2023 Audi R8 GT First Drive Review: Rage Against The Dying Of The Light

First Drive

The V10 engine will not go quietly into that good night.

For Audi, one of just two automakers still mass producing the V10, the 2023 Audi R8 GT is a watershed moment in history. The V10 has been a rare and enduring moment of emotion for the German brand that has often been criticized for being too clinical and cold in how it engineers its vehicles - and the R8 in which it has been housed has been a class-redefining supercar that not only stunned visually in every incarnation, but gave new meaning to the phrase 'everyday supercar.' But the R8 is not long for this world, and neither is the V10 that powers it, and the R8 GT is the final farewell to two automotive icons. With this information looming menacingly, Audi sent CarBuzz to Seville, Spain, to get acquainted with one of the world's last roadgoing V10 supercars at the Circuito Monteblanco.

CarBuzz CarBuzz Audi

The 2023 R8 GT, in case you missed the details before, revives the GT suffix for the first time since the first generation in 2010. In this final iteration, the R8 becomes a rear-wheel-drive-only supercar with outputs dialed up to 602 horsepower and 413 lb-ft of torque, and its transmission, suspension, and aerodynamics turned up to 11. It sheds weight, too, 55 pounds of the stuff compared to the lesser RWD R8, thanks to a diet that affects the interior, exterior, and even under the skin.

Just 333 will be built, resulting in a car as exclusive as it is special. A fitting farewell, then? We took to the track to find out.

Audi Audi Audi

Powertrain: A 10-Cylinder Symphony

Before we delve into the details of how it drives, we must first look at the differences between the R8 GT and its stablemates. Arguably most important is the powertrain, where Audi has turned up the wick on the 5.2-liter naturally-aspirated V10.

602 hp in the US might seem down compared to the European claims of 620 metric horsepower, but it's no typo, just a culmination of conversions, measurement methods, and differences between the two regions. What's important is that the R8 GT is the most powerful RWD Audi ever made, and it has as much power as the regular R8 V10 performance quattro, just sent to two fewer driven wheels.

Audi Audi Audi

The seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox remains the sole means of shifting gears, but compared to the standard RWD R8, the ratios have been shortened and are much closer to those found in the AWD variant.

Despite on-paper outputs being lesser in the US, the R8 GT will sing louder stateside thanks to a standard performance exhaust that's free of the binding emissions legislation of Europe. Those 602 ponies are also more than plentiful, propelling the R8 GT from 0-60 mph in 3.4 seconds and on to a 199-mph V-max. Not slow, then.

CarBuzz CarBuzz Audi

Driving Impressions: Disrespect It At Your Own Peril

Numbers mean little when you tear out of the pit lane with a ten-cylinder symphony screaming behind your head. From that moment on, all left-brained logic gets summarily dismissed, and the limbic system takes over.

First things first - this is fast! Any of the newer turbocharged monsters from Ferrari or McLaren will hit triple digits quicker, but behind the wheel, this feels about as fast as anyone with the will to continue living would be comfortable with. The sense of speed is aided by pantomime, as the V10's soundtrack elicits involuntary physical responses that build in equal intensity.

A tingle starts at the base of your spine, rising with every notch on the tachometer until the hair on the back of your neck stands on end. I defy you to find me an engine that sounds better than a V10 at 8,700 rpm.

CarBuzz CarBuzz CarBuzz

Every upshift rattled off by the DCT - whether of the car's own accord or a prompt of the tactile shift paddles behind the steering wheel - is accompanied by a buck and a kick in the kidneys - perhaps a little more vicious than is absolutely necessary, but strong enough to enhance the theater of the occasion.

But these days, anything is quick in a straight line. It's when you drop anchors and the fixed aluminum brake calipers clamp down on the 15-inch front and 14-inch rear carbon ceramic rotors that the speed becomes apparent. The stoppers shed speed at a rapid rate, and the brake pedal provides a fair chunk of feedback as to the grip on hand, but even the sticky Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 summer rubber can't defy physics if you come in too hot. A tell-tale pair of black stripes left by one of my industry colleagues a few days prior serves as a warning no more than a few corners in.

CarBuzz Audi Audi

Tip the Alcantara-clad steering wheel - which feels sublime in hand - in towards the apex of a corner, and there's a surprising amount of feedback for a car without the weight of an engine over the front axle. The variable-ratio steering rack adjusts the level of assistance based on your speed, but the system has improved from the early days when such setups were frowned upon. In controlled circumstances, I never once felt unable to read what the front end was doing.

Adhesion levels are high, with a nose that doesn't push wide easily and a sense of where the limits of grip are telegraphed strongly to my fingertips. Much credit deserves to be placed on the Michelin rubber - as a set of Pilot Sport 4 S shoes used on the drift pad later in the day yielded far more understeer than the Cup 2s the car ships with - as the Cup 2s managed even the slightly damp conditions with aplomb.

CarBuzz CarBuzz Audi

In the event the nose does push wide, the R8 GT can be steered on the throttle to tighten your line. A word of caution, however: a rear-wheel-drive supercar with hair-trigger throttle response is more than happy to swap ends on you. Once the mass of the V10 behind you sets the pendulum in motion, catching it in time is trickier than you might think, and if you switch the nannies off, you'll quickly find yourself pointing in the wrong direction - ask me how I know.

Treat it with respect, and there are many rewards to be had. Feeding the throttle in gently on corner exit lets the Cup 2s do their best work as you catapult towards the next turn-in point, and through quick left-right corner complexes, the car is quick to change direction without becoming unsettled.

CarBuzz Audi Audi

A new carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP) anti-roll bar equipped to the R8 GT is just one of the many small upgrades that help keep things balanced under duress, but the car we drove was also equipped with adjustable coilovers at the rear of the car - something the US cars will ditch in favor of a fixed setup. Having only experienced the car on a well-maintained circuit where attacking a few smooth curbs was all the 'tricky surfacing' we had to contend with, I can't say much for the R8's ride quality. Then again, if you're buying a limited-run final edition car like this for its on-road ride comfort, you probably shouldn't even be looking at it.

The R8 GT is a weapon of precision, but that doesn't mean it's not fun, and should the situation present itself, and you feel brave or cocky enough, Audi Sport engineers have equipped the GT with a new toy you might like to play around with called Torque Rear mode. For the layman, that's drift mode.

CarBuzz CarBuzz Audi

Drift Mode In A RWD Car?

But wait, isn't drift mode in a RWD car simply what you do with your right foot? Not quite.

Torque Rear, while it shares its name with the so-called drift mode of the Audi RS3, is something entirely different here. Instead of shunting all the power to the outside rear wheel as it does in the RS3, in the R8 GT, it's a seven-stage stability control system akin to the one in the Mercedes-AMG GT R, catering to various angles of slip depending on the level you choose. Levels one through three feature brake intervention on the front axle to help initiate a slide, making minor drifts pretty accessible for even a relative amateur - relative being the keyword here as it's not something just anybody can do.

Audi Audi Audi Audi

Stages four through seven do away with the front intervention, but don't mistake this for a point-and-drift experience. You still have to balance throttle and steering inputs, and being too aggressive on either will quickly see you pointing the wrong way, as I found out on both the drift pad and the track.

It's in this setting that the variable steering setup doesn't do the R8 GT the favors it does on the track, as often your drift angle places the steering right on the cusp of a changing ratio, making it tricky to control. Couple this with a DCT gearbox that doesn't like to let you bang off the limiter of the V10, and it's plain to see that Torque Rear is meant more for when you have a track with loads of run-off than trying to link up lurid slides in an attempt to emulate Ken Block.

Audi Audi Audi Audi

Exterior Design: Winging It

I may not win over any friends in Neckarsulm, where the R8 was developed, for this comment, but the second-generation R8's design has never been my favorite. Don't get me wrong, it's a looker, but it lacks the timeless beauty and elegance the original had, and any designer trying to follow up on that piece of perfection would have a tough time.

That said, the 2023 R8 GT looks suitably aggro, casting off the suave Iron Man suit of lesser models and donning a top-hung carbon fiber wing - nowhere near 911 GT3 RS proportions, thankfully - and carbon fiber aero flics and splitters to set it apart. Those are functional elements, too, generating additional downforce to aid with high-speed stability.

Audi Audi Audi Audi

Other details are more subtle but just as impactful. The wheels, for example, are lightweight 20-inch 10-spoke forged items finished in black with red Audi Sport decals. They're lighter in weight than the standard items, too, and the red brake calipers peaking out from behind look suitably menacing. The badging is all black, and so too is the engine cover. US models get Audi laser lights, carbon mirrors, carbon side blades, and carbon side sills.

Only three finishes will be on offer for the US market, with the signature Suzuka Gray Matte launch color not made available for American buyers. Instead, a choice between Tango Red, Daytona Gray, and Mythos Black is present, each setting you back $595.

Audi Audi Audi

Interior Design: The Carbon Connection

The carbon-festooned exterior doesn't stand in isolation as the R8 GT's cabin is well-decorated with the sixth element in woven form. Decor elements on the center console, air vents, and around the digital instrument cluster are made of the stuff, offset by red contrast stitching throughout the cabin and red seatbelts. Everywhere you look, Alcantara and Dinamica are present, including the steering wheel, which features a red 12 o'clock marker and bespoke controls for the Torque Rear mode.

The R8 GT bucket seats are upholstered in leather and Dinamica. The fixed back and manual adjustment won't suit all body types, but it saves weight and provides bucketloads of support when cornering under duress. The seats and the floor mats feature R8 GT lettering, while a small 'RWD' plaque is inlaid on the passenger side of the dash. Denoting its exclusivity, the center console bears the number out of 333 of the car you purchase.

US models again differ from their international counterparts here, with a standard Bang & Olufsen sound system - for when by some madness, you deem a screaming V10 not to be entertaining enough - and the Audi exclusive diamond stitched headliner.

Audi Audi Audi Audi

Price & Availability: Exclusivity Guaranteed

With only 333 units slated for global production and only 150 of those coming to the United States, Audi will sell out this final iteration of the V10-powered R8 with ease, despite a $249,900 MSRP before dealer markups. This cost excludes a $1,495 destination charge, a $1,300 Gas Guzzler tax, and a mandatory $595 for each of the three paint options available. The 150 units will be split evenly between each hue, with 50 to be had in Tango Red, Mythos Black, and Daytona Gray, respectively.

Deliveries in the USA commence at the end of Q1 2023, the Audi R8's final year of production.

Audi Audi Audi

Verdict: No More Encores

As water levels rise around the globe, so too do the number of hybrids and EVs, with this rising tide of electrification swallowing up the finest combustion engines the world has ever known. As we say goodbye to great engine after great engine, the V10 is the next to be submerged by the electric wave. Already a rare and exotic specimen of the automotive world, the V10 has been integral to the success of the R8 through two generations and is a refreshing juxtaposition to Audi's typically calm and composed demeanor.

The R8 GT will not go down in history as the fastest supercar, nor one that will attempt Nurburgring records of any sort. Others will be quicker, more brutal, set stopwatches ablaze both from a standstill and around a circuit, and yet I'm inclined to say that none will feel as special as this. The dynamic steering may not feel entirely natural in very particular circumstances - although it is a remarkable improvement on the genesis of such technology - and the DCT may not cling onto gears through corners when the V10 is wrung out to redline, but neither of these minor faults is of any consequence here.

CarBuzz CarBuzz Audi

The R8 GT is too special for these little details to detract from it. As the last encore from the world's best-sounding engine configuration, the R8 GT is the final remnant of a bygone era from when emotion mattered more in a supercar than the numbers its launch control system could help you record.

This, then, is the final goodbye. Not just to a car, not just to an engine, but to an ideology. And as far as final goodbyes go, the Audi R8 GT is possibly the finest we could hope for.

When the sun sets on the age of internal combustion, the R8 GT and its mighty V10 will not go gently into that good night. Instead, it will sing. It will howl. And it will rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Audi Audi Audi Audi



Related Cars

To Top