Will the next-generation Audi R8 be electric?

It’s not that simple
by Ollie Marriage | Feb 15, 2020
PHOTO: TopGear.com
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Audi Sport is planning to double its sales by 2023. Most of that growth will come from branching out into new markets; the new RS6 Avant is available for the first time in the US, for instance. But what’s the plan for electrification? Where does the R8 go next? We sat down with managing director Oliver Hoffman to try and find out.

“There’s no decision yet regarding the technology and platform of the next-generation R8. But with this next generation, we have to fulfilll all the regulations worldwide,” he said. “That means it will be a car with an electrification part. But the current model is the base model for our customer racing, and we have to fulfill that demand in the future.”

A few things to digest here—most important, that there will be a third-gen Audi R8. However, the current R8 hasn’t sold as well as the first-generation car did. There’s more competition in the market, and the price point is higher.

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Sales have hovered around the 1,200 mark annually in Europe. Slow sales have placed more emphasis on the R8 GT3 and GT4 customer race car, which uses over 50% carryover parts and competed in over 700 races last year. What Hoffmann is suggesting is that a new R8 will have to honor that commitment to racing. Which likely means hybrid rather than full electric.

“We work very closely with the guys from motorsport regarding battery technology, regarding power electronics and so on,” he continued. “So for us, this is a good chance to get experience from our sports guys, and we bring it in our series cars.”

The current R8 shares underpinnings with the Lamborghini Huracan, which, in order to maintain its unique selling proposition in the market, will be keen to avoid downsizing the V10 to a turbo V8 like you’ll find in a Ferrari or a McLaren. The R8 and Huracan could then retain the V10 and simply add electric.

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It’s interesting to learn that the R8 is built on the same line at Neckarsulm as the forthcoming e-tron GT. That, based on the Porsche Taycan’s platform, is understood to have 800hp—making a hybrid V10 R8 feel like a short-term solution. Further down the line, maybe something in the mold of the Audi PB18 e-tron shown at Pebble Beach in 2018 could show the way ahead for the R8.

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I ask Hoffman about power figures and whether we’re at the crest of the wave.

“There’s a high demand from our customers for more and more power,” he conceded. “And electrification is a foundation for our future, in terms of meeting all the regulations worldwide, but also to increase power. So with electrification, we have the chance to increase the full system power. I remember a few years ago that everybody was talking about downsizing and decreasing weight and we don’t need to—there’s still a high demand of power from our customers. And we have the chance to fulfill this demand with electrification in the platform.”

But what about weight? “This is the challenge for the next generation of RS models,” he said. “We will electrify our portfolio. And managing the weight is the main challenge when we develop hybrid cars.”

And sound? “We’re working very hard to design a special electric sound. One way you can do this is to have the same noise as in combustion, so synthetic sound. But this is not the right answer. And I think in the future—my opinion—you will have a special sound for electric cars, and we will see a differentiation in the brands. Special brand-specific sounds for electric cars.”

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Okay, change of subject—the new RS6. How hard was it to convince the bosses that you needed to invest in such extensive bodywork changes?

“Let’s look back at the C7 [the new car’s immediate predecessor], where the RS6 was wide-bodied and the RS7 wasn’t,” said Hoffman. “There was a high demand from customers to say we want a widebody RS7. And so now, we have also the widebody RS7. And if our board doesn’t want to spend money, we have to present the design and then they fall in love.”

The digest from Audi Sport: Electrification is coming, and the cars will be faster and heavier. Not much change. So, what would you like to see from Audi’s RS division?

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NOTE: This article first appeared on TopGear.com. Minor edits have been made.

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PHOTO: TopGear.com
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