With Ford prepping for the launch of the GT, Acura getting the new NSX ready, and a slew of others putting the finishing touches on their own performance vehicles, Audi has not been sitting idly by. Instead, the company’s engineer and design teams have been hard at work crafting the new R8, Audi’s range-topping supercar, for its second-generation release.
If the second-generation ends up being as successful as Audi’s first go at the supercar segment, then the German company’s leadership shouldn’t have much to worry about.
Top Gear says that Audi has sold more than 25,000 units over the past eight or so years, making the R8 one of the best-sellers on the market — as far as supercars go, anyway. So, how could Audi possibly plan to up the ante? Well, if the word on the street holds true, the new R8 will arrive in even more distinctive flavors than before, and Audi is even willing to give companies like Tesla a run for their money with an electric version, as well. Due out for the 2016 model year, the new Audi R8 may present a nearly unstoppable force on the luxury sports car market — as long as it can stay a step ahead of the rest of a segment that is very quickly evolving.
As far as what’s new for the 2016 R8, there will be an all-electric version, the R8 e-tron, as mentioned before. But the gasoline-powered model will be getting an upgrade, too. Debuting at the Geneva Auto Show, the new R8 will come in one of two versions, both with a 10-cylinder engine.
“Motorsport is in Audi’s genes, it has always been a permanent feature of our brand’s character,” Ulrich Hackenberg, a board member of technical development at Audi, said in a press release. “With the new Audi R8, our engineers are bringing accumulated racing expertise from the race track onto the road. No other model of ours evokes more dynamic emotion. The new R8 V10 Plus is therefore the most powerful and fastest series-production Audi of all time.”
Depending on your power preference, you can either get the R8 equipped with a V10 producing 540 horsepower on the low end or opt for the 610-horsepower version, which can jet from zero to 60 miles per hour in 3.2 seconds and reaches a terminal speed at 205 miles per hour. There are also some new nifty features that allow for different power distribution models. “The distribution of the drive torque adapts to the respective driving conditions — in extreme cases, 100 percent of the torque can be transmitted to the front or rear axle,” the company says. “The new performance mode in the Audi drive select dynamic handling system enables adaptation of the most important ride dynamics parameters to the friction coefficient of the road.”
Other improvements for the R8’s second generation include a lighter curb weight, infotainment system and electronic features, and most notably, a tweaked aesthetic that employs carbon fiber and aluminum alloys. Audi calls the new design “flat, wide, and muscular,” reflecting the car’s “sporty character.” Without a doubt, the new R8 does look sleeker and more aerodynamic, and if Audi’s performance data holds up, the lighter construct and new appearance give it an advantage on the track.
Considering that the R8 is set to go up against an entire new slate of competitors and performance car rivals, Audi looks like it put its eggs in the right basket. The one downside? All versions of the new R8 will come equipped with the company’s S-Tronic transmission, which means that there is no manual option. Not yet.
As for the new R8 e-tron, it may become the most impressive electric car out there. Six years after the initial concept was shown, the production model was finally shown off at Geneva, and it looks like it was worth the wait. The R8 e-tron will have a driving range of 280 miles, with 458 horsepower and 678 pound-feet of torque supplied by dual electric motors. Top speed hasn’t been disclosed yet, but it can still hit 60 miles per hour in 3.9 seconds, as Motor Authority reports. Watch out, Tesla.
Now to the important stuff: How does the new R8 stack up against the competition? There’s plenty of it out there, including the traditional supercar powers that be, like Ferrari and Lamborghini. While Audi has been able to outsell models from both of those automakers, it’s in large part because the R8 costs significantly less. For comparison’s sake, the R8 currently costs just over $115,000. The Lamborghini Huracan starts at nearly $240,000, and the Ferrari 458 is not much less.
But as we discussed before, there are two big new additions that are primed to hit the market very soon which might be more of a threat to the R8’s market share than any models from the super high-end brands. The first of which is Acura’s new NSX, which is making its reappearance on the market for the first time in years. Not only does the NSX look similar to the R8 on paper, but it will come in much closer in price, as well. The NSX is expected to cost roughly $150,000 when it goes on sale.
As for the set of black sails on the horizon, Ford is bringing back the GT with an as-yet-unknown price tag. The GT also has some built-in nostalgia and excitement to its release, as well, perhaps giving it a slight edge out of the gate. Power is expected to be in excess of 600 horses.
The advantage the R8 has over both of these cars is a bigger engine (the NSX and GT are both equipped with a V6), although the GT and NSX could see upgrades later into their life cycles. It’s also possible, as Jalopnik reports, that the R8 could see a V6 variant at some point. There are also serious rivals in the 650-horsepower Corvette Z06 from Chevrolet and the 545-horsepower GT-R from Nissan, both of which also have similar performance numbers to the R8 and are much more affordable than the higher-end brands — they fall between $80,000 and $100,000 or so.
Needless to say, the R8 is in the midst of a very competitive segment, and the new redesign couldn’t come at a more perfect time.
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