. Additional standard equipment includes laser headlights; carbon-fiber mirrors, side blades, and door sills; dynamic steering; a Bang & Olufsen sound system; and a diamond-stitched headliner.
The R8 has always been one of the most usable cars in its category. It’s one of the few supercars you could daily drive without sacrifice. The GT edition will be a rarity no matter where you are in the world, and at a shade over $250,000, it’s more than $90,000 more expensive than a base-model rear-drive R8.
But the magic is in the details. The R8 GT takes the performance up several notches, but never loses the approachability and usability that have always been this car’s signature. It’s the alpha dog of Audi’s lineup, and it’s got a big bark, but it never wants to bite. It’s a very fitting sendoff for the R8 line, and the lucky few who to get to own one will hopefully take the time to experience this car doing what it does best.