Geneva Motor Show: Audi's new R8 supercar bows early

Audi's new R8 drops V-8 in favor of one of two upgraded V-10 engines

Audi’s new R8 supercar broke cover Thursday, getting a head start on its global debut at next week’s Geneva Motor Show.

Set to hit the U.S. market in early 2016 as a 2017 model, the second-generation R8 favors evolution where its predecessor was a revolution. The new R8 keeps much of what made the original great, while tweaking the recipe for more power and lighter weight.

The car is a close cousin to the Lamborghini Huracan that launched in 2014. (Volkswagen owns both Audi and Lambo.) It shares a similar 5.2-liter V-10 engine mounted behind the driver and passenger.

The new R8 will come in two strengths, each tuned for more power than its predecessor.

The regular V-10 model jumps to 540 horsepower and 398 pound-feet of torque from 525 horsepower and 391 pound-feet of torque. Its zero-to-62 mph time drops by 0.3 seconds to 3.5 seconds and its top speed is an even 200 mph.

The V-10 Plus model now packs 610 horsepower and 413 pound-feet of torque, a 3.2-second zero-to-62 mph time and a top speed of 205 mph. These official figures are for European-spec models, though they’re not expected to change much when U.S. numbers are announced in the coming months.

Both versions come standard with Audi’s quattro all-wheel-drive system and a seven-speed, dual-clutch transmission.

R8 fanboys will point out that there’s no mention of the base V-8 engine that the original R8 started off with when the car was first introduced in 2007. Audi was keen to leverage the new model’s race-derived V-10 engine that it will also use in the competition R8 LMS model starting next season.

"Motorsport is in Audi’s DNA, it is part of the brand’s character," said Ulrich Hackenberg, head of Audi’s technical development. "No other model of ours evokes more dynamic emotion; none is closer to a race car."

A smaller-engine version could bow in the future, though Audi hasn’t decided whether it will be a V-8 as before, or a twin-turbocharged V-6.

Audi will also hand-build a very limited number of all-electric R8 e-tron models for the European market only. That car promises the equivalent of 456 horsepower, 678 pound-feet of torque, and a 3.9-second zero to 62 mph time.

All new R8 models leverage a lighter aluminum chassis and carbon fiber components to drop weight by as much as 177 pounds; the V-10 Plus weighs a respectable 3,428 pounds.

Aesthetically no one will mistake the new R8 for anything else. The wedged profile remains, though the car is now wider and flatter than before. Audi sharpened most of the car’s curves, and the distinctive "side blade" panel behind the two doors is now bisected by the quarter panel.

 

Inside, the R8 expands on the minimalist approach first seen in the 2016 TT coupe. There’s no dashboard-mounted infotainment screen anymore, as it’s been relocated to the fully digital instrument panel, for a cleaner, driver-oriented approach.

 

As mentioned, the R8 will go on sale next spring, likely as a 2017 model.

U.S. pricing hasn’t been announced, but it’s not expected to jump much. The original R8 was always a bit of a bargain considering the performance and curb appeal it promised.

Its frugality was also aided by the cheaper V-8 engine and the availability of the six-speed manual transmission, neither of which will be available on the 2017.

But for comparison, the outgoing V-10 with the dual-clutch gearbox started at $162,900, while the V-10 Plus started at $182,500.

The new R8 is one of several high-power, high-dollar cars set to debut at the annual Swiss event. Ferrari, McLaren, Lamborghini, Bentley, Aston Martin and Porsche all have similar debuts planned. The Geneva Motor Show is open to the press on Tuesday and Wednesday, and to the general public Thursday through March 5.

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times
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