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 seems 2023 is the last model year, and this limited-edition R8 GT, which lives among the rest of the R8 coupe and spyder lineup, the last variant.
While that previous cluster 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. Sweeping through a corner, we could quickly place it right at the limit of the rear end’s traction, where adding a touch more power caused the back end to step out. Playfully, never frightfully. We still miss the gated manual from the first-generation R8, but the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic in the GT nevertheless shifts even faster 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 is selling just 333 GTs worldwide, with 150 coming to the U.S. There will be 50 each in red, gray, and black, which amounts to one for only every other Audi dealer. Each car is labeled 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 through 64 on hand for lapping, plus a few more pre-production units that aren’t part of the official count. That’s right—the more desirable early-number cars get built later in the production cycle.
Getting the 602-hp state of tune that was previously only available in all-wheel-drive R8s, the GT is 40 horses stronger than the regular rear-drive R8 and the most powerful rear-drive car ever from Audi. Maybe that’s why the Quattro brand is really leaning into drifting talk. In fact, the R8 GT is the only R8 to get a new feature called Torque Rear—Audi officials say labeling it drift mode is too iffy from a regulatory perspective—with seven settings of escalating allowability of rear-wheel slip. It’s more of a fun mode than a track tool, programmed to allow a goodly amount of wheelspin while making it a bit more difficult for an under-skilled driver to go all Mustang exiting Cars & Coffee. Click the new checkered flag button that’s 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 provides only the lightest touches of power reduction. Unlike Ferrari’s Side Slip Angle Control, however, Torque Rear isn’t a spin preventer. Ask us how we know.
The GT isn’t entirely a parts-bin car, but it does borrow more than a few bits from the existing lineup. The carbon-fiber front anti-roll bar, for instance, is an $1100 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 gearing from the all-wheel-drive variants, with the third through 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 for the GT and are wrapped in Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 rubber in the same sizes as the rest of the lineup. European R8 GTs get an optional coil-over suspension that’s adjustable for height and damping, but it’s not available on U.S. cars. Ours stick to a fixed setup, skipping even the adaptive dampers from the all-wheel-drive variants.
If the GT’s $253,290 price seems dear, it’s probably because it’s $91,895 more than a regular 2023 rear-drive R8 coupe. But after checking all the option boxes that are included on the GT, the premium drops to $53,900. GTs also wear a comprehensive carbon-fiber aero package, including a large, fixed rear wing, front diffuser and canards, and an element behind the rear wheels. U.S. cars come fairly loaded, which is why they’re slightly heavier than their Euro counterparts. Standard equipment includes laser headlights, sport 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 roughly 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 U.S. cars are louder still, thanks to the removal of the particulate filters required in the European market. It was hard to get a good read from the Euro-spec cars we drove, as the V-10’s sweet 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 fit for their genre; they’re neither narrow nor have steep bolsters on their periphery. They retain a power height adjustment and manual fore-aft. But this seems to fit with the R8’s more daily-drivable vibe—including a luggage shelf behind the front seats—compared with 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 might stack up to the Corvette Z06, Audi says you’re not one of its customers and claims there’s next to zero overlap with Corvette buyers. Nevertheless, 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 more than a hundred pounds heavier) and revs nearly as high. The R8’s grip levels sure didn’t feel as lofty as the Z06’s, although a slightly damp track during our drive certainly had something to do with it. But we feel confident 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’s been 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 in3, 5204 cm3
Power: 602 hp @ 8000 rpm
Torque: 413 lb-ft @ 6400 rpm
7-speed dual-clutch automatic
Wheelbase: 104.3 in
Length: 177.0 in
Width: 77.3 in
Height: 48.2 in
Passenger Volume: 50 ft3
Cargo Volume F/R: 4/8 ft3
Curb Weight (C/D est): 3550 lb
PERFORMANCE (C/D EST)
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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