For once, America gets the better car.
European luxury automakers have sometimes sold sporty models with slightly different performance figures in the US versus Europe. One well known example of this was the E36 BMW M3. While both Europe and the US got the 3.0-liter inline-six under the hood, the US version produced only 240 horsepower to Europe's 286 ponies. Turns out, a similar phenomenon is happening with the latest facelift of the venerable Audi R8 - but don't worry, its for a good reason.
Speaking to Anthony Garbis, part of Audi Sport's product planning team, at the New York Auto Show, we learned that while the base V10 gets the 30 hp bump worldwide, the V10 Performance (which replaces the Plus) will not see the same 10 hp increase in the US that it does in Europe. While the V10 Performance will remain at 602 hp instead of Europe's 612 horses, the difference boils down to the fact that the R8 will retain the sports exhaust in the US, whereas stricter noise regulations in Europe necessitated a new exhaust for their model.
As Garbis explained, looser regulations means the United States can "keep the sport exhaust with the controllable flaps, so you have that raspy, mechanical noise here that the newer motor doesn't have." Furthermore, when the car already has over six hundred horsepower, a 10 hp nudge won't have drastic effects on performance, so Audi USA decided to prioritize the R8's stupendous sound.
We also asked Garbis about the future of Audi's other sports car, the TT. While he wouldn't comment directly on the model's future, he noted that Audi "just had a facelift for the TT, so there's still life left in the car." In terms of successors, he said, "who knows what that will look like."
Lastly, we enquired about Audi's choice to move away from manual transmissions in the US. It partially comes down to practicality, with Garbis explaining that "when you look in the mainstream and you look at advances like driver assistance, it is something you cannot do with a manual." The decision also resulted from sales, with Garbis blatantly admitting that "when you talk to the majority of people, no one wants it." Garbis explained that this is because "specs are selling cars," and since the S-Tronic is faster than a manual, people will tend to go for the S-Tronic. Unfortunately, it looks like Audi is truly giving up on the manual, and as Garbis warned, "Eventually everyone will be."