Underground Racing Audi R8: 1500 Hp and 6 Gated Speeds

It’s not long for this world, but the V10-powered Audi R8 is still styling around for 2022. However, while the mid-engine supercar isn’t lacking in performance, as with any other car, some owners want more. And some want a lot more, as evidenced by the increasing number of R8s with four-digit horsepower figures. But the latest Underground Racing Audi R8 build adds more than just power: it also gives back the manual.

Underground Racing gives a 2020 Audi R8 two turbos and 1500 hp

The side view of Underground Racing's 1500-hp 2020 Audi R8 Decennium in a garage
Underground Racing 1500-hp 2020 Audi R8 Decennium side | Underground Racing

Charlotte, North Carolina-based Underground Racing has a history of high-horsepower supercars. Once upon a time, it offered twin-turbo setups for the Dodge Viper and last-gen Ford GT. Today, though, it works mainly on Audi R8s, Ferraris, and Lamborghinis, including the R8’s old sibling, the Gallardo. But just because the car selection shrunk doesn’t mean the options have, too.

In stock form, a 2020 Audi R8 V10 Decennium makes 602 hp and 413 lb-ft of torque. With the help of two turbochargers and some mild ECU tweaks, Underground Racing bumps that up to 800 hp at the wheels on 93-octane gas. And it throws in a 2-year/24,000-mile warranty.

A see-through rear 3/4 view of the twin-turbocharged V10 engine in Underground Racing's black 1500-hp 2020 Audi R8 Decennium
Underground Racing 1500-hp 2020 Audi R8 Decennium rear 3/4 engine view | Underground Racing

But that’s just the first rung on the Underground Racing R8 performance ladder. The shop’s Stage 1 kit lets you run race gas for up to 900 whp (wheel-horsepower). Stage 2 delivers 850 whp on 93-octane and 1150 whp on race gas. It also offers E85 compatibility. Next is Stage 3, with 1100 whp on 93-octane and 1300 whp with race gas. And then there’s Stage 3 Plus, which boosts the R8’s V10 to 1150 whp on street-legal fuel and up to 1400 whp with race gas.

The 2020 Audi R8 V10 Decennium that Underground Racing just built, though, goes one stage further, to Race spec. Besides the turbos, this R8 sports a polished billet aluminum intake, proprietary JRR engine management system, rolling anti-lag software, and upgraded launch control and driving modes. And because it’s a Race-spec R8, it rides on Performante center-lock wheels.

Power is great, but this Audi R8 has something greater: a gated manual shifter

The steering wheel and carbon-fiber center console of a 2020 Audi R8 Decennium with a gated manual shifter modified by Underground Racing
Underground Racing 2020 Audi R8 Decennium with manual shifter | Underground Racing

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Although the 2021 R8 has a rear-wheel-drive trim, this bonkers 2020 Decennium retains the standard AWD system. A smart move given its new power output. However, this Audi R8 has one mod that’s decidedly not factory-standard, or at least, not anymore: a gated six-speed manual.  

When Audi released the first-gen R8 in 2008, manual supercars were already dying out. A supercar with a gated manual shifter wasn’t just rare: it was practically unique. Too unique, perhaps, because one year after the R8 ditched its automated manual for a proper dual-clutch automatic, the manual left, too. Audi hasn’t offered a manual R8 since the second-gen model launched in 2015, Road & Track notes.

But though a DCT is faster, many enthusiasts prefer the satisfaction of shifting themselves. And gated manuals, with their metal-on-metal tactile sensations, are particularly potent dopamine producers. So, at this 2020 Audi R8 Decennium owner’s request, Underground Racing swapped the car’s DCT for a manual.

Swapping an automatic for a manual is rarely a straightforward process, even for a professional shop. Indeed, Underground Racing says the procedure required “a bunch of custom parts” and “a lot of R&D time,” R&T reports. But the transmission itself is actually a factory R8 part, albeit from a 2012 one. And not only does it work well with the AWD system, but because the shop installed its “street-friendly clutch,” it reportedly drives nicely, too, R&T claims.

How much does a stick-shift R8 like this cost?

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As of this writing, Underground Racing hasn’t released pricing details for the Audi R8 manual conversion. But it’s willing to swap gated shifters into other R8s, provided their owners also buy one of its twin-turbo kits. And one of those isn’t exactly cheap.

Although 1500-whp Race kit pricing isn’t available, the 800-whp kit starts at $49,000. Meanwhile, a Stage 3 Plus kit costs $175,000. And keep in mind, a used second-gen R8 often costs around $150,000. All the ‘Stage’ kits have a 2-year/24,000-mile warranty, though.

If you want to save some cash, know that Audi offered both the V8 and V10 first-gen R8 with gated manuals. They’re still not cheap per se; a good-condition example costs about $85,000 these days, Hagerty says. But although not as fast as the latest version, the first-gen cars are more stylish and special, R&T argues.

Nevertheless, Underground Racing deserves a salute for saving the manuals, one supercar at a time.

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