Plans for an oil-burning R8 have been canned. After more than 12 months of deliberation, Audi has told Auto Express that it can’t justify the cost involved in a diesel-engined evolution of its acclaimed two-seater supercar.
Although a concept version of the R8 V12 TDI impressed when it made its world debut at the Detroit Motor Show in 2008, top brass at the company have now confirmed that development will be halted.
Audi claims the cost of re-engineering the petrol R8 to accommodate the massive twin-turbocharged diesel engine is simply too great – and that it would be unable to recoup its investment through sales alone.
It’s sad news for fans of performance cars. Auto Express drove the priceless oil-burning concept back in Issue 1,006. Its 5.5-litre diesel was inspired by that in the firm’s R10 Le Mans car, and produced 500bhp and 1,001Nm of torque to provide an amazing 0-60mph sprint time of 4.2 seconds.
These massive outputs meant instant throttle response and unique road manners, as the model could be driven at speed with the engine turning incredibly slowly.
However, an insider high in the ranks within Audi explained that developing the new car involved changing the chassis to accommodate the V12 diesel unit – a hugely expensive process, the cost of which “couldn’t be recouped”.
Locating the engine’s twin turbochargers was a particular challenge, especially as there’s limited room in the spaceframe aluminium chassis. According to our source, the final blow was a slump in US demand for oil-burners – the country accounts for one-third of global R8 sales.
“If anyone could do a diesel supercar, it’s Audi,” our insider said. “But the market isn’t strong enough to make it realistic.”
Our man was keen to assure us that even though the diesel R8 project had reached the end of the road, there are still plenty of other exciting Audi sports cars under development.
Chief among these is the new RS4, which is scheduled to arrive in showrooms here by 2012, and offer even more pace than the imminent S4.