What is it?
The Audi R8 V12 TDi Le Mans is the world's first diesel-powered supercar. At least that's what some are calling it. Audi is smart enough to call its new R8 V12 TDi a super-sports car, pitching it against the likes of the Ferrari F430 rather than full blown supercars of the Bugatti Veyron, Ferrari Enzo and McLaren F1 ilk.
But be in no doubt; this is a proper £100,000-plus exotic – and the first to drink from the dark side of the pump.
It's still a concept car for now, but only until the dust settles, the media monitoring results come in, and Audi's suspicions are confirmed. It's convinced, you see, that the time of the mid-engined, V12, diesel-powered, quattro-driven sports car has come. But for good reason? Read on...
What's it like?
Challenging. Different. Fascinating. And also genuinely quick, if lacking in a few of the other attractions you normally get with exotica like this.
The word is that Audi had several multi-million dollar offers for this concept car at the Detroit motor show, on the strength of its looks alone. That's probably because it's a devilishly purposeful-looking car.
In making it, the stylists substituted most of the standard R8's carbonfibre for aluminium, and added bumper- and sill-extensions in the same polished alloy, as well as a proper underbody air diffuser. The result looks threatening and aggressive, like the kind of car that devours roads, and whatever may be on them, without so much as a change of gear.
Which is exactly as it should be, since this particular R8 has the wherewithal to do exactly that. Powered by a Hungarian-built twin-turbodiesel V12 (the same, but for a dry sump, that you'll find in the new Q7 V12), this car will do 62mph in 4.2sec, 100mph in less than 10sec, and more than 190mph flat out.
More phenomenal than that is its in-gear pulling power, which is the truest measure of everyday performance on the road. 738lb ft is almost as much twist as a BMW M6 and a Ferrari F430 muster between them. In a car that should weigh just 150kg more than a V8-powered R8 in road-going guise, or about 1750kg. Doesn't take a genius to work out why Audi has been so excited about performance diesels, does it?
This car will also do an average 25mpg, of course, and emits about 250g/km of CO2 – which are figures usually associated with hot hatches, and never before with near-200mph supercars.
So does it feel as savagely fast as the figures suggest? Well, on the back of this test drive it's difficult to be definitive. Audi's test route was short, and its concern for the one working prototype of this car considerable. We weren't allowed to do more than 35mph, proper cornering was forbidden, and full bore starts were out too.
That effectively reduced us to a couple of runs around what amounted to little more than car park access roads. So I can report that this R8 appears to steer and ride much like a standard one (ie very nicely indeed). It's got Audi's excellent magnaride adjustable dampers, which add a couple of new dimensions to its ride and handling repertoire.
And yes, its certainly quick – quicker even than anybody really knows yet. I risked a knuckle-rapping by giving the car full throttle in 3rd, from 25mph and 1000rpm; it mugged the tarmac and began hurtling at the horizon with an urgency that made me painfully aware of the driver’s seat’s lumbar support. There was no wheelspin, no turbo lag. I only felt the full savagery for a couple of seconds, but that was enough to convince me that this car deserves a future in production.