Audi R8 GT – Drive the Supercar, feel like superman!

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Now I know what it’s like to be popular.  I mean, REALLY popular, in the way Santa Claus is on December 24th or Brad Pitt is when he drops in to a Tupperware party.

I went from a ‘zero’ (an auto writer) to a ‘hero’ just by letting a few people I’d snared a new 2012 Audi R8 GT for the weekend.  Suddenly, everybody’s my best friend, saying they’d like to see me.  And, oh, by the way, will you still have the R8 GT?

Let me give you some advice.  If you’re an introvert or enrolled in some agency’s Witness Protection Program, don’t drive an R8 GT, especially one in the stunning ‘Samoa Orange Metallic’ paint like the one we had.  You’d have to run butt naked carrying a pair of assault rifles through Edmonton International Airport to draw more attention than this Audi supercar.  While the R8 GT was parked outside our house, a steady stream of strangers stopped their cars, got off their bikes or skateboards to admire and snap photos of the car.

For the uninitiated, the Audi R8 GT isn’t merely a high performance sports car.  It’s a supercar with the top line specifications and performance that matches the fastest and most exotic cars in the world.  We’re talking performance that’s in the stratospheric league as Ferrari and Lamborghini.

As far as exotic supercars go, the initial buy-in for an R8 is ‘reasonable’ starting at $134,000 for the 4.2-litre Audi V8.  For a mid-engine supercar, that’s relatively cheap –  easily within Porsche 911S price range.  But if the 430-horsepower V8 doesn’t have enough poke and you want a little more juice, just tick the little box for the ‘R8 Coupe 5.2.’  That gets you the Lamborghini built V10 and 518-horsepower.  And by the way, just write that cheque for $173,000 dollars.

Now if you REALLY want Audi’s world class flagship, no holds barred supercar, it’s the Audi R8 GT like our test car.  That’s $228,000, please.  What do you get for your truckload of extra money?  The GT sports a pumped up engine with 560 horsepower, carbon ceramic brakes, carbon fibre inside (door handles and various trim) and out (side blade, mirrors), plus aerodynamic aids in the form of a C-F rear spoiler and a pair of winglets on the nose.  And it weighs some 200 lbs. lighter than the standard R8 5.2.  Topping all that is the GT’s exclusivity, a limited production of run of 333 units worldwide.

Driving the R8 GT is dead easy.  The engine starts with an old fashioned key (not keyless start I expected like many premium cars have.)  The car’s one oddity is the absence of a “Park” gear for the 6-speed automatic transmission.  (To park the R8, leave it in gear and pull the handbrake, just like a manual transmission.)  The engine starts with a delicious growl.  Push the shift lever to the left and an “A” for ‘automatic’ lights up on the instrument panel.  Push the shift lever left once more and an “M” for ‘manual’ mode appears.

Once rolling, the Audi’s ‘feel’ immediately conveys its supercar mission.  The steering is heavily weighted and the smallest movement of the thick, suede covered wheel results in instant response.  Traffic circles and highway off ramps can be attacked with gusto and the Audi gives no hint of working hard – driving the R8 is joyful, effortless playtime for adults.

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Then there’s the powerful V10 engine sitting behind you.  With 560 horsepower delivered through Audi’s quattro permanent all-wheel-drive, traction is monumental, but it’s still possible under max acceleration from a stop to force some minor tire spin.  With all that power, the R8 GT’s acceleration is entertainingly violent.  Mashing the throttle from slow speed causes the Audi to lunge forward so hard it smacks the unprepared passenger’s head against the seat.  Two riders complained they’re heads got whacked when floored the throttle without warning.

It’s hard to complain about one of the most desirable, exotic cars in the world, but in city driving, the R8 GT isn’t so happy, feeling like a hobbled thoroughbred racehorse chomping at the bit to run free.  The R-Tronic transmission lurches when upshifting, especially in slow driving.  Pick up the pace and that annoyance becomes less noticeable.

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The 2012 Audi R8 GT is a simply stunning supercar.  It’s exclusive, has gorgeous bodywork, and possesses the extreme levels of performance that unquestionably makes it one of the Big Dogs of the supercar world.

Thanks to Jim Allan at Southgate Audi, Edmonton for providing this vehicle.

The Specs

2012 Mercedes-Benz E300 4Matic

Type of vehicle:  Premium luxury all-wheel-drive 4-door sedan

Engine: 3.5-litre V-6 cylinder

Power: 248 horsepower at 6,500 r.p.m; 251 pound-feet of torque at 3,400 r.p.m.

Transmission: 7-speed automatic

Brakes: Front/rear ventilated disc brakes. ABS with Brake Assist and Electronic Stability Program

Tires: 245/40R17 front/rear, temporary spare

Price: $58,300;  As-tested:  $63,825 (includes Premium Package $3,900, Keyless Go $975,  Driving Assistance Package $800, Trunk Box $250.)

Transport Canada fuel economy (L/100 km): 11.1 city, 7.0 highway (premium unleaded)

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