Audi R8 Coupé V10 GT RWD | PH Review

I’ve always been a fan of the Audi R8. I know I’m not alone in that either. Everyone has their reasons for liking it, but for me, one of its attractive strengths is offering a reliable alternative to the Ferdinand’s rear-engined wonder—and I speak as a fully paid member of the 911 fan club. First-hand, the first-gen R8 proved it wasn’t just there to make up the numbers. : he was in it to win.

The original V8 model is still seen by many as the best due to the combination of the relatively light and compact V8 engine and manual gearbox. But I always preferred the look of its successor. Despite being V10 only, the second-generation R8 ended up being a bit shorter overall and looking straight to my eyes. And while it lost sight of the V8 manual’s less-than-important philosophy, come on: The naturally aspirated Lamborghini V10 isn’t a slap in the face, is it? However, whatever your thoughts on this particular conundrum, now is not the time for bickering. It’s time to unite, because the R8 is going. For good.

It wasn’t hard to see this coming, of course. Natural aspiration has always been the exception rather than the rule, and as we move further into this new, electrified future, maintaining atmospheric aspiration is like driving larger square pegs into ever-decreasing round holes. To give the R8 a proper send-off, Audi Sport has released a final limited edition. It’s called the Audi R8 Coupé V10 GT RWD. Only 333 will ever be made, and yes, they were all snapped up, despite costing around £200,000 each.

There are some significant changes to justify that hefty price tag, though, starting with a new Airline package. This pegs the GT’s top speed at 199mph, rather than the 205mph the R8 Quattro performance reaches, but that’s because it has more than twice the downforce – and therefore more drag. The R8 GT yields 300kg of the stuff, which if you’re keeping up with the new 911 GT3 RS can feel a little underpowered. it’s not like that. Crunching the GT3 RS’s 860kg is bizarre, and to prove the balance of the R8 GT’s 60kg Ferrari 296 GTB – that’s an all-new model, remember, with active flip-flops. The R8 GT doesn’t have those. It handles things the old-fashioned way, with a larger fixed swan-neck rear spoiler, plus a larger rear diffuser, front diffuser and side sills. Oh, and there are some levers in front of the front wheels and those aero blades behind the rear.

It’s the same story with suspension. This is old school too. KW motor coilovers instead of magnetically adjustable dampers. You can still adjust them, but you will need some wrenches. With factory settings, they drop the ride height 10mm above the standard R8, but for trail work you can drop it another 10mm and also, of course, change the rebound and compression settings. The aim of the coilover is not to reduce weight – although the R8 GT is about 20 kg lighter than the RWD Performance – but to enhance handling. Weight savings comes from the availability of a carbon fiber front bar, carbon bucket seats and ceramic discs, though none are exclusive to the GT.

The R8 GT also gets a Quattro engine, which means a total output of 620 horsepower. Torque is down a tiny bit at 417 lb-ft, which is good; This car isn’t all about numbers. As with the top speed, the GT is slower to 62 mph than the Quattro (3.4 seconds instead of 3.1) but since it will do zero to 124 mph in 10.1 seconds, you can’t call it slow. But like I said, forget “mine is faster than yours”: this is another R8 that’s all about having fun.

This is why it has something called Torque Rear drive mode. Think of it a bit like variable traction control, but unlike similar systems you’ll find on Ferraris, it’s more about lengthening your drifts than reducing your lap times. You get seven settings for changing the amount of slip, which you adjust from the steering wheel. It’s a clever system, because unlike pure traction control, it’s specifically designed to make the R8 GT predictable and easier to hold on to when its tail wafts. The amount of slip control changes depending on your speed: up to 22mph the knobs are very loose, but they gradually mix and stop (as in having more traction control, if you catch, err, drift) completely at 90mph— Because, as I quote the engineers here, “Most people are not looking to drift at 144 kilometers per hour.” They have a point, you know.

Other changes include a seven-speed S tronic dual-clutch gearbox. This is from the previous petrol particulate filter R8s, and those with shorter gear ratios. Apparently, when the PPF was introduced, the engineers got conservative because they worried that shorter ratios (and increased revs) would hinder its smoothness. They’ve since gone a bit braver and made it work, plus they’ve tweaked the software to reduce shift times and also have the box shift down at higher revs – if it registers, you’re hard on the brakes. That’s okay, because gearbox response has always been the R8’s weak point.

Audi was very eager to try out the all new R8 GT. We had some time on the track at the Circuit de Monteblanco, near Seville, and there was a drift course prepared with what appeared to be 800 new Michelin PS4s on hand to shred throughout the launch. Who said automakers are cash strapped these days?

I did the track stuff first, which was usually when it was wet and even foggy in places. Not ideal conditions for a 620-horsepower rear-wheel-drive car, and not the ideal way to evaluate the differences between this and the regular versions. Nevertheless, I did my homework and gave it a try, but without a standard car on hand for comparison, this was really a solitary test.

First of all, there is noise. It’s always the same in an R8, and that’s no pejorative: V10 R8s always play a fanfare tune. If you don’t hear one on the way to 8400 rpm, let me try to explain the sensation. It delivers the kind of drama you get from one of those midsummer thunderstorms. When the storm’s away, it’s deep and roaring, and that’s what the V10 sounds like at low revs. As the storm approaches, it increases in intensity and the thunderclap gets louder and starts to shake things up. This is the V10 in the mid-range. And when the storm is right overhead – and all hell breaks loose, with a downpour so heavy it feels like little boulders pounding on the roof and each lightning strike producing a severe ear-splitting crack – that’s what the V10 is at high revs. Only the ear incision is not discontinuous. And louder. And you know what? At every stage, at every turn point, it’s just amazing. I like this engine very much.

It’s fast, too, when you can lower the power properly—not a given in these slippery conditions. Those shorter ratios help, as they maintain intensity, and software changes improve shifts somewhat, although the S tronic box is still without PDK. But who cares? Complaining about it when we’re in the throes of a legend’s death is like saying you didn’t enjoy Elvis’ last live performance because it was a bit of a virgin. These details become irrelevant. It’s about the bigger picture.

Especially since there is so much to enjoy. The track cars had a full 20mm drop in ride height, which meant very little lean with apparently no loss of compliance. That said, I didn’t quite get away on the slippery, painted berms and didn’t venture out on the road, unfortunately, so I can’t be 100 percent on the car’s riding characteristics just yet. That’s why I’ve asked Audi to go again to the UK when the demonstrator arrives, but I’d be surprised if it didn’t go so well. The R8 Performance RWD we recently tested against a 911 Carrera GTS rode so nicely that the Audi Sport clearly knows how to do suspension, and the KW’s hardware isn’t nearly as low-rent, so count on some form of magic.

Due to the conditions, the tow light was blinking away frequently, so I thought I’d unscrew it and try the Torque Rear position. Now, at this point, they haven’t explained to me that it’s freer, easier at lower speeds, and has more control when you’re going faster, or that it’s not really variable traction control. I wish they had. You see, the R8 GT was feeling very stable through the high-speed stuff, so I just kept being a bit more brave with the throttle and not much happened—it just got glued on. So on my approach to the next hairpin, I cranked the torque control back a bit more and, with an element of frustration, gave the R8 GT a bigger trunk on the exit.

Well, it went well. I ended up right at the lock stop and just avoided the awkward spin. So I worked out very quickly myself that the system’s input depends on the road speed, and once I worked out that nuance I discovered that there was a nice interesting structure here. Low grip and Cup 2s (an option selected for track cars) still required smoothness—to avoid a handful of turns suddenly turning into a bunch of tipping—but the gentle input translated into enjoyable moments. Especially because you feel like all of this is going on. All this in the way the R8 GT talks to you as a good supercar should: through the steering and the seat.

After lunch it was time for some drifting – luckily now in the drought. This proved not only how much grip the R8 GT can generate on a dry surface (and we’re back on PS4s now), but also how easy it is to control when you’re outside. As you found out on the track, the torque control system won’t keep you from turning, especially at the beginning of a drift. You still need to balance the throttle and steering with the slip, but once the car settles into a corner with the mode, it helps you maintain drift with ease. To this point, you can hold the throttle down—when the Torque Control is at most of its setting—and only make slight adjustments through the wheel. I lowered the system to a minimum, just to get a feel for how the chassis reacts, and tell you what: For a 620-hp mid-engined car, the R8 GT is anything but slippery. Do you want to know something else? A large part of that is thanks to the naturally aspirated, predictable throttle response, which makes it very easy to hang up the tail and produce some high-speed smoke. That is why, ladies and gentlemen, we will miss this kind of thing so much.

Did you know I said the R8 GT had more fun than lap times? Well she is. I think it lives up to its brief brilliantly. I’m not entirely convinced the aero parts add anything to its looks, but my sense is that it helped keep it on track when nothing else did. Like I said, though, without a standard car for comparison it’s hard to tell, but I don’t care. Sepp Vettel retired from Formula 1 last weekend, and no matter how his last race ended, you won’t let it define his brilliant and successful career. So is the case with the R8. How much better the R8 GT is objectively doesn’t really matter to me, and I’m not sure it has to be to you. I mean, let’s face it, the eyebrow-raising £200,000 price tag alone is probably enough to count when you consider the other high-achieving avenues and keep track of the things you buy. Like Vettel, though, the R8’s impressive career thus far is what has earned it its stripes; This R8 GT is just a celebration of that. As it happens, Vettel drove a great race last. He scored points despite a terrible pitstop strategy that blighted his race. In the same way, the R8 GT also scores. Yes, it’s been overruled by legislators, but with more power and two fewer wheels to haul it, plus a more responsive chassis and a stupid-but-great drift mode, it’s indeed a fitting way to say goodbye. Farewell to a great car: a car that will leave a big hole in our hearts.

Specifications | 2022 Audi R8 Coupe V10 GT RWD

engine: 5,204cc, V10, naturally aspirated
ConnectingSeven-speed dual-clutch automatic, rear-wheel drive
power (hp): 620 @ 8000 rpm
Torque (lb-ft): 417 @ 6400-7000 rpm
0-62 mph: 3.4 seconds
maximum speed: 199 mph
Weight: 1,570 kg
mpg: 18.8 (WLTP)
Carbon Dioxide: 340 g / km (WLTP)
price: £200,000 (estimated)

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