Audi R8 V10 GT RWD
The V10-engined R8 is nearing the end of the road. Cue the most driver-focused version yet
WE SEEM TO BE DOING A LOT OF THESE LAUNCHES LATELY. Farewells, that is. Be it to some of our favourite sporting models, or the engines that power them. In the case of the R8, this isn’t a goodbye (yet) to Audi’s mid-engined supercar, but it is a somewhat melancholy adieu to the howling 5.2-litre V10 seen in the back (and front) of numerous quick Audis since 2006.
With time running out for the ten-cylinder engine, the new V10 GT RWD is Audi Sport’s last hurrah. Limited to 333 individually numbered units worldwide (15 of which will come to the UK) and priced at c£200,000, it’s a lighter, more powerful, more focused model with sharpened responses and track-honed options aimed at elevating the R8 driving experience to a whole new level. Sounds like a similar recipe to that used by Porsche’s GT department; whether it brings 911 GT3 levels of enjoyment to the R8 is what we’ve come to find out.
First the basic stats and hardware changes. For the first time, Audi has given the rear-wheel-drive R8 the same power as the all-wheeldrive version: 611bhp at 8000rpm to be precise. There’s slightly less torque (411lb ft, down from 428lb ft), but it arrives 200rpm earlier and holds until 7000rpm. There are shorter ratios for the seven-speed DSG gearbox, which clip 6mph from the top speed (now 199mph) but promise to keep the V10 fires stoked for maximum in-gear punch.
Chassis-wise there’s a choice of standard-fit passive dampers or an optional manually adjustable coilover set-up, the latter allowing you to play with ride height and compression and rebound settings. There’s also ‘Torque Rear’, a standard seven-stage adjustable traction control that allows varying degrees of slip, which sounds like fun. Weight savings depend on which model you compare with the GT RWD, but Audi claims 20kg saved over the Performance RWD. Forged wheels, a carbonfibre front anti-roll bar and standard-fit carbon-ceramic brakes all help here.
Unfortunately we won’t be driving the GT on the road today, but we will be lapping the excellent Monteblanco circuit, near Seville in Spain, and we’ll have a session on a dedicated drift area to get to grips – or rather, slips – with the Torque Rear traction control system.
The GT RWD certainly looks the part, dressed in an array of exposed carbon aero parts – including front splitter and dive planes,
larger sills, more extensive rear diffuser and prominent rear wing suspended from gooseneck supports – that lend it a look that’d be perfectly at home in a racetrack pitlane. The new forged 20-inch wheels in particular have a real motorsport vibe, especially with their small red ‘Audi Sport’ flashes on each rim. Behind the ten gloss-black spokes sit massive red brake calipers gripping 380mm front and 356mm rear carbonceramic discs. Another nice touch is the black crackle-finish cam covers for the GT’S V10.
The cars we’ll be lapping in are fitted with optional Michelin Pilot Cup 2 tyres and the coilover kit for the full GT experience. Before that, there’s Torque Rear to explore. Adjusted via a neat rotary switch on the steering wheel, you have the choice of seven stages. None of these completely disables DSC, but once you get beyond the first few clicks it’s clear there’s enough freedom to have, if not a full spin, then at least a fall into a clumsy half-spin if you’re too greedy with the throttle and too slow with your steering inputs.
As with all these systems, it takes a few minutes to feel your way, but once you’ve broken traction it’s amazing how subtle and responsive Torque Rear feels. The trick is not to play too much with the throttle, instead finding a happy medium of steering correction and throttle opening that has the R8 balanced. By the time you get to stage 7 you really wouldn’t
know there’s any intervention at all, such are the angles you can reach and the throttle you can apply. Fundamentally it’s you controlling the car, though it’s definitely working quietly away in the background to round off any rough-edged inputs. We’ll experiment more during our lapping sessions.
Powering out of the pitlane onto Monteblanco’s start-finish straight is both a reminder of how special the V10 is and immediate evidence that the revised gear ratios are noticeably punchier and – just as welcome – snappier and more positive in terms of shift speed and positivity.
The R8’s – and indeed all VW Group – paddleshifters have always been rather apologetic, with an anticlimactic button-like feel. Not for them the meaty, obsessed-over haptics so successfully deployed by Mclaren. While the actual paddles are unchanged in the GT, the way the gearshifts feel is much more satisfying.
It takes just the first full-blooded sprint through the gears, a hard haul on the carbon-ceramics and a dive into the first apex to understand that the GT RWD is a major step on from the Performance RWD. The steering remains calm – always an R8 hallmark – and while this means the GT doesn’t have the energised feel and instant agility of, say, a GT3, 296 Ferrari or Huracán Tecnica, it does have more immediate front-end bite and a stronger appetite for slicing into the heart of a corner.
It would have been nice to experience an R8 with more direct steering, but perhaps Audi knows this would make the tail harder to tame. Even quattro R8s can feel quite tail-happy when driven to extremes. The RWD tends to break away a little more sharply than the all-wheel-drive models and takes more finesse to balance because you don’t have the front wheels helping to check the slide.
As it stands – and with laps driven in the mid-tofinal stages of Torque Rear followed by full DSC Off – the GT is hugely enjoyable and readily exploitable. There’s plenty of grip, both when you make your initial direction change and as you work the front end into the apex. Through quicker corners you can work the balance of the chassis so that the tail just begins to slide through momentum, with the fabulous V10 offering precise response and ample torque to smoothly prolong the slide. The best moments are not when you’re fully lit in some kind of tyre-slaying Top Gear homage, but when the car is carrying maximum speed, you’re smoothly balancing the throttle against available grip and the tail is sliding and wheels over-rotating just enough to require a quarter of a turn of opposite lock. Impressively, you can do this with Torque Rear active, but you need to know it won’t save you from yourself or the laws of physics.
The GT RWD is a formidable farewell to the big-banger R8. While it’s far from the kind of headbanger extremes we’re seeing from Porsche with the latest GT3 and GT4 RS models, it’s usefully, meaningfully and enjoyably more aggressive than the stock models.
We can’t eulogise too much until we’ve driven it on the road, but given that the R8 has always been a mature and very much road-focused supercar, the fact that the GT still seems relatively tame suggests to me that it should deliver on UK roads where cars like the Cayman 4RS and M4 CSL are wrong-footed by our lumpen tarmac.
All in all, then, the GT RWD is a fine machine. One that stretches the R8’s performance envelope but remains true to the model’s admirable core values and character. At a time when evermore-extreme iterations of track-focused road cars are having their usability compromised, there’s something rather nice about Audi Sport’s restrained approach. We’ll know for sure when we drive one of the 15 cars destined for the UK on the road, but this first taste suggests they really have saved the best until last.
Engine V10, 5204cc Power 611bhp @ 8000rpm Torque 411lb ft @ 6400-7000rpm Weight 1570kg (395bhp/ton) 0-62mph 3.4sec Top speed 199mph Basic price c£200,000
+ V10 is a peach; new aggression brings out best in RWD R8 - Question of optional suspension’s suitability for UK roads evo rating