Baby Audi R8 on way

26 Oct, 2011 7:01am Sam Hardy

Audi insider reveals plans for R4 coupe and cabrio and our exclusive images show how they might look

The R8 is getting a little brother. Audi insiders have given the strongest hints yet that the much rumoured R4 is heading for showrooms. The two-seater sports car will sit between the TT and R8, and rival the new Jaguar C-X16.

“If the go-ahead was given today, it would take around three years to put into production,” an Audi insider told Auto Express.

Taking inspiration from the e-tron Spyder, the R4 will be designed as a convertible. Our source added: “If you start with a roadster, it’s easy to make a coupe version, too [it’s simply a matter of putting a roof on].” Our illustrations give a good idea of how both cars will look.

Initially, the R4 will come with a conventional engine, such as Audi’s 2.5-litre five-cylinder turbo, producing around 400bhp, but a hybrid will also feature. “Even in our sports car ranges, customer demand for efficiency is increasing,” said the insider.

While all R4s will have quattro four-wheel drive, the hybrid will take this further. As there’s no mechanical link between the mid-mounted engine driving the rear wheels and the electric motor powering the fronts, the car will get a clever torque vectoring system as seen on the e-tron Spyder.

This drivetrain promises strong efficiency – the e-tron Spyder can run in front-drive electric-only mode at up to 37mph for around 30 miles.

The biggest question is whether the car will sit on a new mid-engined platform or a cut-down version of the R8’s aluminium spaceframe. The new mid-engined chassis was debuted by the VW BlueSport at the 2009 Detroit Motor Show, and could also underpin a new entry-level Porsche.

Our insider explained: “We’ve made platform sharing work in the past with cars such as the Q7 [it shares with the Porsche Cayenne and VW Touareg], but have to decide if it’s right for this car.”

Whatever the platform, the R4 would be a popular junior R8. With prices from around £50,000, the R4 could outsell Porsche’s 911, shifting as many as 10,000 a year.