Audi is preparing to enter the exclusive realm of high-end hypercar manufacturers with a spectacular 600bhp-plus, four-wheel drive R10 flagship model inspired by its latest Le Mans-winning R18 race car.

The high-tech two-seater, conceived to sit above the upcoming second-generation R8, aims to provide a direct link between the German car maker’s high-profile motorsport activities and the road car side of its business.

Among the R10’s planned highlights are a high-powered diesel-electric drivetrain, a dual-clutch automatic gearbox and the very latest in torque-vectoring-assisted quattro four-wheel drive, all likely to be showcased on a lightly veiled concept of the Audi hypercar set to be unveiled at the Frankfurt motor show in September.

Speaking to Autocar at last week’s Geneva motor show, the head of Audi’s R&D operations, Wolfgang Dürheimer, said the new Audi was currently in the “product evaluation” stage of its development, but he suggested the signs are positive that it would enter production.

“We run product evaluation on different ideas, looking at market positioning, brand image, development cost and time to market,” said Dürheimer. “Once this is done we will have a clear decision on what happens next. I would expect an update at the Frankfurt motor show.”

The new hypercar is considered to be crucial to Audi’s efforts to offer its customers cutting-edge technology on its road cars following a decision to shelve plans for the R8 e-tron.

The electric powered coupé was developed through to production maturity under the company’s former head of R&D, Michael Dick, following a long gestation. However, a lack of range led to its development being abandoned just months out from planned production.

While Audi remains guarded on details of the future flagship hypercar, Autocar can reveal the proposal for the R10 centres around a newly developed carbonfibre monocoque structure and body featuring styling cues linking it directly with the aggressive-looking R18 race car. “I’ve seen the styling proposal and it looks great,” said Dürheimer.

Power is set to come from a heavily reworked version of Audi’s turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 diesel engine, which will drive the rear wheels through a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox. It produces 309bhp and 479lb ft in standard form but various tweaks, including the adoption of a new induction system, lightweight internals and new crankcases, are likely to lift the 90deg unit’s reserves to more than 420bhp and 515lb ft, according to one source with knowledge of Audi’s hypercar plans.

The diesel engine is set to be supported by a pair of brushless electric motors mounted within the front axle assembly and providing drive to the front wheels. This layout mirrors that of the Porsche 918 Spyder, a car whose development Dürheimer was intimately involved in as the previous head of Porsche’s R&D activities.

Together the diesel engine and electric motor are planned to provide a combined output of more than 600bhp and 737lb ft of torque.

Dürheimer said the diesel-electric hypercar is his preferred choice to take Audi into a new, exclusive hypercar segment. But he also indicated it is not the only proposal on the table. “It is one out of five potential projects, but it is definitely my personal favourite,” he told Autocar.

Greg Kable/Mark Tisshaw