A Five-Cylinder, RWD, Manual Audi R8 Almost Happened

A Five-Cylinder, RWD, Manual Audi R8 Almost Happenedactivesphere concept. 

But that doesn’t mean it’s not fun to consider some alternate history. One example? Well, according to a new piece by our friends over at Motor1, the folks at the Four Rings were apparently close to pulling the trigger on a five-cylinder, exclusively rear-wheel drive version of the firebreathing R8 supercar. To be clear, the revelation comes courtesy of esteemed journalist Steve Sutcliffe, who learned about the project from Audi insider Marcos Marques, currently serving as Porsche’s Project Manager eFuels. Here’s the meat of what Marques said about the entry-level R8 project:

It was a shame because the five-cylinder turbo engine was a good strong engine, it sounded different, and I think it worked well in the R8. The car was lighter and more agile, too, but maybe some people at Audi Sport didn’t think it felt like a real R8, so quite late on they decided the car wouldn’t happen.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’ve driven the R8 with the mighty V10, and while I’ve never been shot out of a cannon, using launch control in that beast made me realize what it’s like. Few things truly compare to driving a 600-horsepower supercar. From an enthusiast perspective, however, I love the idea of a lighter, less-powerful R8 with more approachable limits.

The engine in question would have been plucked from the RS3, but tuned to somewhere north of 400 horsepower and 400 lb-ft of twist. Of course, there’s also the fact that it would have been available with a manual transmission. While Marques didn’t elaborate on whether it would get a gated shift available on the early R8s, as long as we’re dreaming, there’s no harm in thinking it would have.

That said, I think it’s worth mentioning that it’s perfectly plausible the Audi brass didn’t feel an I5 R8 would have been “R8 enough.” It’s also worth mentioning that a mid-engine coupe with that kind of poke and a stick could have started eating the Porsche Cayman’s lunch, which might also have led to its demise.

The question now, of course, is what exactly does Audi’s “go big or go home” approach to sports coupes mean for future product.  As the company moves toward electric vehicles, are we going to see anything which will fill the hole left by the Audi TT? And given the general disinterest in coupes at the moment, how long will it be before the axe falls on the two-door S5?

Personally, I don’t think it’s too hard to see a future where Audi leaves entry-level sports cars territory to corporate cousins Porsche, and leans into the off-road side with vehicles like the activesphere. Or maybe I’m in a good mood, and being optimistic that Ingolstadt and Stuttgart can play nice?  Regardless, hit me up and let me know what you think!

Image Source: Audi

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Audi Designer Hints at a Defender, G-Wagen Fighter

Audi RS Q e-tron E2

A new interview with Design Chief Marc Lichte indicates that Audi’s Dakar adventures are about more than playing in the sand.

In my recent post about a possible all-electric R8 replacement, I wrote that while a new supercar would be great, I’d really like to see a rugged 4×4 offering. Well, as it turns out, I might have a few allies in Ingolstadt. Because in a new interview with our friends over at Autocar, Head of Audi Design Marc Lichte revealed that the company is looking to develop a competitor for the wildly popular Land Rover Defender and Mercedes-Benz G-Class. Here are a couple of the most relevant bits from that conversation:

There is potential because there are only two premium players in this particular segment, and I think there is a space for a third one.

If you think about the history of Audi – the rallying success in the ’80s with the Quattro and Sport Quattro – it’s easy to explain why Audi needs a car like this. And if we talk about Quattro 2.0, it matches even more.

So maybe all the time and treasure spent in Dakar wasn’t just about playing in the sand after all. At this point, the brass hasn’t officially given the green light to the project, meaning the idea might very well go nowhere. But given the exploding popularity of the hardcore off-road segment, it’s hard to see how getting into the game could be anything but a good move for the Four Rings. Plus, an all-electric drivetrain would be an easy way to distinguish the Audi from the Rover and Benz.

In a telling move, the Volkswagen Group bought the rights to International Harvester’s venerated Scout nameplate back in 2017, and two Scout-branded electric 4×4 models are currently in development. So it’s not too difficult to imagine that there could be some inter-umbrella platform sharing, similar to what we’ve seen with the Porsche Taycan and the e-tron GT. That said, it would also make sense to give Audi a little more freedom to boost performance, as the Scout marque is slated to be more utilitarian in both design and price.

According to the Autocar article, the Scout subdivision is expected to produce as many as 100,000 vehicles per year, and it’s speculated that an additional 50,000 Audi-branded units would also be built on the lines. While there’s no timeframe for an Audi-branded off-road bruiser to arrive at dealers, the smart money says we’ll be looking at sometime around 2027.  Of course, there’s no telling what the future holds, and ongoing delays to Audi’s new electric flagship could make a new product line seem like overreach. But the prospect of a burly Audi 4×4 looks strong — so stay tuned.

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Report: Audi R8 Replacement Will be All-Electric

Audi PB18 E-tron concept

The future of the Four Rings is electric, and sources inside Ingolstadt say the next Audi R8 will be mean and green.

Starting in 2026, every new Audi will be electric, and by 2030, the company plans to be done with internal combustion entirely. Fortunately, models like the e-tron GT, the gorgeous Sphere concepts, and the Dakar-ready RS Q e-tron have shown that while the future will be green, it sure as hell won’t be boring. But we haven’t heard much chatter about what’s in store for Ingolstadt’s current range-topping performance machine. Now, Autocar is reporting that the replacement for the Audi R8 will be all-electric.

As you might expect, details are slim, and according to the source, plans for the electric supercar haven’t officially gotten the green light just yet. That said, there’s still plenty of interesting information in the report, including the revelation that Audi’s next halo car it won’t be called the R8. It’s also likely to take design cues from the PB18 e-tron concept — pictured here — instead of the current car, retain a two-door, two seat layout, and pack more power than anything else in the lineup. So at the end of the day, who cares what Audi calls it?

Exactly which platform the electric supercar will use is a big question. The smart money says it’ll be shared with corporate cousin Porsche, similar to the arrangement with the Taycan and the e-tron GT. Because since Stuttgart is already deep into the development of electric versions of its 718 Boxster and Cayman, that would be a cost-efficient way for Audi to get into the game. The rub, of course, is that while any R8 replacement would have to be faster than the already wicked quick e-tron GT, internal politics ensure it’ll have to be slower than the comparable Porsche.

Regardless, you don’t need a crystal ball to predict that Audi is going to release a performance coupe. Driving thrills are a key part of the company’s DNA, and its entrance into Formula 1 is sure to stoke excitement for enthusiast cars. The big question, of course, is when we’ll actually see cars start coming off the line — and that’s all guesswork. At the moment, Audi is years behind schedule for its EV flagship, and that model is sure to take priority over any sports car, regardless of how exciting it may be. More news on the Audi R8 replacement when we have it.

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Is the Audi RS Q e-tron a Test Bed for the activesphere Concept?

Audi RS Q e-tron

Is Audi just playing in the sand? Or can we expect to see some real-world application of rally tech in the future?

Last week, I was traveling when Audi released details on the latest version of its RS Q e-tron E2, which will eventually compete in the 2023 Dakar Rally.  Due to the remote nature of the competitions it’s designed for, the electric off-roader uses an onboard internal-combustion engine as a generator to charge the batteries. It’s basically an entirely new machine from the version Ingolstadt entered last year, which made history by becoming the first electric-powered vehicle to take a stage victory.

Twist still comes from a dual motor setup, which features one at each axle. But revisions to the bodywork have improved the drag coefficient by a whopping 15 percent, and great pains were taken to reduce the overall weight of the rig, which was already north of the class minimum. Along with saving weight, the new carbon fiber fenders were also designed to help speed tire changes. Plus, engineers also made changes to the engine management and air conditioning systems to ensure no precious energy goes to waste.

Now, we’ll have to see how well the RS Q e-tron E2 does when it enters next month’s Morocco Rally. But looking at this beast of a machine made me wonder if this is the kind of set up we’re going to see on the activesphere concept Audi teased late last month. Because while I still believe the world doesn’t really need an Audi truck, the idea of an electric vehicle with rally-proven race technology is an attractive one indeed. And given the growing popularity of off-roading? It seems like it could prove a massive hit.

Another factor to consider is what exactly the point of the whole Dakar exercise is, if not to provide technology that will trickle down to the consumer market. After all, Audi was very clear that changing engine requirements, which included more robust electrification efforts and a focus on sustainability, were a key factor in why it will be entering Formula 1 for the 2026 season. But what do you think? Will the activesphere concept be a “road-going” version of the RS Q e-tron? Hit me up and let me know! 

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Report: Audi Q9 Full-Size SUV Coming in 2025

Audi Q9

Sounds like Audi is looking to release a three-row SUV — just before its self-imposed all-electric deadline.

Late last month, we got word that Audi was launching a three-row Q6 specifically for the Chinese market. Now, there’s talk of another new three-row Audi people-mover — but this one is apparently headed to the States. According to our friends over at Automotive News, Audi has told domestic dealers that a Q9 is on the menu for the 2025 model year. While the exact details of the powertrain are still up in the air, sources indicate that it will not be fully electric.

For those who’ve been paying attention to Audi’s electric transition, the timing is significant. Because while Ingolstadt’s Vorsprung 2030 strategy says all its new vehicles will be electric starting in 2026, it will continue to produce vehicles with internal combustion engines until 2030. So given that buyers in the United States have demonstrated an unquenchable appetite for three-throw SUVs, the prospect of getting a gas-powered cash cow in under the self-imposed wire is an attractive one.

After all, there’s no reason to think that BMW will drop the X7, or that Mercedes-Benz will put the GLS out to pasture. Meaning that unless Audi wants to continue to leave money on the table? A three-row SUV to compete with its domestic rivals is basically a no-brainer. And while the American manufacturers haven’t produced vehicles on the same luxurious level as the Germans, offerings like the new Jeep Grand Cherokee have proven they’re more than capable.

That said? In the era of the e-tron GT and the RS Q e-tron, it’s tough to get super stoked about a conventionally powered three-row SUV. At this point, the whole segment basically feels like another menu item at Taco Bell, in that it’s the exact same ingredients you’ve been eating for years, just packaged in a slightly different way. And while it might provide what you need to keep moving down the road, it’s not anything remotely exciting. But maybe I’m wrong? Are you excited about a three-row beast from Audi? Let me know!

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