It’s always difficult for a carmaker to join the supercar club, but Audi had a bona fide hit with the first-generation R8. Audi had a solid reputation as a luxury carmaker when the R8 first launched in 2008, but making the jump to supercars still seemed like quite a stretch. Yet, the outgoing model is among the most well-regarded cars of its type.
As good as it is, though, the R8 is definitely due for replacement. All of its competitors are much younger, so the second-generation 2016 R8 set to arrive next year will come at the appropriate time.
Now that the R8 is an established contender, Audi will have to improve on the current model while still maintaining the qualities that made the R8 a success in the first place. Here’s how Audi will most likely do that.
The current R8 has a very distinctive look made all the more recognizable by its appearance in the various Iron Man movies, and as an early concept in I, Robot. It doesn’t appear that Audi will drastically alter this successful design.
Judging by the recent remake of Audi’s other styles icon, the TT, it seems the brand’s design language is going through a stage of evolution rather than revolution. So expect the next R8 to have a strong resemblance to the first-generation model, but with enough changes to keep things interesting and fresh.
The renderings above by Dutch designer Marco Van Overbeeke (via World Car Fans) could be pretty close to the real thing. They show sharper lines and an angular grille similar to the one on the new TT. The current model’s “side blades” have also been separated into two elements, giving the side air intakes a more muscular look.
As with the current model, expect the next R8 to be offered in both coupe and convertible Spyder forms.
Meanwhile, there’s been more than a little controversy surrounding the chassis that supports this updated styling.
Engineers reportedly had to go back to the drawing board after the first design was thrown out by executives. Adding further haste, the whole program was also reportedly fast-tracked so Audi can make its own decisions, ahead of a planned consolidation that will see Porsche run all Volkswagen Group sports-car projects.
There have been so many powertrain rumors related to the next-generation R8 that it wouldn’t be surprising to hear an Audi executive say it might run on dilithium crystals.
Audi did plenty of powertrain experimentation with the outgoing model, and some of that is expected to pay off soon. The all-electric R8 e-tron spent years in development hell, but the battery-powered supercar may finally make it to showrooms as part of the second-generation R8 lineup.
At last month’s Los Angeles Auto Show, Audi technical boss Dr. Ulrich Hackenberg told Auto Express that engineers were on their way to developing a production R8 e-tron with 280 miles of range, as well as a plug-in hybrid version.
Audi also experimented with a diesel version of the current R8, so it’s probably not surprising that an R8 TDI is also rumored to be in the works. Audi recently showed off a diesel RS 5 concept with an electric turbocharger, but it’s unclear whether this novel powertrain will actually make it to production.
The current R8 is offered with 4.2-liter V8 and 5.2-liter V10 engines, and these are likely to return as well. Audi’s quattro all-wheel drive will be standard, but the R8 may no longer be offered with a manual transmission due to low take rates on the current stick shift.
Finally, Audi is reportedly considering a hardcore “RS” that would feature a tuned V10 and more spartan accommodations to save weight. Possibly the first R8 model ever with rear-wheel drive, it would be Audi’s answer to the Ferrari 458 Speciale and the upcoming Porsche 911 GT3 RS.
Audi made waves this past year when it unveiled the “virtual cockpit” design for the 2016 TT. It features a streamlined dashboard layout that moves all of the information displays to one pod where a traditional gauge cluster would normally be located.
The obviously driver-centric quality of this design has caused Audi to shy away from using it on its larger sedans and crossovers, but if it can work in the TT, why not in the two-seat R8?
Audi hasn’t discussed the interior design of the next R8 in detail, but recent efforts like the TT, 2016 Q7, and the Prologue concept from the 2014 Los Angeles Auto Show indicate the brand’s willingness to mix things up.
Plus, the Lamborghini Huracán LP610-4, on which the new R8 will be based, features the exact same Virtual Cockpit hardware as the new TT — just with different graphics. So we’d be hugely surprised if the next R8 didn’t boast the same setup as the 2016 TT.
Don’t expect the 2016 Audi R8 to be a stripped-out track rat. It will likely feature tech options like the current model’s navigation and Bang & Olufsen audio systems, and perhaps a few other new features lifted from other current Audi models.
When to expect it
The 2016 Audi R8 will debut at a major auto show in 2015, and could go on sale before the end of the year. Only the more basic variants will likely be available at launch, with more to come further down the line.