As the autumn air grows more crisp, the tension around the launch of Audiï¿½s Project AU714, also known as ï¿½R8ï¿½, is building to a virtual crescendo. The carï¿½s debut is now only a matter of days, rather than weeks, away. Though more and more development mules continue to appear, two just last week in Arizona alone and spotted multiple times, Audi has kept production photos and detailed information regarding the carï¿½s release quite close to the vestï¿½ to the chagrin of enthusiasts and automotive journalists alike.
Word from inside is that this has been the most closely and successfully held new model launches by Audi ever ï¿½ a considerable feat considering all the hype that has surrounded it. No doubt, it has certainly been the most extensive, with spy photos and executive hints trickling out regularly ï¿½ no doubt part of an extensive P.R. blitz that will peak in one week.
Rumors about the car continue to run rampantï¿½ some more easily believed than others. In a previous report, this publication amassed and commented upon the theories that bore some weight. More recent contact with sources has netted a clarification and several new pieces of information.
R8 Launch at the Paris Auto Show
Up until last week, the assumption was that Audi would reveal the car at a 4 PM during the Thursday September 28 press conference listed on the Paris Auto Show ï¿½ the first day of the Paris Auto Showï¿½s Media Days. More recently, it has been reveealed that the car will now be shown during an evening function in Paris on September 27. This publication plans on attending and covering the event, with a report to be filed straight away.
To Market, To Market, To Market We Goï¿½. Quickly
Numerous R8 ï¿½test mulesï¿½ have been spotted between the Nurburgring, Audiï¿½s Neckarsulm facility, California and Arizona. These spots are good for testing, but theyï¿½re also rife with spy photographers. Another credible rumor weï¿½ve heard is that the R8 is much closer to production than these test mules might suggest. Whether the intent of such cars is researcha and development or public relations, all have looked quite good for pre-production units, suggesting the car may be closer to dealerships than has been expected.
A credible source tells us that actual series production for AU714 is set to begin at the end of the month. Why such a quick turnaround? Answer: Audi is proud of their history.
The R8 is set to be built, like its aluminum brethren, in Audiï¿½s Neckarsulm facility. This same facility began production with the 10 horsepower ï¿½Neckarsulmer Motorwagenï¿½ in September, 1906. So the story goes, Audi intends to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the NSU plant in Neckarsulm with the first R8 to roll off the line before monthï¿½s end.
The launch engine is will be very similar in spec to that of the RS 4. A dry sump oil system is expected and power figures may vary, but the usual engine development issues were greatly reduced due to this sharing. This fact has helped the R8 meet or exceed start of production date targets.
A second body style R8, probably a convertible, is also expected. Some sources hint that the car could appear sooner rather than later. How soon? Sources are coy, but weï¿½ve heard everything from ï¿½Parisï¿½, to ï¿½Los Angelesï¿½, to ï¿½no commentï¿½. With Audiï¿½s rapidfire new model introduction schedule, none of these suggestions seems unbelievable. Donï¿½t forget last yearï¿½s S8 and S6 debuts, both at the end of last year in Tokyo and Detroit respectively.
CAR Magazine ran a news piece on the R8 in this monthï¿½s October 2008 issue. In it, the UK publication suggested that, instead of a convertible, the open-top R8 would be a Targa of the likes no longer seen in the Porsche line. A lack of roof between the A and B-pillars of the R8 would be quite similar to designs offered by Porsche and Ferrari in the 1980ï¿½s and early 1990s. Given sources for the CAR article included none other than George Kacher, a journalist whose credibility we regard in the highest sense when it comes to goings-on at Audi, we donï¿½t doubt that it could be true. Such a roof would also further differentiate the R8 from corporate cousins like the Lamborghini Gallardo and the Porsche 911.
Have you seen Audiï¿½s all-conquering R10 sportscar? Perhaps youï¿½ve read about the Q7 V12 TDI that is expected to appear in Paris alongside the R8. If youï¿½re familiar with both, itï¿½s not hard to do the math on the potential, if not the feasibility, of a diesel-powered R8. Audi hasnï¿½t suggested anything of the sort, but IF the engine fits, theyï¿½d have to live on Mars not to at least consider the option. The V12 TDI will move the rather heavy Q7 to 62 mph in just 5.5 seconds and averages 21 MPG. Now imagine what would happen with considerably better aerodynamics and considerably less heft.
In comparison, the Q7 4.2 weighs in at 5269 lbs., and the Lamborghini Gallardo weighs in at 3153 lbs. Itï¿½s fair to assume that the R8, with a rumored 100mm more wheelbase will weigh more. Still, the Gallardo is the closest known cousin of the R8 and bears considering.
Finally, a diesel-powered supercar would again further differentiate the R8 within the Porsche and Volkswagen Group product portfolio.
Unfortunately, realities do exist that could hamper such a car. For one, the diesel motor is quite heavy. Mid engine mounting and lower center of gravity help the R8, but this is still one of the heavier motors offered by Audi. While it will go into the Q7 and probably the next-generation A8, fitment in the R8 remains to be seen. Nevertheless, the PR value of such a car would be immense.
As mentioned earlier, the R8 hasnï¿½t exactly been invisible even though it hasnï¿½t yet made its official debut. The car continues to appear readily, especially in Arizona where it was spotted twice last week and once so far this week.
If you live in locales such as Phoenix, AZ or Neckarsulm, Germany, you might get an early preview of the car. Keep your eyes peeled. [autospies]