The most extreme version of Audi's supercar has more power and less weight. But can it be worth £144,000?
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The GT has more power and less weight than lesser R8 versions
7:30AM BST 28 Aug 2011
The sum of £144,000 will buy you a lot of metal at your local Audi dealership. You could have, for example, an A3, A4, A5, A6 and A7. Alternatively, you could buy just one R8 GT, the most expensive Audi production car there has ever been. Or rather you couldn't, because all 33 that are coming to the UK have already been sold.
So, that takes care of the issue of whether an Audi can ever be worth £144,000. The question now is, what exactly do you get for that six-figure sum?
"More power, less weight" sums it up. Based on the R8 V10, the GT has revised engine management software to produce 552bhp from 5.2 litres, an increase of 34bhp delivered at 8,000rpm. Torque is up by 9lb ft to 398lb ft at 6,500rpm, all sent via Audi's quattro all-wheel drive system.
Weight-saving measures include lightweight bucket seats (31.5 kilos lighter in total), fitting a carbon-fibre reinforced plastic engine cover, rear bumper and sideblades (6.6kg, 5.2kg and 1.5kg lighter respectively), a smaller battery (less 9.4kg), lightweight carpets (7.9kg), thinner windscreen plus polycarbonate rear windows and screen (9kg), as well as an aluminium bonnet (2.6kg). Replacing the electric rear spoiler with a fixed item saves another 1.2kg.
This little lot adds up to 77.7kg, which must mean that I've missed a few things, because Audi says that the GT is 100kg lighter than a standard V10 coupé. That equates to a kerb weight of 1,525kg, a power-to-weight ratio of 362bhp per ton, 0-62mph in 3.6secs, 0-124mph in 10.8secs and a top speed of 199mph. This, then, is an extremely fast car, a point made all the more vivid by that extra horsepower being delivered right at the top of the rev range.
Don't for a second let the Audi badge kid you: this is a fully fledged supercar with the towering performance and soundtrack to match.
There is, however, a problem. Those 33 cars destined for the UK are part of a worldwide run of 333, each and every one of which is only available with Audi's six-speed R-tronic robotised manual gearbox.
Gone is the wonderful click-clack of the R8's standard open-gate manual set-up, replaced by a paddle-shift system that slurs its way through changes in a most unsupercar-like manner.
Salvation, as is so often the case these days, comes in the form of a Sport button. Here it sharpens throttle response and speeds up gearshifts. The more revs you use, the better the gearbox gets, but it's still some way off the standards of a Ferrari 458 Italia, or an Audi A1 for that matter.
Unlike lesser R8s, the Sport button makes no difference to the car's suspension, which in the case of the GT takes the form of adjustable coilovers. Adjustable, yes, but you'll have to do it by hand. As a result of the fixed-rate damping, the ride comfort has suffered, which might sound an odd complaint to make of such an obviously track-biased car, but one of the R8's many joys has always been its broad spread of talents. As the ultimate usable supercar it is as comfortable in city traffic as it is stringing together switchbacks on the Stelvio.
If a bit of the ride comfort has been sacrificed, the compensation comes with stupendous handling. As well as fitting that track-oriented suspension, Audi has sharpened the steering of the GT and altered the thresholds of the ESP system. And while it might be four-wheel drive, don't for a second think that means all grip and no fun. With just 15 per cent of the engine's power delivered to the front wheels in normal operation the R8 feels, to all intents and purposes, like a rear-wheel-drive car.
Trail the brakes into a corner or be aggressive with the throttle and you can provoke the GT into all manner of silly cornering angles. Unless you really overcook it, the quattro system will choose the opportune moment at which to direct up to 30 per cent of power to the front wheels to help drag you back onto the straight and narrow.
So, will those 33 UK customers be disappointed? Probably not, but consider this: with a manual gearbox the entry level, V8-powered R8 is a solid five-star car and costs "just" £86,885. It's not the price of the GT that robs it of a fifth star; that dubious honour goes to the gearbox. What is an extremely good car could have been sensational.
5,204cc V10 petrol engine, six-speed robotised manual gearbox, quattro all-wheel drive
552bhp @ 8,000rpm/ 398lb ft @ 6,500rpm
0-62mph in 3.6sec
20.3mpg (EU Combined)
M (£1,000 first year, £460 a year thereafter)
An extremely good supercar with a disappointing gearbox. The V8 does it all just as well