Well, this is finally the end. Both for Audi’s 5.2-liter V-10 screamer—and V-10s in general—as well as its mid-engine R8 supercar. It looks like 2023 is the last model year, and this limited edition R8 GT, which lives below the rest of the R8 coupe and spyder lineup, the final variant.
While that previous group of words is enough to sour the mood, the R8 GT will do just the opposite. It’s easy to drive, controllable on the throttle. By sweeping a corner, we were able to quickly put it right on the limit of the rear’s traction, where adding a touch more power caused the rear to step out. Playful, never scary. We still miss the gated manual of the first-generation R8, but the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic in the GT nonetheless shifts even quicker than before. In its most aggressive modes, the ferocious energy of a wide-open throttle upshift at the 8700-rpm redline reverberates through the carbon fiber and aluminum monocoque structure.
Audi sells just 333 GTs worldwide, with 150 coming to the US. There will be 50 each in red, gray and black, which amounts to one for just about every other Audi dealer. Each car is marked with its build number, the sequence sunk beneath the surface of the carbon fiber center console trim. We spent a day in southern Spain at Circuito Monteblanco, where Audi had cars 62 to 64 on hand to lap, plus a few more pre-production units not part of the official count. That’s right—the more desirable early-number cars are built later in the production cycle.
With the state of 602 hp previously only available in all-wheel drive R8s, the GT is 40 horses more powerful than the regular rear-drive R8 and the most powerful rear-drive car ever from Audi. Maybe that’s why the Quattro brand really leans towards hype. In fact, the R8 GT is the only R8 to get a new feature called Torque Rear—Audi officials say naming it is too vague from a regulatory perspective—with seven settings of increasing permissibility of rear wheel slip. It’s more of a fun mode than a track tool, programmed to allow a good amount of wheelspin while making it a little harder for an under-skilled driver to go all Mustang cars and coffee. Click on the new checkered flag button that has sprouted on the steering wheel and then turn a knob to adjust. Level 1 doesn’t allow enough slip for a recognizable drift, while Level 7 offers only the lightest touches of downforce. However, unlike Ferrari’s sideslip angle control, Torque Rear is not a spin preventer. Ask us how we know.
The GT isn’t quite a parts bin, but it borrows more than a few bits from the existing range. For example, the carbon fiber front anti-roll bar is a $1,100 option on other R8s. It has exactly the same stiffness as the bar it replaces and saves 4.4 pounds. The GT also gets the shorter gearbox of the four-wheel-drive variants, with the third to seventh ratios shorter by 4 to 29 percent, and standard carbon ceramic brakes and bucket seats, which are part of the $12,900 Dynamic package on other R8s. Forged 20-inch wheels are new to the GT and are wrapped in Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 rubber in the same sizes as the rest of the range. European R8 GTs get an optional coilover suspension that’s adjustable for height and damping, but it’s not available on American cars. Ours sticks to a fixed setup and even skips the adaptive dampers of the four-wheel-drive variants.
If the GT’s $253,290 price seems expensive, that’s probably because it’s $91,895 more than a regular 2023 rear-drive R8 coupe. But after you tick all the option boxes included with the GT, the premium drops to $53,900. GTs also carry a comprehensive carbon fiber aero package, including a large fixed rear wing, front diffuser and canards, and a element behind the rear wheels. American cars come fairly loaded, which is why they are slightly heavier than their Euro counterparts. Standard equipment includes laser headlights, sports exhaust, dynamic steering, a B&O stereo, and carbon fiber mirror caps, door sills and side blades. Still, the GT is a claimed 55 pounds lighter than the regular rear-drive R8 and about 120 pounds lighter than the all-wheel-drive coupe. Part of the weight loss is a reduction in sound deadening that makes the R8 louder, and American cars are even louder, thanks to the removal of the particulate filters required in the European market. It was hard to get a good reading from the Euro-spec cars we drove, as the V-10’s sweetly escalating melodies were always muffled by a helmet.
Acceleration won’t be able to match that of the all-wheel drive R8; plan on a 60-mph time in the very low threes and a quarter mile right around 11 flat. The GT’s fixed-back bucket seats are relaxed for their genre; they are not narrow nor do they have steep buttresses around them. They retain a power height adjustment and manual front-rear. But that seems to suit the R8’s more everyday drivability vibe—including a luggage rack behind the front seats—compared to its relentlessly manic corporate cousin, the Lamborghini Huracán. Speaking of which, the GT is similar in concept to the rear-drive Huracán Tecnica.
If you’re wondering how this last, best R8 stacks up against the Corvette Z06, Audi says you’re not one of its customers and claims there’s almost no overlap with Corvette buyers. Still, you won’t be surprised that the R8 struggles to justify a price that’s more than twice as expensive as the Z06. The Z06 makes more power (although it’s over a hundred pounds heavier) and revs almost as high. The R8’s grip levels certainly didn’t feel as elevated as the Z06’s, although a slightly damp track during our drive definitely had something to do with it. But we feel confident in saying it would be hard to find a track where the Z06 wouldn’t win.
The R8 GT will arrive in early 2023, and the entire R8 line will depart by the end of the year. It was a good run.
2023 Audi R8 GT
Vehicle type: mid-engine, rear-wheel drive, 2-passenger, 2-door coupe
DOHC 40-valve V-10, aluminum block and heads, port and direct fuel injection
Displacement: 318 inches35204 cm3
Power: 602 hp @ 8000 rpm
Torque: 413 lb-ft @ 6400 rpm
7-speed dual clutch automatic
Wheelbase: 104.3 inches
Length: 177.0 inches
Width: 77.3 inches
Height: 48.2 inches
Passenger volume: 50 feet3
Cargo Volume F/H: 4/8 ft3
Combat weight (C/D east): 3550 lbs.
PERFORMANCE (C/D IS)
60 mph: 3.1 sec
100 mph: 6.6 sec
1/4-mile: 11.0 sec
Top speed: 199 mph
EPA FUEL ECONOMY
Combined/City/Highway: 17/14/21 mpg
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