Audi will reinvent the R8 as an electric supercar in 2022 – a move that will spell the end for the use of V10 engines by the firm.
V10s have been a staple of Audi’s most exciting performance models over the past couple of decades. However, the adoption of the all-electric drivetrain for the third generation of its range-topping supercar highlights two unstoppable trends: the rise of electric power and the end of big, high-revving, normally aspirated engines being used without electrical assistance.
Audi is also winding down the use of V8 engines, with the latest RS4 and RS5 models switching to downsized turbo V6s, leaving the bigger V8s as the preserve of the most potent models in the A6, A7 and A8 ranges, as well as the bruising SQ7 SUV.
Audi created a limited-run E-tron version of the original R8 in 2015 as its first step towards electrified performance cars. However, it will go one step further with the third-generation model by launching the R8 solely as an electric car, making it a radically different proposition from today’s model, senior company sources have hinted.
It will likely take inspiration from the PB18 e-tron concept, revealed at this year's Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance. With no combustion engine to find room for, the three motor, 764bhp concept uses a shooting brake-like rear end for greater interior space and improved day-to-day usability than the current R8. Performance is still paramount, however, with Audi theorising a top speed in excess of 186mph, and a 0-62mph time of "scarcely more than two seconds".
The firm is positioning itself as a leader in electric cars as part of plans to sell 800,000 electrified models – around a third of its sales – by 2025. This is in response to ever- stricter emissions regulations in all major global markets, and the opportunities such vehicles present in particular in China, the world’s largest car market that wants to quickly establish itself as the global front-runner for electric cars.
The R8 was a hit when it was launched in 2006 as a stunning range-topping supercar to crown Audi’s huge model expansion, but the second-generation R8, unveiled in 2015, has not had the same success. Annual sales of the first-generation model peaked at almost 3000 in Europe in 2008. The current model has yet to reach 1500 units a year in Europe. US sales have followed a similar trend.
It was understood that Audi had shelved plans to launch a third-generation R8 after the relative disappointment of the current model, but the push towards creating a whole range of all-electric models for its E-tron stable has led the firm to reconsider its position.
As an electric vehicle developed with pure performance intent, the third-generation R8 could feature some of the most impressive figures of any car on sale. With four-wheel drive, instant torque from its electric motors and perhaps as much as 1000bhp, it is likely to have a 0-62mph time of about 2.0sec.