In 2022, Audi will reinvent the R8 as an electric supercar, in a move that will mark the end of the use of V10 engines by the carmaker.
V10s have been a staple for Audi, having been used in some of their most exciting performance models over the past few decades. The adoption of the all-electric drivetrain for the third-gen range-topping supercar highlights the rise of electric power and, as a corollary, the end of big, high-revving, normally aspirated engines sans electrical assistance.
Audi is also winding down the use of V8 engines. The latest RS4 and RS5 models have switched to downsized turbo V6s. The bigger V8s are seen in only the most potent models – in the A6, A7 and A8 ranges, as well as the bruising SQ7 SUV.
Audi created a limited-run R8 E-tron in 2015 as its first step towards electrified performance cars. Senior company sources have hinted that the brand plans to go one step further with the third-generation model by launching is solely as an electric car – a radically different proposition from today’s model.
The 2022 model will likely take inspiration from the PB18 e-tron concept, which was revealed at this year's Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance. The 775hp, triple-motor concept uses a shooting brake-like rear-end for greater interior space and improved day-to-day usability than the current R8. However, performance is still paramount. Audi has theorised a top speed above 300kph, and a 0-100kph time of "scarcely more than 2sec".
The R8 was a hit at its launch in 2006 as a stunning range-topping supercar to crown Audi’s huge model expansion; but in 2015, the second-generation R8 did not have the same success. In fact, it was understood that Audi had shelved plans to launch a third-generation R8 after the relative disappointment of the current model. However, the push towards creating a whole range of all-electric models for its E-tron stable led Audi to reconsider its position.
As an electric vehicle developed with pure performance intent, the third-gen R8 could feature some of the most impressive figures. With four-wheel drive, instant torque from its electric motors and an output of perhaps as much as 1,014hp, the 2022 electric performance car is likely to have a 0-100kph time of about 2sec.
To link the R8 with the E-tron badge to be adopted by all electrified Audis, the car is likely to use the name R8 E-tron again. The first electric Audi will be revealed in September and will simply be called E-tron. This will be a sporty Q5-sized vehicle (known as the Q6 E-tron at one point in its development). Before the next R8 is launched in 2022, the E-tron Sportback will make an appearance. The Sportback would be a rakish sibling to the E-tron. This will be followed by the E-tron GT – a model developed by the firm’s Audi Sport performance division.
The 2022 R8 will enter a very different-looking supercar segment as electrification takes hold. McLaren, Ferrari and Porsche are all set to have hybrid technology in production by then, and the current R8’s sister car, the Lamborghini Huracán, will most likely be replaced by a model sporting an updated version of the existing platform, modified to accommodate a hybrid system with a V10 engine.
Audi plans to sell 8 lakh electrified models by 2025. As a result, it is positioning itself as a leader in electric cars. This move is in response to emissions regulations in all major global markets growing even stricter. Another reason is the opportunity presented by such vehicles – particularly in China, the world’s largest car market, that aims to establish itself as the global forerunner for electric cars.