First Drive: 2012 Audi R8 GT

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.

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