No longer are 0-60 times or top speeds the measure of a sports car. No, it seems in this day and age, any sports coupe truly worth its salt has a limited-edition monster that further pushes the perfomance envelope. Cars affixed with names like Scuderia, Superleggera, GT3 RS, and ACR-X are evidence of today's demand for no-nonsense road monsters, sacrificing comfort and practicality for purpose and sheer speed. Audi’s R8 was billed as an everyday supercar when it was released and the addition of a V-10 in the latest example hasn’t done anything to change that impression. But such a reputation is a double edged sword, with some dismissing the mid-engined Audi as too soft, or without soul.
Fewer people will be saying that about the 2011 Audi R8 GT, but mind you, this is still no anorexic skin-and-Kate Moss. Consider that Audi’s Quattro all-wheel drive system is retained, as is the stereo and climate control system. There are no Spartan nylon door pulls or bare aluminum floor panels to be found and the R8 GT retains the majority of its sound insulation. For the most part, the R8 GT’s diet consists of lighter materials – no easy task when the standard car already boasts an aluminum space frame and magnesium chassis.
Still, engineers set to work using thinner glass for the windscreen and polycarbonate for the rear window and engine cover, saving 20 pounds. The R8 GT’s sheetmetal is of a lighter gauge and cutouts were made to the aluminum luggage hatch, while the rear hatch itself was remolded in carbon fiber-reinforced plastic, along with the car’s trademark sideblades and rear bumper – another 35 pounds lost. Weight was also removed from the power brake system, battery, air intake module, engine compartment insulation, and exhaust system. Inside, glass-reinforced plastic helps lighten the seats (69 pounds saved), while the carpet was also made slightly thinner and lighter for an additional 17 pounds. Combined with other weight-saving measures, a hair over 220 pounds was shaved off the R8 V10, bringing total curb weight down to 3362 pounds.
The next step in building the ultimate road-going R8 is to bring in more power. Displacement remains at 5.2-liters, but the R8 GT’s Lamborghini-derived V-10 engine now pumps out 560 horsepower and 398 pound-feet of torque (up from 525 horses and 391 pound-feet). Combine those figures with the R8 GT’s reduced mass, and you end up with a power-to-weight ratio of six pounds to every horsepower. Audi will only offer its R tronic single-clutch six-speed sequential gearbox (itself a derivative of Lamborghini’s e-gear system), but performance won’t suffer. Audi says the R8 GT hits the 62 mph mark in just 3.6 seconds, the 124 mph mark in 10.8 seconds, and rockets on to a top speed of nearly 199 mph.
Chassis-wise, the R8 GT features a few changes from the standard R8 V10, but perhaps not as many as one would think. A manually adjustable coilover suspension has been fitted, capable of lowering the car 0.39 inches, while increased camber front and rear make the GT more eager to turn-in. Nineteen-inch forged wheels feature, 8.5-inches wide in the front and 11-inches wide in the rear, are of the twin five-spoke design and are fitted with 235/35 and 294/30 tires, respectively. Optional are 305/30 tires and special wheels out back, while ‘Cup’ ultra-performance tires are also found on the options list. Carbon ceramic brakes, optional on the R8 V10, are standard equipment on the GT and boast a near-20-pound weight savings over steel discs, in addition to a reduced propensity to fade. Red anodized front brake calipers are six-piston aluminum affairs and are unique to the GT, says Audi. The R8 GT’s ESP stability control system has also been fine-tuned to better suit the car’s more aggressive nature.
Exterior enhancements are an important part of limited-edition supercars and several have been introduced to the Audi R8 GT. Functional improvements include a fixed carbon fiber rear wing in place of the standard electronic version, saving weight and providing more downforce. A new front splitter is also made of carbon, as are the smaller side mirrors, and the front grille features matte titanium grey and matte black accents. Curved carbon composite flics at the nose corners are said to improve front axle downforce, while out back the diffuser, hatch vents, and wheel well vents are all redesigned for greater efficiency. The result is that while the R8 GT maintains its 0.36 drag coefficient, downforce is increased significantly. Other defining cosmetic features of the GT are standard LED headlights and taillights, aluminum side mirror bases, and distinct ‘GT’ badges on the front fenders.
Inside the GT’s cabin, luxury waltzes with cutting edge motorsports-inspired style. Amidst swathes of black and dark gray alcantara, carbon fiber, and aluminum, a 465-watt Bang & Olufsen stereo integrates with Audi’s MMI infotainment display. Optional equipment includes alcantara seat covering with the ‘R8 GT’ logo, lightweight carbon-framed seats, extra carbon trim, seatbelts in orange, red, or gray, a multifunction steering wheel, and CFRP door sill trim illuminated in red. This is no 911 GT3 RS, to be sure. But it does seem to strike a reasonable compromise between usability and performance.
Audi is offering a number of other options too, including many with performance in mind. A ‘race package’ includes four-point harnesses in either black or red, a bolt-in roll bar in the same colors, a fire extinguisher, and a kill switch for the battery. Taken a step further, another package offers a full roll cage and a rotary lock for the four-point belts. Going the other direction, comfort packages include a full leather interior, advanced cell phone integration with belt-mounted microphone, and a cruise control system.
Audi has set German pricing for the R8 GT at €193,000 ($255,000) – approximately €50,000 more than the entry price for the current R8 V10. Will any of the 333 Audi R8 GTs slated for production arrive in the U.S.? That’s not currently known, but considering the brand’s skyrocketing North American sales, you shouldn’t be at all surprised when one blows by at your local track.