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High five for Audi’s hardcore R8 GT

Tipping the scales: The lightweight R8 GT features a fixed rear wing in place of the standard car's automatic spoiler.

Stripped Audi R8 GT sold out months before strictly limited 412kW super coupe lands

29 Sep 2010

FIVE buyers have already snapped up the entire Australian allocation of Audi’s leaner, meaner R8 GT mid-engined super coupe that is set to rumble Down Under in March after its formal debut at this week’s Paris motor show.

The stripped out R8 GT is not only lighter than the standard 5.2-litre V10 R8 Coupe and Spyder, but also packs an extra 28kW of power, pushing the performance of the Lamborghini-sourced engine out to 412kW and 540Nm (+10Nm).

To become the third Audi R8 variant on the Australian market after this week’s launch of the slinky soft-top R8 Spyder, the GT will be one of Audi Australia’s headline acts for 2011, alongside its new entry-level A1 and luxury A7 Sportback.

7 center imageFrom top: Audi R8 GT and its interior, Audi A1 1.4 TFSI, Audi R8 Spyder.

As Audi announced in May, just 333 R8 GTs will be built for world consumption, with just five destined for keen Australian Audi fans – at least some of which are said to be existing R8 owners looking for the ultimate hardcore expression of Audi’s flagship sports machine.

At Paris, the production GT will line up on the Audi stand alongside the luxury A7 Sportback – which has just been given its global media launch in Europe – and the hottest version of the new Volkswagen Polo-based A1, the 136kW 1.4-litre TSFI.

That version of the A1 has also been confirmed for Australia, touching down in the second half of 2011, several months after the early-2011 launch of the standard models powered by a 90kW/230Nm 1.4-litre TFSI petrol engine and 66kW/230Nm 1.6-litre TDI diesel.

Priced against rivals such as the Mini Cooper, the A1 is expected to be one of the main drivers of Audi sales growth in 2011, with Audi Australian managing director Uwe Hagen telling GoAuto at this week’s media launch of the R8 Spyder and RS5 that the new entry level car could add between 15 and 20 per cent to Audi’s volumes.

This year, Audi is expecting its Australian sales to top 9000 units, up from 7563 last year and 6601 in 2008.

Mr Hagen said the A1 would give Audi its largest target market of any car in the range, pulling buyers up from more mainstream cars and, in the case of city dwellers, down from larger cars.

Australians will get their first chance to check out the A1 at the Australian International Motor Show in Sydney from October 15, when it will debut alongside the just-launched R8 Spyder and 4.2-litre V8 RS5, as well as the long-wheelbase version of the A8 flagship limousine.

Also imminent for the Australian market are new powertrains for the Q7 large SUV. These include the latest 3.0-litre petrol and diesel V6s and 4.2-litre V8, as well as the new eight-speed ZF automatic transmission.

Although no price has been quoted for the R8 GT, the five lucky buyers who rushed into their Audi dealerships to slap down deposits after the May announcement can expect to pay a hefty premium over the $347,414 R8 Coupe, although maybe not as much as the R8 Spyder that tops out at $392,000 for the automatic transmission version.

Equipped with the R-tronic sequential automated gearbox, the R8 GT accelerates from zero to 100 km/h in 3.6 seconds – 0.3 seconds faster than the standard Coupe – and has a top speed of 320 km/h.

Engineers stripped 100kg out of the GT, although Audi Australia says creature comforts such as air-conditioning and sound system remain.

A thinner windshield, polycarbonate bulkheads and fibreglass reinforced plastic seats helped to slash the weight to 1525kg.

Among the exterior changes is a prominent fixed rear wing in place of the standard R8’s automatically raised rear spoiler.

While Audi Australia knows exactly how many R8 GTs it will sell, due to strict factory limits, sales of the R8 Spyder are less exact, with Mr Hagen predicting between 50 and 60 sales in the first 12 months.

So far this year, Audi has registered 19 R8 Coupes, down considerably on last year’s initial rush when it sold 103 cars to the end of the year.

Mr Hagen said that globally, he expected Audi sales to top a million cars for the first time – up at least 18 per cent on last year.

“The main driver of the market is still China, but also the German market, the American market – all the large markets are running quite well,” he said.

“The mood at headquarters is relaxed, I would say.” Mr Hagen said what seemed to be working globally for Audi was also working in Australia.

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