Audi has dabbled with lighter and more focused R8s before, from the original GT of 2011 to the V10 Plus, together with a brace of rear-drive models. Only now, however, has Audi decided to go all-in on a proper R8 road racer, just as the end of production looms. Better late than never, eh? It is in that spirit that we welcome the second Audi R8 GT to the fold.
As with the 2011 version, power is up, weight is down and the intent is plain to see. But there’s cause to be an awful lot more excited about this R8 GT than the last one. While that had to make do with the nasty R Tronic gearbox and quattro, this one is rear-wheel drive and comes with the much slicker transmission gifted to every second-generation R8. Oh yeah, and it has 620hp.
Previously the RWD model has been pegged back against the quattros (i.e. the 540hp, limited edition RWS and 570hp RWD) for one reason or another. Well, no longer. For this 333-unit valedictory special, the ‘goodbye to the V10 engine’, no less, the rear-drive Audi R8 gets more power than the equivalent Lamborghini Huracan. (Just 10hp difference, but still.) The 620 figure is a nice, round 200hp more than the R8 V8 launched with a decade and a half ago, matches the Ferrari Roma and means almost 100hp more than even a 911 GT3 RS.
That Porsche comparison is valid, too. Revs for peak power haven’t yet been released for the GT, but we know it’ll go all the way to 8,700rpm, just 300rpm shy of the 911. And it’s got to be a dead heat for sound; both 4.0-litre flat six and 5.2-litre V10 will be remembered as two of the great combustion engines. Torque is 416lb ft at 6,400-7,000rpm, numbers we’re never going to see produced by an R8 (or any attainable car, most likely) ever again.
Additionally, Audi claims 0-62mph in 3.4 seconds and 124mph in 10.1, with the Porsche recording 3.2 and 10.6 for the same benchmarks. The R8 GT should hit 199mph, and Audi has even gone to the effort of fitting this limited edition car with a new DCT. More than likely it’s an overhaul of the existing (very good) gearbox already there. Either way, even faster shift times are promised, along with ‘even more impressive acceleration in all gears’ thanks to altered ratios.
The GT3 RS comparison extends to the chassis overhaul as well, the R8 GT benefitting from something Audi is calling a ‘Torque Rear Drive mode’ that promises – get this – ‘controlled and simultaneously precise oversteering’. It sounds a lot like the BMW M Traction Control and the AMG traction control seen over the past few years, with varying levels of intervention available for those eager to explore the limits of a 620hp, rear-wheel-drive, mid-engined Audi. There are seven stages, from ‘little slippage’ permitted at level 1 to ‘a lot of slippage’ at level 7, selectable via the steering wheel dial. Presumably, too, it can eventually go all the way off for, er, maximum slippage.
The GT is lighter than a conventional R8, too, thanks to the forged wheels subtracting 20kg of unsprung weight. It’s still no true lightweight at 1,570kg (the Porsche is 1,450kg), though it’s of course nice to see the effort made – Audi could just as well have put the plaque on a few RWDs and sold them out as the last of the breed. The GT makeover extends further, in fact, to include standard ceramic brakes, buckets seats (that might finally provide a good driving position in an R8) and ‘performance sports suspension’ with CFRP anti-roll bars. Buyers will also be given the option of Michelin Cup 2 tyres and manually-adjustable coilover suspension. The aerokit is standard fit for 333 of them, though, comprised of the splitter, flics, side skirt covers, rear bumper, diffuser and gooseneck wing.
Sounds pretty great, right? If nothing else, Audi seems intent on the R8 bowing out in a blaze of revs and oversteer, which cuts against the grain a bit – but could well produce the most likeable second-generation car yet. The GT will be available at dealerships from 2023, though there’s only a price in euros for now: €225,000, or £198,000. No word on a UK allocation just yet; if it follows the original then just 33 will be coming here, expect an orderly queue to form instantly.