New Audi R8: V6 and RWD?
Like the idea of a rear-wheel-drive only Audi R8? What about an R8 with a V6? Or even a ‘GT3'-spec R8: a road-going track monster?
If so, there could be some good news, because Audi has told TopGear.com that the new R8 - set to be unveiled at the upcoming Geneva Motor Show - will feature a wider range of variants than ever before.
Speaking at a preview event at the Ascari circuit in southern Spain, R8 technical lead Roland Schala told us that the sports car's new platform - shared of course, with the new Lamborghini Huracan - offers previously unimaginable production options.
Storm chasing in the new Lamborghini Huracan
"The production line for this new car is so flexible," Schala told us, "so there's no problem to change it, to bring different models like a Superleggera, or GT, or Clubsport variants of the new R8."
The new R8 will launch with only the range-topping, naturally aspirated 5.2-litre V10 engine for now - in two power outputs of 540bhp and 610bhp - but Schala is aware of a need for a smaller engine.
"We're not quite sure what the next step is," he said, "but we definitely need engines that sit below the V10 over the life cycle of this car."
So a naturally aspirated V8 will appear, but what about a V6? "As low as a V6? Maybe," Roland hints. "The V6 is a perfect engine for this kind of car. We have a lot of potential with the V6, from 400bhp upwards, so it's possible."
An R8 diesel is also under consideration, according to Roland, but with that comes a potential penalty: weight.
"With our history on the racetrack, we've discussed the idea of a diesel, but is it the right step to bring it in?" says Schala. "It would certainly make us unique, but you need more technology around the engine to keep it clean - filters, ad blue for NOX reduction - and of course there's the weight.
"You have a lot of torque though, but the question is whether that's good for a car like the R8, because with lots of torque you don't have to change the gear as much, and the R8 has to have an emotional side," he added.
So does that mean turbocharging is out of the question for the new R8?
"For us it's all about high revolutions right now. It's not 100 per cent fixed on whether we bring turbos into the R8 for the future, but right now our focus is on the high revving naturally aspirated engine." No hardship, considering that V10 sounds like the apocalypse.
Future powertrains could also include a petrol-electric hybrid - as seen in the new Honda NSX - but don't expect it any time soon. "With this chassis it's possible to add a plug-in hybrid, and we have a lot of knowledge in Audi AG. We have the next stage of battery tech with a range of just over 300 miles. Again, though, the question is whether the customer wants this in a sports car or a saloon.
"McLaren for example only makes sports cars, so they can bring this tech into their cars. But at Audi we have so many model rows, we can bring the right drivetrain into the right model. It's not the goal to bring every technology to every car." We'll see another R8 e-tron prototype too, very soon.
There is still, however, another elephant in the room, and that's the small matter of a manual gearbox. The open-gate manual R8 remains one of the truly great experiences, let's not forget. But Schala won't be drawn on whether the stick shift will remain, only confirming the MkII R8 will launch with a double-clutch box.
"Nothing's been 100 per cent decided [on a manual], but only a small group of people love the manual shift. With this new car's performance, an automatic gearbox is better."
DTM and Audi development driver Frank Stippler agrees. "I like manuals a lot because it's pure driving pleasure, but I think on cars with over 500bhp, it's better to have an automatic. And the new ‘S-Tronic' gearbox shifts so fast - and still gives you that ‘performance' edge that's nice to feel."
So V6? Hybrid? Electric? Rear-drive? What would be your perfect MkII R8?
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