Audi’s baby R8 ready to roll

11 Nov, 2008 10:38am Sam Hardy

German firm is readying a little brother to its world-beating supercar.

Sports car fans are in for a real treat! Audi is planning a striking new mid-engined machine – the R4. The newcomer will be based on an entirely new platform and sit above the TT in Audi’s range, offering buyers a driver-focused two-seater with a starting price of around £35,000.

It’s the result of a rumoured joint venture with Porsche – so the project will produce a new platform to underpin Coupé and Roadster versions of the R4, and also provide the basis for the next Boxster and Cayman. It’s these core sellers in the Porsche line-up that the R4 will target.

Our exclusive picture shows that the new Audi takes much of its visual inspiration from the R8 supercar, with LED lights, deep air intakes and a sweeping profile. But this similarity is no coincidence. The Porsche joint venture is all part of Audi’s plan to launch a range of R-badged sports cars, which will follow in the wake of the range-topper.

These will include an R6 to rival Jaguar’s new E-Type replacement and the Porsche 911, plus an R10 model based on the V12 TDI R8 diesel concept. Of course, it’s not only Audi which will benefit. Porsche will be able to share Audi’s engines and reduce the costs associated with developing a new platform.

The upmarket sports car firm is keen to ensure it maintains its healthy profitability – a factor that has enabled it to take a majority share in Volkswagen – particularly in the current financial climate. While the two firms will work together to produce the new platform, the R4 and the next-generation Boxster/Cayman will be very different models. Keen to retain the DNA that’s made the TT and R8 so successful, bosses will give the Audi a body made from aluminium panels. It also gets quattro four-wheel drive with torque split 40:60 in favour of the rear wheels.

In addition, the newcomer benefits from adaptive magnetic dampers and Audi’s Drive Select system. The latter allows the driver to switch between several modes which tweak steering and throttle response. Power will come from the firm’s range of TFSI engines, with the entry-level model most likely to get a highly tuned 2.0-litre turbo. The new 335bhp 2.5-litre five-cylinder super and turbocharged unit lined up for the flagship TT RS will be available, too. There’s even the possibility that the R4 will be offered with a high-performance diesel and a petrol V6.

As for gearboxes, a six-speed manual transmission will be standard, with a seven-ratio S tronic twin-clutch semi-auto as an option. The R4 is some way off reaching showrooms, though. There are still plenty of loose ends to tie up with the mooted joint venture, and it remains to be seen which company will launch the new platform first. Considering Porsche’s increasing control of the VW Group, it may be that it gets to call the shots. If that’s the case, the R4 could arrive in around 2011, shortly after the Boxster and Cayman.

R10 is go, too

* Diesel R8 was revealed earlier this year. It will be badged R10 and fitted with a V12 TDI unit offering around 500bhp.

* Returning 25mpg and meeting Euro VI emissions regulations, the 190mph R10 will be an amazing all-rounder.

* Styling cues such as the huge air intakes at the rear and the glass roof could be carried over to its R4 baby brother.

Extra Info

Next Boxster is unleashed

We’ve taken the wraps off the new R4... now here is your best look yet at its sister model: the next Boxster. And although it benefits from the same platform as the mid-engined Audi, it will be a true Porsche through-and-through.

Rather than use four-wheel drive, the Boxster – and its tin-top Cayman stablemate – will continue with the firm’s traditional rear-wheel-drive set-up, with power coming from a direct-injection petrol flat-six. However, the company is under pressure to reduce its overall CO2 emissions, and one of the easiest ways to do so – and improve fuel economy at the same time – is to adopt a smaller engine.

That’s where this shock joint venture will pay dividends, as entry-level versions of the next-generation Boxster and Cayman will use Audi’s 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder unit. The new Boxster should arrive in less than two years’ time, with the Cayman following shortly after that.

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