Top speeds are a popular topic in the tuning community and the figures generally lie somewhere between science, artistic license and plain B.S. Because while we're fed an artful tale every single day of how that Mk II Golf would slaughter a Lamborghini on the drag strip and outrun a Mig, Top Gun style, remarkably few tuners are happy to put these claims to the test.
Abt Sportsline isn't like that. Seemingly minutes after receiving the keys to the Abt R8 R I'm homing in on the uncomfortably monikered terminal velocity, flattening the swooping bends of the Kempten autobahn by carving through all three lanes and feeding the car with the slightest nudge of the wrists into the next apex as the needle passes 300 km/h, then 310, then 320 where it stays for a long, long time, and the ringing scream of a wrung-out supercharged V8 threatening to blow a hole in my inner ear.
This wasn't some covert act of wanton lunacy, either. Abt's P.R. manager Florian Bungener was in front, in the company's even faster RS6, clearing the road like some high-speed minesweeper.
This takes a certain level of trust in a driver, and more importantly, the car. The engine was tested on the dyno for days, the chassis completed thousands of laps of the Nrburgring at full chat without ever leaving the rolling road. The facilities at Abt's disposal are among the very best in the tuning world.
The Kempten workshop has OEM-standard development, which is why Christian Abt's outfit is currently charged with developing the R8 GT3 racecar and why it can offer a two-year guarantee. Thanks to the twin-screw Opcon-Lysholm supercharger, which is a relatively simple bolt-on conversion that doesn't require a major engine rebuild, the performance is simply ballistic. Everyone knows the R8 can handle more power-indeed, Audi has moved on to that very task itself with the R10 and diesel-powered variants of this same basic chassis.
Tuners like Abt simply got there first with a 523-hp version, less than rival MTM managed, but it's a more drivable car for this rare show of restraint and with 406 lb-ft of torque it certainly isn't lacking in the trousers department.
Thanks to a super sticky set of Dunlop Sport Maxx XL tires and a surfeit of power, it launches down the road and through the 60-mph mark in 3.7 seconds, 124 mph in 12.4 seconds, and on to 197 mph-in theory. But as we hammered down the deserted and derestricted stretch of road, straightening out the long flowing bends by cutting across all three lanes, the speedo distinctly said 323 km/h. That, in English money, is 200 mph, and a sobering thought for the Gallardo drivers out there who might think twice about scoffing.
And it's as good as anything on the road in the corners. The R8 always was. It even gave the all-conquering Porsche 911 a bloody nose and took its crown as the ultimate everyday supercar.
Abt's customers want a more focused machine that holds the apex that little bit longer, a 3-inch wider track, and traditional H&R springs and adjustable dampers-rather than the Magneride setup favored by Audi and MTM that's just too complicated (expensive) to mess with.
Sitting 15mm lower than the standard car at the front and 20mm at the rear isn't a lot, but it's enough to give the R8 that touch more aggression on turn-in and the added sense of control you get with a car nudging back at the wheel through the bend. Body roll wasn't an issue before, noticeable now only by its absence as I nervously nudge the car into a bend at too high a speed. Even the autobahn has challenging corners at that pace; how fast the world flies backwards at 200 mph.
Simultaneously squashing imperfections in the tarmac and holding a tightening radius deep into triple digits is a skill in itself and Abt's motorsport experience shines through in the near-perfectly damped car that hasn't resorted to cheap tricks like epic camber or toe-in on the wheels. It's frighteningly composed and keeps its cool long after mine starts to exit stage left.
As for the looks, the carbon-fiber kit is vastly expensive, but isn't there to increase downforce. Abt didn't want to plant the car to the deck and instead focused on feeding air to the engine and brakes.
Most of the truly special interior touches actually don't come from Abt at all. The optional carbon pack comes from the factory and it looks absolutely stunning. Abt felt the Audi interior was strong enough and there was no reason to meddle for its own sake. So there's lots of brown leather to match the exterior paint, which looks black from a distance, but is actually saddle brown. The show car came in black with red carbon-fiber aero add-ons, and looked pure evil, but production costs sadly ruled that out for the mass market.
I can't see many folks opting for the unusual engine bay treatment. The chromed effect on the supercharger that makes it stand out like a wrestler's six-pack is one thing, but the Nappa leather trim is quite another. Apparently it won't burn, but animal skin engine cladding isn't likely to win any fashion awards.
Abt has targeted fitting its tuning kit to 0.1 percent of Europe's R8s, an ambitious target considering the conversion costs the equivalent of about $44,000. But then it turns the everyday sports car into a 200-mph hypercar, and while the Mig might be a touch much, it might slaughter a Lamborghini on the strip, which is all that really counts. Next time, maybe we can test that too.
Abt Sportsline R8 R
Longitudinal mid-engine, all-wheel drive
4.2-liter V8, Opcon-Lysholm supercharger, Abt stainless steel exhaust and software
Abt sport springs and dampers
Eight-piston calipers, 15-inch carbon-ceramic rotors (f),Four-piston callipers, 14-inch carbon ceramic discs (r)
*Wheels And Tires
ABT BR20, 9x20 (f), 11x20 (r)Dunlop Sport Maxx XL, 245/30 (f), 305/25 (r)
Carbon splitter, side skirts, rear wing, diffuser, sideblades
Peak Power: 523 hp @ 7800 rpmPeak Torque: 406 lb-ft @ 4500 rpm0-60 mph: 3.7 sec.Top Speed: 200 mph *Abt Sportsline data