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First Drive: Audi R8 GT. Image by Max Earey.

First Drive: Audi R8 GT
Harder, faster, lighter Audi R8 GT will be limited to just 33 cars in the UK. Those buyers are unlikely to be disappointed.

 



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| First Drive | Blyton Park, Gainsborough, England | Audi R8 GT |

Overall rating: 4 4 4 4 4

The R8 is a pretty tremendous car in either 4.2-litre V8 or 5.2-litre V10 guise, but Audi's customers wanted more. The R8 GT is the company's response. It's lighter by 100kg and some engine tweaks have liberated 34bhp and 9lb.ft of torque, allowing the GT to reach 62mph in just 3.6 seconds. With its quoted speed of 199mph it's the fastest production Audi ever too, though just a handful of buyers will ever drive it - just 333 being built worldwide. Only 33 are earmarked for British buyers.

Key Facts

Pricing: 144,000
Engine: 5.2-litre V10 petrol
Transmission: six-speed R tronic automatic, four-wheel drive
Body style: supercar
Rivals: Porsche 911 GT3 RS 4.0, BMW M3 GTS, Ferrari 458 Italia
CO2 emissions: 327g/km
Combined economy: 20.6mpg
Top speed: 199mph
0-62mph: 3.6 seconds
Power: 552bhp at 8,000rpm
Torque: 398lb.ft at 6,500rpm

In the Metal: 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5

The GT is an R8 with attitude. Sitting lower by around 10mm all-round there are more obvious visual clues to the R8 GT's more hardcore nature. Air flicks in advance of the front wheels aid front end stability, while a fixed spoiler (in carbon) pushes the rear to the road. Audi's even gone to the trouble of fitting smaller mirrors, while ceramic brakes are standard. It's the changes you can't see that really make the difference. A thinner windscreen, carbon-reinforced plastic panels where possible, and lighter sheet metal help drop the weight by 100kg overall. The brakes, battery and engine compartment have all been to fat-fighters - the engine bay losing some sound-deadening in the process, too. No bad thing.

Inside it's more of the same, with the biggest savings undoubtedly down to the fitting of lightweight bucket seats. They alone are responsible for 31- of the 100kg lost from the GT's waistline. Thinner carpets also help. This car loses some of its lightweight credibility when you opt for the backlit R8 GT logos in the sills; they're likely to have added back some weight, while removing 1,990 from your wallet. Ouch.

Driving it: 4 4 4 4 4

There's more sound from behind you, though you wouldn't describe it as noise, as it's an enjoyable timbre entering the cabin. Otherwise it's all fairly familiar; it's disappointing that Audi's most driver-focused R8 does without the brushed metal open gate and stick of the six-speed manual. No click-clack shifting here, just a pair of too-small paddles to swap the clumsy R tronic's six ratios with. If Audi insists on R tronic only those paddles really need to be about six inches long to cover a greater percentage of the wheel's circumference for a more authentic motorsport feel. And crucially, a bigger area to reach for another cog with the engine so adeptly devouring each ratio it's fed.

New tarmac at Blyton Park circuit reveals little as to how the GT might ride on the road with its revised suspension. There are camber changes, while the steering ratio has been altered for greater alertness and precision. The extra power's not immediately obvious either, though that's as much a nod to the standard V10's epic pace as it is a result of few marker points around Blyton's flat circuit. The steering's more alert, but the nose isn't keen to tuck in initially, the front washing out as you push through corners. It's still four-wheel drive, with the majority of torque diverted to the rear and a limited slip differential is standard, so it's possible to monster it into a more neutral stance, with power oversteer also available. It needs provoking though, and the grip is so high you need to be quick and skilled to hold the resultant slide.

It takes a few laps to get into a rhythm; the brakes are strong but the gearshift is frustratingly slow and clumsy on upshifts. Downshifts are quick and accompanied by the rousing flare of the 5.2-litre V10 behind your head. It'd be way more fun with a manual, with your feet rather than electronics blipping the throttle. That's perhaps the GT's biggest failing, and one carried over from the standard cars - the R tronic not being quick or slick enough for the rest of the car.

That's an issue in a car aimed at serious drivers. A 911 GT3 RS driver will have way more fun simply down to the interaction of the manual transmission - as well as the Porsche's sharper steering. The GT merely feels like a faster R8, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it perhaps needs to be a bit more special to justify its 28,000 leap in price. Bin a pair of half-shafts and pop a manual in it, we say. If Lamborghini can do it with the Balboni Gallardo...

What you get for your Money: 3 3 3 3 3

Exclusivity. Only 333 are being built and just 10% of them are coming to the UK. It's the ultimate Audi R8, but you pay a hefty price. As specified the car you see here costs 159,315. That's near Ferrari 458 Italia money - admittedly before you dip into the red car's options list.

Worth Noting

No magnetic dampers here, just a standard suspension set up that's tuned for high performance work. You can have a cage and multi-point race harnesses, but don't, as you'll only look silly.

Summary

As every single R8 GT is already sold it's difficult to say that Audi has got the formula wrong. In many respects it hasn't, as it's the fastest, sharpest R8 it's built for the road. Whether it's special enough to justify the hefty increase in price is debateable, as a standard R8 V10 is unlikely to disappoint all but wealthy Audi UK completests who want the kudos of being one of 33.


Kyle Fortune. Photography by Max Earey. - 29 Jul 2011









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2011 Audi R8 GT. Image by Max Earey.2011 Audi R8 GT. Image by Max Earey.2011 Audi R8 GT. Image by Max Earey.2011 Audi R8 GT. Image by Max Earey.2011 Audi R8 GT. Image by Max Earey.

2011 Audi R8 GT. Image by Max Earey.2011 Audi R8 GT. Image by Max Earey.2011 Audi R8 GT. Image by Max Earey.2011 Audi R8 GT. Image by Max Earey.2011 Audi R8 GT. Image by Max Earey.



2011 Audi R8 GT. Image by Max Earey.
 

2011 Audi R8 GT. Image by Max Earey.
 

2011 Audi R8 GT. Image by Max Earey.
 

2011 Audi R8 GT. Image by Max Earey.
 

2011 Audi R8 GT. Image by Max Earey.
 

2011 Audi R8 GT. Image by Max Earey.
 

2011 Audi R8 GT. Image by Max Earey.
 






 

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