Using a twin-turbocharged 2.9-litre V6 petrol unit that's shared with the Porsche Panamera and Audi RS4 and RS5, the model will extend the R8's reach in the sports car segment and in effect fills the void left by Audi’s older, naturally aspirated 4.2-litre V8 petrol engine.
The six-pot powerplant is a 90deg engine that has been developed in a joint venture between Audi and Porsche as part of a new modular engine family known under the working title of KoVoMo.
Audi has not offered a V8 with the Mk2 R8 because of what Ingolstadt officials describe as a combination of the high cost of updating it to meet future emissions standards and concerns in markets such as China, where road tax is linked to engine capacity.
In the latest Panamera 4S, that V6 engine delivers 434bhp at 5650rpm and 405lb ft of torque between 1750rpm and 5500rpm when running a relatively low 0.4bar of turbocharger boost pressure.
With subtle tweaks, including greater boost, this engine is claimed to offer more than 500bhp and up to 500lb ft, although Audi has yet to confirm the output of the new R8 variant. Audi officials have told Autocar that the unit will come with more than one power output.
One example of Audi's desire to extend the R8's reach is the recent launch of a rear-wheel-drive version of the V10 model, the R8 RWS. Whether the V6 R8 will adopt an entry-level rear-wheel-drive version has yet to be revealed; Audi might choose not to offer such a low-cost version to retain a certain level of exclusivity for the R8. The RWS model starts at £112,450, suggesting the V6 model could bring the price well below the £100,000 mark.