The Audi R8 GT is a slightly more powerful, slightly lighter version of the R8 5.2 FSI coupe, which isn’t exactly short on power (525 hp) or overweight (3583 pounds) to begin with. Perhaps that’s why Audi only managed to bump peak horsepower to 560 and drop the curb weight 152 pounds for the GT.
How do you cut weight from a car that’s built almost exclusively out of aluminum and magnesium? Thin down the front glass, substitute polycarbonate for the rear windows, and you’ve saved just under 20 pounds. A basic R8 apparently has pretty thick carpeting and you can reduce its weight by 17 pounds without resorting to an exposed aluminum floor. Using carbon-fiber for the rear bumper, hatch, and side blades will net an impressive 29 pound reduction. It turns out there’s nearly 21 pounds of unneeded weight hiding inside the battery and another 11 pounds to be saved in the air intake and sound insulation around the engine. Switching to carbon ceramic brakes removes another 20 pounds while improving braking performance. European buyers have the option of selecting lightweight bucket seats that drop the curb weight by an additional 69.5 pounds, but these sports seats likely won’t sneak past federal crash regulations.
Audi is also offering European customers a race package that will allow the car to go racing right from the showroom floor. The package includes a roll hoop, fire extinguisher, four-point harnesses, and a pair of kill switches. If that’s not quite extreme enough for you the roll bar can be turned into a full cage, which pretty much eliminates the possibility of street driving. Audi does not plan to offer the race package to U.S. customers, but we will be offered a comfort package that includes seatbelt-mounted Bluetooth microphones and a full leather interior.
Simply cutting weight out of a car doesn’t make it an automatic track tool, so Audi massaged the 5.2-liter V-10 to give it an extra 35 hp and 9 lb-ft of torque. A fixed-length intake manifold develops peak power at the top of the rev range and subtly emphasizes the R8 GT’s track pretentions. The manually adjustable coilover suspension can lower ride height by as much as 10 mm without significantly reducing the ride quality we’ve come to love in the base R8 equipped with magnetorheological dampers. More downforce from the fixed rear wing and front bumper wing “flics” will keep the R8 GT planted at high speeds without increasing the coefficient of drag.
Another nod to track use is the exclusive choice of Audi’s R tronic transmission, which works wonderfully when you’re driving hard but generally makes stop-and-go driving frustrating. Perhaps that’s not much of an issue for GT buyers who are more interested in the launch control function than a perfectly smooth start, but we missed the satisfaction that comes from a well-executed use of the R8’s gated aluminum shifter.
We sampled the Audi R8 GT on some winding roads and stretches of unrestricted autobahn around Ingolstadt, Germany, on a rather chilly, rainy day. Fortunately Audi kept the signature Quattro all-wheel-drive system intact while developing the GT and our test vehicle was not equipped with the optional higher-performance rubber. In these conditions it was difficult to detect any performance increase over the already incredible R8 5.2 FSI. The exhaust is a little meaner, but the benefits of the additional camber went unnoticed. Extra power is certainly present, but cool temperatures, some slick roads, and all-season tires meant we experienced a loss of traction long before the full 560 hp could be unleashed.
Our less-than-extreme test drive certainly underscored the R8 GT’s usability as a daily driver (other than the four-point harnesses that won’t be sold in the U.S. anyway) so if you’re looking for a very exclusive version of the R8, the GT could be perfect. Increases in acceleration or the theoretical 199 mph top speed are good for bench racing, but there are better choices for actual racing or track days when you consider the R8 GT will cost $198,050 to start and we won’t even be offered the race package. Audi is allocating 90 cars of the 333-unit production run for the U.S. market and we fully expect them to sell out as quickly as they are offered. It’s just sad they will probably all be equipped with the comfort package and cruising the boulevards of Southern California instead of club racing like their European peers.