Audi looks to the future of the R8 with smaller displacement, turbocharged engines

The higher-ups at Audi have confirmed that its halo sports car, the R8, will soon adopt a turbocharged powertrain. While that won’t come as a shock to the majority of enthusiasts, it does signal the end for Audi’s iconic 4.2-liter V8.

Presently, the 2016 R8 comes in two flavors, both powered by a 5.2-liter V10 borrowed from the new Lamborghini Huracan. The standard R8 V10 makes 540 horsepower and 398 pound-feet of torque while the V10 Plus turns up the heat to the tune of 610 HP and 413 lb-ft of torque.

Audi’s board member for development, Ulrich Hackenberg, and quattro boss Heinz Peter Hollerweger stuck by the decision to use a V10, but acknowledged that naturally-aspirated engines will have a short lifespan in the present generation sports car.

There are a few key reasons to switch to a turbocharged engine. On the performance end, turbo technology has advanced to render power delays almost non-existent and deliver ample amounts of torque. Fuel economy and tightening regulations also are part of the decision to drop the displacement. Finally, with the industry’s best sports cars moving to hybrid and turbocharged setups, the R8 risks being viewed as a dinosaur.

The Mercedes-AMG GT and GT S, the McLaren 570 S and 650 S, the Porsche 911 Turbo, and Ferrari’s 488 GTB are all twin-turbocharged competitors. And not only do the R8’s rivals develop more torque, but they do it much earlier in the rev range.

In terms of where the turbocharged R8 version would fall within the halo car’s range, both executives hinted that the once-entry-level 4.2-liter V8, not the V10, would be the one to go. “It’s quite unique to build naturally aspirated engines today and our customers love it. It doesn’t mean we are not going to do a turbo, but naturally aspirated is here to stay as well,” Dr Hackenberg said during the R8 launch in Portugal last week.

As for which turbocharged motor would be called up to serve, it looks like both Audi’s in-line five-cylinder and its twin-turbocharged V6 are likely candidates.

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