Although Audi has produced its share of high-performance machines in its more than 100 years in business, the four interlocking rings are not the first badge that comes to mind when the subject of exotic cars comes up. Until the early 2000s, Audi focused largely on cranking out reliable sedans, coupes, and wagons while also dedicating significant resources to its motorsports program.
That began to change in 1998 when the Volkswagen Group paid more than $100 million to acquire Lamborghini. Soon after, Audi sought to capitalize on its success at Le Mans by introducing the Le Mans Quattro concept car at the 2003 Frankfurt Auto Show. That concept merged with the R8 race car that had won the 24 Hours of Le Mans every year from 2000 through 2002; the new model debuted at the 2006 Paris Auto Show.
Little was changed between the concept Le Mans Quattro and the production version R8, except that the concept car’s twin-turbo V10 engine was swapped out for a naturally aspirated 4.2 liter V8 that put out 414 horsepower and 317 pound-feet of torque. The 2007 R8 could go from zero-to-60 mph in 4.3 seconds and had a top speed of 187 mph.
In 2009, Audi added those two cylinders back to the R8’s engine, replacing the V8 with a 5.2-liter V10 that shaved nearly a half second off the R8’s zero-to-60 time and boosted the top speed to 196 mph. A lighter and more powerful R8 came in 2011, and Audi released a GT edition in 2023 with a 602 horsepower engine, rear-wheel drive, and a seven-speed automatic transmission.