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Audi R8 V10 GT RWD 2022 review

The Audi R8 has never been more exciting, raw or engaging. Audi Sport has saved the best for last.

Evo rating
  • Hot V10 is a peach. Measured increase in aggression brings out the best in RWD R8
  • R8 beginning to feel its age. Question mark over optional suspension’s suitability for UK roads

With time running out for the R8’s formidable ten-cylinder engine the new V10 GT RWD is Audi Sport’s last hurrah; limited to 333 individually numbered units worldwide and priced at around £200,000, this lighter, more powerful, more focussed R8 has sharpened responses and track-honed options aimed at elevating the driving experience to a whole new level.

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First, the basic stats and hardware changes. For the first time Audi has given the rear-wheel drive R8 the same power as the all-wheel drive. 611bhp at 8000rpm to be precise. There’s slightly less torque (411lb ft down from 422lb ft), but it arrives 200rpm earlier and holds until 7000rpm. There are shorter ratios for the 7-speed dual-clutch gearbox, which clip 6mph from the top speed (now 199mph) but promise to keep the V10 fires stoked for maximum in-gear punch. 0-60mph? 3.4sec. 0-124mph? 10.1sec.

Chassis-wise there’s a choice of standard fit passive dampers or an optional manually-adjustable coilover setup, the latter allowing you to play with ride height, compression and rebound settings. There’s also a new ‘Torque Rear’ drive mode – a seven-stage adjustable traction control system which allows varying degrees of slip.

Weight savings are relative to which model you compare with the GT RWD, but all are useful. Audi claims around 20kg saved compared to the RWD Performance. Forged wheels, CFRP front anti-roll bar and standard-fit carbon ceramic brakes are amongst the headline weight savers.

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Unfortunately we’re not driving the GT RWD on the road, but we are lapping the excellent Monteblanco circuit, near Seville in Spain, together with a session on a dedicated drift area to get to grips – or rather, slips – with the trick new Torque Rear traction control system.

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> Porsche 911 GT3 review 

The GT RWD certainly looks the part. Traditionally R8s have always been somewhat demure, but this limited edition is far more explicit. Dressed in an array of exposed carbon aero parts – including front splitter and dive planes, larger sills, more extensive rear diffuser and prominent rear wing suspended from gooseneck supports –it looks at home in a race track pit lane.

The new forged 20in wheels in particular have a real motorsport vibe, especially with their small red ‘Audi Sport’ flashes on each rim. Behind the ten gloss black spokes sit massive red brake callipers gripping 380mm front and 356mm rear carbon ceramic discs. Another nice touch are the V10’s black crackle-finish cam covers, which are unique to the GT.

The cars we’ll be lapping in are fitted with optional Michelin Pilot Cup 2 tyres and coilover suspension kit. But before we do that there’s Torque Rear to explore. Adjusted via a neat rotary switch on the steering wheel you have the choice of 7 stages. None of these completely disable the DSC, but once you get beyond the first few clicks there’s enough freedom to fall into a clumsy half-spin if your drifting skills aren’t up to snuff.

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Like all these systems it takes a few minutes to feel your way, but once you’ve broken traction it’s amazing how natural and responsive the Torque Rear system feels. The trick is to not play too much with the throttle, instead finding a happy medium of steering correction and throttle opening that has the R8 balanced. By the time you get to stage 7 you really wouldn’t know there’s any intervention at all, such are the angles you can reach and the throttle you can apply. Fundamentally it’s you controlling the car, but the system is definitely working quietly away in the background to round-off any rough-edges. We’ll experiment more during our lapping sessions.

Powering out of the pit lane onto Monteblanco’s start-finish straight is both a reminder of how special this V10 is and an immediate discovery that those revised gear ratios are noticeably punchier. The ‘box is snappier and more positive in terms of shift speed and positive feel, too.

It takes the first full-blooded sprint through the gears, a hard haul on the carbon ceramic brakes and a dive into the first corner apex to understand the GT RWD is a major step on from the RWD Performance. The steering remains calm – always an R8 hallmark – and while this means the GT RWD doesn’t have the energised feel and instant agility of, say, a GT3, 296 Ferrari or Hurácan Tecnica, it does have more immediate front-end bite and a stronger appetite for slicing into the heart of a corner than any other R8

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It would have been nice to know what an R8 with more direct steering feels like, but perhaps Audi knows this would make the tail harder to tame? Even quattro R8s can feel quite tail-happy when driven to extremes. The RWD tends to breakaway a little more sharply than the all-wheel drive models, and takes more finesse to balance because you don’t have the front-wheels helping to check the slide. Slower steering isn’t in-line with current trends, but it has its appeal.

> Lamborghini Huràcan Tecnica review

As it stands – and with laps driven in the mid-to-final stages of Torque Rear followed by full ASR-off – the GT RWD is hugely enjoyable and readily exploitable. There’s plenty of grip, both when you make your initial direction change and as you work the front-end into the apex. Through quicker corners you can work the balance of the chassis so that the tail just begins to slide through momentum, with the fabulous naturally-aspirated V10 offering precise response and ample torque to smoothly prolong and balance the slide.

The best moments are not when gratuitously lit, but when the car is carrying maximum speed and you’re smoothly balancing the throttle against available grip. With the tail sliding and wheels over-rotating just enough to require a quarter of a turn of opposite lock, it’s in its element. Impressively, you can do this with Torque Rear active.

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The GT RWD is a formidable farewell to the big banger R8. While it’s far from the kind of headbanger extremes we’re seeing from Porsche with the GT3 and GT4 RS, it’s usefully, meaningfully and enjoyably more aggressive than any previous R8. Given the R8 has always been a mature and very much road-focussed supercar, the fact that the GT remains relatively tame on-track suggests it should deliver on UK roads where cars like the Cayman GT4 RS and M4 CSL are far too stiff.

We’ll know for sure when we drive one of the 15 cars destined for the UK on our preferred roads, but this first taste suggests the best really has been saved until last.

Prices and rivals

Price-wise the R8 range exists in a strange hinterland, somewhere above mid-engined sportscars like the Lotus Emira, on a par with upper echelon 911s, but well below supercars such as the Ferrari 296 GTB and McLaren Artura. The circa-£200k GT RWD pushes closer to true exotica territory, but Audi DNA means it’s  a bit straight-laced and – ironically – the old-school V10 doesn’t feel like a natural rival for the new-age hybrid supercars.

In terms of objectives and capability the GT RWD’s closest rival is Porsche’s 992 GT3. Both remain committed to natural aspiration and shun hybrid tech, just as they are clearly intended for driver’s who appreciate road cars with a connection to motorsport and an aptitude for track use.

On the evidence of our laps around Monteblanco the R8’s V10 lacks the GT3 flat-6’s steely intensity, while its chassis falls short of the Porsche’s surgical precision. As such the GT RWD might lack a little in terms of out-and-out pace, but it’s hardly short of capability or excitement, and is just as rich in character.

Thanks to a production run of just 333 cars it’s also extremely rare. Only diehard R8 fans will want to sink £200k into an R8, but if you’re one of them evo salutes you.

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