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2011 Audi R8 GT – First Drive Review

by The Review CrewOctober 9, 2010

We’re not quite sure the world needs an even faster, lighter, and more powerful Audi R8, but Stephan Reil, head of development at Quattro GmbH, the company’s performance division, thinks it does. “More and more customers are demanding high-performance sports cars suitable for track days and club competition events,” he explains. “Also, we want to bring some of the Audi R8 LMS race car’s technical features to the road.” What he doesn’t add, of course, is that Audi will make some serious coin out of building its run of 333 GTs: Each one carries a price premium of about $50,000 over the R8 V-10’s base of $151,750.

The basis of the R8 GT is the R8 5.2 FSI. Changes to the 5.2-liter V-10’s engine software increase output to 560 horsepower and 398 pound-feet of torque, up from 525 and 391, respectively. The R tronic automated manual is standard. In place of the 5.2’s ­magnetorheological shocks with a cockpit-adjustable sport setting, the GT gets conventional coil-overs that can be manually ­lowered 0.4 inch. And there’s additional ­negative camber at both the front and rear.

The focus here is less on power gain than nimbleness. Audi says it has trimmed 220 pounds from the 5.2’s mass. Exhibits A, B, and C: A thinner windshield, a polycarbonate engine-compartment bulkhead, and a polycarbonate rear window save 19.8 pounds; a carbon-fiber engine cover trims 14.6 pounds over the stock aluminum piece; lightweight seats with fiberglass-reinforced plastic shells shave another 69.5.

Externally, the GT has distinctive, forged aluminum wheels, a fixed rear carbon-fiber spoiler, a double-lipped front air dam, and a rear diffuser. Inside, it gets white gauges with red GT logos, additional carbon-fiber and aluminum trim parts, and Alcantara everywhere. The car we drove was further outfitted with a race-package option that includes a full roll cage, a fire extinguisher, and four-point seatbelts.

Despite the racy ambience, the engine sounds a bit disappointing; the V-10 doesn’t have the same raucous bellow that it does when installed in the Lamborghini Gallardo Supperleggera, but it’s louder and more mechanical than the regular R8’s V-10. Audi says the R8 GT is 0.3 second quicker to 60 mph than the 5.2, which suggests a time of 3.1 seconds based on our previous results. And the GT’s top speed is 3 mph higher, at a claimed 199 mph.

But the main difference between the GT and the 5.2 is that the lighter car drives with more precision through fast corners. It’s also more neutral than the 5.2, a car that is prone to understeer and whose push inhibits fun on a track but isn’t such an issue on the street. Ultimately, this is a refined sports car endowed with instant reactions as well as a forgiving demeanor at the limit.

The car will be sold in North America, to 90 Americans and 25 Canadians. But don’t waste time calling your Audi dealer—the limited series has already been spoken for.

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The Review Crew
The Review Crew is a group of beat editors, writers, and consultants that have been working together for years. They know just about everything about everything collectively and have published their collective work under the Review Crew brand moniker for almost 20 years.