It seems the Audi R8 won’t be heading down the populist road of forced induction any time soon, no doubt a positive insight for fans of the sharp throttle response that only a highly tuned naturally aspirated engine can deliver.
“At the moment I would say no,” said Jurgen Konigstedt, Audi's head of development for V6, V8 and V10 engines, when CarAdvice posed the question at the international launch of the new R8 last week.
Given Konigstedt’s job description, you’d think he’d be the man to know.
The 2016 Audi R8 is available in two specification levels, the R8 V10 and R8 V10 Plus, both powered by a 5.2-litre V10 engine in slightly different states of tune that revs to 8700rpm. The ‘entry’ R8 model gets 396kW of power and 540Nm of torque, while the range topper generates 449kW/560Nm. Peak torque is achieved for both engines at 6500rpm.
“The performance potential of this current engine means we don’t need to even look at turbocharging at this point. Do we actually need the power that turbocharging would generate? I would say no. If you want to create an engine that makes this much power, you have different options to realise that power figure. Natural aspiration has the bonus of giving you the sound, the throttle response and the sensation of revving cleanly to redline,” he went on to explain.
Interestingly, Konigstedt explained that the argument at corporate level within Audi was long and spirited. He reminded CarAdvice that Audi is a committed turbo brand, that has persisted with turbocharging across the board and continues to do so, meaning the use of turbos on the R8 is perhaps more logical than the idea of maintaining a naturally aspirated engine.
Surely you could make that power level with a smaller, turbocharged engine though, I asked Konigstedt.
“Yes, this is true,” he responded. “However, there are numerous factors to consider besides power and torque. For example, at lower speeds, the turbo engine might be more efficient, but at higher speeds, under prolonged load, the naturally aspirated engine might actually be more efficient.”
For Audi, across the board no matter which member of the R8 development team you speak to, it’s all about emotion. “There is less emotion with a turbocharged engine,” said Konigstedt. “For us that is a big factor. We only have this engine and the engine in the RS5 that remain naturally aspirated, but it is all about the sense of emotion for us.”
While Konigstedt was willing to concede the future for passenger cars might be all-turbo, he maintains the future for what we now call super sportscars might be somewhat different.
“If you drive our car, and compare it to any other competitor that is turbocharged, the feeling with the R8 is more emotional,” he said. “We’ve discussed turbocharging obviously, because we have to find the right way to bring the car to market and Audi has a long history with turbocharging but this engine is undoubtedly the best engine for the R8 at the moment.”
That ‘best engine for the car’ reasoning might explain the demise of the Audi R8 with the V8 engine. Despite continued strong sales around the world, Audi realised the take up of the V10 and the power and torque goals for the new model, meant the V10 was the only way to go.
“Ultimately the future of the V10 engine beyond this model will depend on the success,” Konigstedt said. “If buyers are happy with this engine there will be a compelling reason to persevere with it. If we feel that people absolutely want a turbocharged engine, then we will have to consider it.”
CarAdvice pressed Konigstedt on whether there is the likelihood of a change in transmission option, to either a more exotic DSG or completely different conventional automatic. “At the moment there is no plan for that,” he said. “We will stay with the seven-speed, dual-clutch transmission for the foreseeable future.”
Asked what the future holds for the R8 and its next big innovation, Konigstedt was more circumspect. “Let me think how I can answer that without losing my job,” he said. “Actually, it’s better if I say nothing!”
CarAdvice also understands the future of the all-electric e-tron R8 in Australia is no brighter than it was previously.
“If the business case remains the same, there’s no chance we’ll see the e-tron available in Australia,” Audi Australia spokesman Sean Cleary said. “It might even be as simple as the car not being available in RHD.”
Read our more detailed Audi R8 specifications story here.
Read our first review of the 2016 Audi R8 here.