When the Audi R8 was first released in 2007, it helped to marry the usability of an everyday car with the thrill of driving a mid-engined V10 sports car. Its aluminium spaceframe kept weight down, while the large-capacity gasoline engine edged it towards a top speed of almost 320km/h.
But as popular and capable as the first-generation vehicle was, as soon as the development programme had finished, engineers started thinking about how they could improve the R8 in its second generation.
“We started to think about the next generation almost immediately. We developed our first ideas for the new car at the start of 2009, and the new R8 project began in earnest in 2010,” says Roland Schala, senior project manager for the R8.
The project wasn't as simple as developing the second generation of the road car, though. It also involved bringing the R8 LMS race car and the battery electric R8 e-tron to fruition in parallel. But for Schala, those extra demands were a benefit rather than a hindrance.
“The requirements of these three cars all fed into the development process. I'm a keen driver as well as an engineer, so for me the hand-in-hand development of the road car alongside its GT3 racing counterpart, and the amount of common ground between them mechanically, are a crowning achievement,” he says.
The targets for the new vehicle were to increase power output and efficiency, reduce weight and increase torsional rigidity, without compromising comfort, he says.
Perhaps the starting block for any high-performance vehicle is its powertrain. And although Audi has a long line of successful vehicles that use twin-charged V8 gasoline units, the R8 maintains its naturally aspirated V10 engine.
“We explored many options for the R8 successor, but the feedback that we had from customers at the time was that was that they loved the character, instantaneous response and free-revving nature of the original naturally aspirated units,” says Schala.
This is why the second-generation R8 uses a 5,204cc naturally aspirated V10, but one that benefits from both direct injection and manifold injection systems and, to improve efficiency, cylinder deactivation.
“We wanted to retain its innate character and response. But we optimised it by combining direct injection and indirect manifold injection, and integrating cylinder-on-demand technology,” says Schala.
These features give the R8's naturally aspirated unit a maximum output of 449kW/560Nm in the highest-performance V10 Plus model, while carbon emissions are 287g/km and fuel efficiency is 12.3 litres/100km on the NEDC test cycle.
While drive-past exterior noise levels might be recorded as 74dB officially, engineers have also included a button on the steering wheel so drivers can enhance the aural thrill as they press the accelerator harder and watch the tachometer climb. I was guilty of enjoying the soundtrack as I drove through the south of France during the vehicle's launch, shifting down a gear on the R8's seven-speed, dual-clutch transmission.
But while drivers will instantly notice the sound of the car, and feel the acceleration to 100km/h – which takes as little as 3.1 seconds – and on to a top speed of 330km/h, handling has also been improved.
A key focus was reducing the weight. Although the previous generation's aluminium spaceframe was already comparatively light, Audi's investment in carbon fibre-reinforced plastic (CFRP) meant that it could do more in this latest vehicle.
|tags:||Audi High Performance|