8 November 2004

It might look like a Lamborghini Gallardo, but beneath the bodywork of this prototype sit the components for Audi’s upcoming Le Mans supercar. Codenamed AU714, the new two-seater should arrive in September 2006, prior to going on sale in the UK early in 2007. The price is tipped to start at around £68,000, and eventually extend to £85,000 for a Porsche 911 Turbo-chasing 5.2-litre V10 model due in 2008.

As these exclusive photographs taken at the Nürburgring circuit in Germany reveal, the Le Mans is based heavily on the Gallardo. Among the key components shared by both cars are the aluminium spaceframe, high-tensile steel floorpan, lightweight wiring loom, brake system and intricate double wishbone suspension. However, Audi sources saya series of changes, including unique engines and electromagnetic dampers, will provide the Le Mans with a ‘vastly different character’ to the Gallardo’s.

The production version of Ingolstadt’s new performance flagship will ditch the aggressive look of Sant’Agata’s entry-level model for a more harmoniously styled aluminium bodyshell similar to that seen on the Le Mans concept car from last year’s Frankfurt Motor Show.

Audi is working on two naturally aspirated powerplants to replace the show car’s 610bhp twin-turbocharged 5.0-litre V10. Early models are likely to receive an updated version of the German car maker’s 4.2-litre V8. With direct injection and a raft of internal tweaks aimed at lowering reciprocating masses, the new engine is said to push out a gutsy 425bhp (up from 339bhp in the S4).

Also under development at the company’s Quattro GmbH facilities is a brand-new 40-valve 5.2-litre V10 engine. Unrelated to the 5.0-litre V10 in the Gallardo, it uses the same 88mm cylinder spacing and compact chain-drive system as Audi’s existing 90-degree V8.

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The target output for the new engine is 520bhp – a solid 100bhp more than today’s Porsche 911 Turbo. Power will be sent to all four wheels via a second-generation DSG (dual-clutch) gearbox, re-engineered to handle the Le Mans’ high torque loads and provide even faster shifts. But although the new gearbox is virtually complete, Autocar’s sources say Audi board members are undecided over whether to go with a six-speed arrangement or an even more complex seven-speeder in a bid to match BMW’s new seven-speed SMG (Sequential Manual Transmission), as fitted to the new M5.

Along with new driveline, Audi is also preparing a new active-damping system for the Le Mans. Dubbed Magnesport, it uses electromagnetic impulses to continuously alter the viscosity of the oil in the dampers, allowing for both Sporting and Comfort modes.

Greg Kable

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