The Audi R8 has been a resounding success.
The $118,450 mid-engine supercar punctuates (with an exclamation mark, no less) Audi’s soaring sales and a burnishes the brand’s image. But one supercar isn’t enough for hungry Audi. The German automaker is mulling a second supercar positioned well above the R8 and taking its cues—both styling and technology—from the Le Mans–winning R18 e-tron Quattro. Wolfgang Dürheimer, head of R&D at Audi, described the proposed halo car as “a straight-forward derivative of the race car” in an interview with Car and Driver. That means a diesel engine with an electrified hybrid assist and all-wheel drive if the road-going R18 is approved for production. “Technology-wise, I think it’s possible,” says Dürheimer.
The R18 would be a true exotic, with a price likely north of $500,000 and production limited to keep demand high. If this all sounds like Audi is developing its own take on the Porsche 918 Spyder, there’s good reason. Dürheimer oversaw that program in a prior stint as the head of R&D at Porsche.
The technical chief also has rekindled interest in a new Audi sports car priced below the R8. The last we heard, the on-again, off-again mid-engine car had died an inelegant death amidst company politics. The previously rumored R4 was tied to sister cars for Porsche and Volkswagen, but the whole program crumbled when Porsche bowed out. Dürheimer might have more success the second time around if he can justify the R4 without including Porsche or Volkswagen in the business case. While the R4 program is much more uncertain than the R18 at this point, Dürheimer knows what he has to do to push the program forward. The proposal must prove that such a car can “make money and fulfill the halo effect,” he says.