Audi plans to catapult its second-generation R8 firmly into the thick end of the supercar ranks alongside competition from Ferrari, Lamborghini and Porsche. In its bid, the new R8 will bring together some of Audi’s most advanced construction techniques, driveline engineering, aerodynamics and electronics.

Already under intense development at Audi’s headquarters in Ingolstadt, the new R8 will go on sale in coupé guise in the UK during the third quarter of 2014, with a roadster version due during the second quarter of 2015.

Once again, Audi is planning a two-model line-up, with a base 4.2-litre V8 and range-topping 5.2-litre V10. Both models receive updated versions of the first-generation R8’s engines, optimised for greater power and fuel economy. The V10 is said to develop about 550bhp and return 25.7mpg in combination with a new seven-speed, dual-clutch gearbox that is set to underpin changes on a facelifted version of today’s model, due to make its public debut at the Moscow motor show in August.

A follow-up to the limited-production GT is planned, too. It will run an even more powerful, 580bhp version of Audi’s 5.2-litre V10 and a lightweight body. It will be aimed at the upcoming Ferrari 458 Scuderia, next-gen Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera and new Porsche 911 GT3, although it isn’t planned to see the light of day until 2016.

New look

As well as acting as a technological figurehead for the rest of the Audi line-up, the next R8 has been earmarked to usher in a new generation of exterior design. Elements of that will begin to appear on the upcoming all-electric E-Tron - a car that is set to share a large part of its structural architecture with the new R8 coupé and roadster.

Conceptually, the new Audi retains the same fundamentals as today’s model, with a predominantly aluminium structure, long (by supercar standards) wheelbase, roomy two-seat cabin, a mid-engined layout and four-wheel drive.

Despite the apparent similarities, though, essential elements of the new car already seen by Autocar reveal the new R8, known internally under the codename AU724, is a clean-sheet design. It shares only its driveline architecture with the existing model, which has been on sale in the UK since 2007.

Weight loss

Key among the developments destined for the new R8 is a weight reduction programme that sets out to bring the base model in at under 1500kg. That’s a reduction of at least 60kg on today’s R8, despite the inclusion of greater levels of both passive and active safety measures, including radar controlled anti-collision technology.

The new mid-engined Audi is once again being twinned with sister company Lamborghini’s successor to the Gallardo, codenamed LB724 and due to appear almost a year before the R8, in 2013.

Both cars have been conceived around a modular construction process. This will allow them to share vital components, including selected parts of a new lightweight carbonfibre and aluminium monocoque that, Autocar can confirm, weighs 198kg. That’s 24kg less than the all-aluminium structure used by today’s R8.

All up, Audi has included 28.1kg of carbonfibre in the new R8’s structure, including the transmission tunnel, floor, rear bulkhead and B-pillars. The remaining 169.9kg consists of aluminium and a patented bonding epoxy resin used to join the individual elements together. By comparison, Audi’s measuring methods put the steel structure of today’s 911 Turbo at 324kg.

Despite using a similar structure, the R8 and Gallardo have different wheelbases. The R8’s is 30mm longer than the Gallardo’s for greater levels of interior accommodation, including stowage space behind the seats. By using a shorter wheelbase than the Audi, the structure of the new Lamborghini is a further 3kg lighter, at just 195kg.

Improved engines

Power for the new R8 will come from updated versions of today’s naturally aspirated, 90deg 4.2-litre V8 and 5.2-litre V10. Insiders at Audi’s quattro operation describe these engines as having the potential to conform to forthcoming EU6 emissions standards, despite concerns over the levels of particulates without the inclusion of a separate filter or complex exhaust gas recycling treatment.

Detailed internal modifications — including an altered variable inlet chamber and a more efficient direct injection process boasting greater injection pressure — will aim to liberate greater reserves.

Nothing is official, but Autocar has been told to expect somewhere in the region of 450bhp for the V8 and up to 550bhp for the V10 in standard guise — up some 20bhp and 25bhp on today’s units. Other new features, such as cylinder deactivation on part-throttle loads, should help boost economy.

And in line with other recent new Audi models, the R8 is expected to receive a further host of fuel saving measures. These will include automatic stop-start, brake energy recuperation and a sailing function, similar to that adopted by Porsche on the 911, that idles the engine during prolonged periods of trailing throttle or downhill running.

The retention of naturally aspirated engines rather than adopting turbocharged units stems from a decision to provide the R8 with what one key Audi insider describes as a highly strung nature.

“It is important to retain the engine qualities which have made the current model so successful,” the insider said. “We want to keep the throttle response, the soaring nature of the delivery and the inherent sound. It is what sets our car apart from the competition, many of which are now adopting forced induction.”