Will we ever forgive Audi for not doing this?
Audi finally confirmed rumors that it considered introducing a more affordable R8, but the so-called rumor mill got it all wrong. Instead of the twin-turbocharged V6 hearsay that emerged in 2018, the German brand wanted to give the planned base Audi R8 a more celebrated engine with some motorsport provenance.
By now, you've probably guessed that we're talking about Audi's famous turbocharged five-pot, which lay dormant for a few years but made a glorious comeback in 2009 when the TT RS was introduced to the world.
Marcos Marques, Project Manager eFuels at Porsche, recently sat down with The Intercooler and revealed what could have been. You might want to sit down for this and give it a full listen, especially if you're a fan of VW, Audi, or Porsche vehicles. There's plenty that comes to light, but here we're going to focus on the more engaging R8 supercar that could have been.
Marques was a fan of the concept but, at the time, wasn't high enough on the corporate ladder to know why it never made it to production.
"It was a shame because the five-cylinder turbo engine was a good strong engine, it sounded different, and I think it worked well in the R8," said Marques. "The car was lighter and more agile, too, but maybe some people at Audi Sport didn't think it felt like a real R8, so quite late on, they decided the car wouldn't happen."
The above quote is bittersweet. It proves that a five-pot R8 exists, and we're elated but also despondent because we'll never get the opportunity to experience it. Marques said it had less horsepower but more torque and was nearly as fast as the V10. There's a clue as to why it didn't make the cut right there.
The "more torque" gives us something to work with. The naturally aspirated V10 in the regular R8 produced 562 horsepower and 406 lb-ft of torque. In the current-generation RS3, the five-pot produces 401 hp and 369 lb-ft, but this engine is one of the most tuneable out there. Audi likely pushed the torque above 400 lb-ft using nothing more than an ECU tweak. In the Donkervoort F22, it reliably produces 492 hp and 494 lb-ft.
If we had to guess, Audi axed the project because the resulting car was too good. Thanks to the 2023 R8 GT, we know a RWD R8 is magnificent. Now imagine it being lighter and equipped with a six-speed manual. Customers would have walked past the $200,000 5.2-liter V10 performance quattro and placed an order for the entry-level five-cylinder.
Alas, we shall never know. The Audi R8 is officially dead, and its successor will almost certainly run on electricity. While we have nothing against an electric supercar, we can't imagine volts making the same deafening offbeat sound made famous by Audi's rallying efforts.
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