But when it did, when the result proved exceptional and exciting and idiosyncratic, it was concrete evidence that the manufacturer was indeed capable of almost anything.
Quattro GmbH had conceived of another way and Audi rallied the ambition, expertise and investment required to make it happen.
Now, nine years on from the original R8’s introduction, it has retooled for a second run, tweaking much in a car whose design clearly continues to owe a substantial debt to the look of its predecessor. Its reason for being is slightly different, though.
Porsche has gone from rival to relative, and so the requirement for a more modest V8-powered variant to challenge the Carrera has gone, too.
Consequently, Audi’s 5.2-litre V10 – still naturally aspirated – has become the only engine choice and £119,500 has become the starting price.
So the R8’s positioning has changed slightly, from sports car to super-sports car – and the move has been a long time coming. It was previewed by the phalanx of more and more powerful run-out special editions of the previous R8 but was ultimately hinted at much earlier, when Audi learnt how much buyers were prepared to pay for the R8.
We’re testing the quickest, most expensive version: the V10 Plus, delivering the same 602bhp as its Lamborghini Huracán sibling. It is, in fact, the quickest car Audi has made. Now, to properly succeed its predecessor, it just has to be the best driver’s car Audi has made, too.