In case you hadn’t noticed it, there’s an increasing mix of carbon fiber being used in body panels of production Audi automobiles. Lighter than exotic metals such as aluminum and even magnesium, Audi has begun a serious push toward the use of carbon fiber. Parts like the decklid cover of the R8 Spyder and front fenders of the RS 3 Sportback are just the tip of the iceberg.
With the Audi R8 GT, Audi took carbon fiber even further. The production R8 GT gets a carbon fiber hatch cover that’s 14.3 lbs. (6.5 kg) lighter than the regular aluminum component. The rear bumper, while not visually much different except for some openings for round exhaust tips, sheds another 11.46 lbs. (5.2 kg). Special R8 GT spec carbon fiber side blades use a micro sandwich structure and save 3.3 lbs. (1.5 kg) over their standard thermoplast carbon fiber blades on the R8 V10. Over all, the R8 GT is 220 lbs. (100 kg) lighter than a standard issue R8 V10 coupe and Audi’s gone even further with a limited run of 18 prototype R8s internally referred to as R8 FVK (FRP in English for Fiber Reinforced Plastic).
Audi’s experimentation with multiple lightweight materials began with body panels but by the next new generation of automobiles form Ingolstadt you will see carbon fiber and a further mix of multiple lightweight materials in greater use that will also includes structural elements. This small run of R8 FVKs is an experiment in the process for Audi’s enthusiastic management.
And if you question their seriousness, think again. Audi already had its lightweight design center in Neckarsulm since 1994, but that was expanded in 2010 with the addition of the FRP (Fiber Reinforced Plastic) Design Center. In addition, Audi-owned Lamborghini has built a facility of its own for experimentation in lightweight engineering and has launched its latest Aventador with a carbon fiber monocoque chassis. The Le Mans-bound Audi R18 prototype uses its own brand new single mold monocoque racing chassis and Audi Parent the Volkswagen Group has made a significant investment in industry supplier SGL Carbon who supplies Audi’s carbon ceramic brakes among other things.
So exactly how does the R8 FVK differ? Audi hasn’t been outwardly specific but we did have a chance to look over one example that was on display during a recent visit to their lightweight design center. In short, the R8 goes beyond carbon panels and focuses on carbon fiber structure. Key components such as the roof, diagonal supports aft the B-pillar, the floor and the transmission tunnel are all made of carbon fiber. All in all, these changes account for a further savings of about 20% or 77 lbs. (35 kg).
Why build 18 if they’re not going to sell them? This run or R8s will see various duties including serving basis for the R8 e-tron prototype. Others will be subjected to endurance and crash testing. While in Neckarsulm we were also given a quick look at a crash-tested chassis as well and were told it performed as well as a production R8. In fact, Audi reports the car survived a rollover test and exhibited no dformation.
The aforementioned Lamborghini Aventador is the first automobile from the Volkswagen Group to be based on a mid-engine multi-material chassis component set known internally as MSS. And though the next-generation R8 will not be essentially a carbon fiber car like the hyper exotic and hyper expensive Aventador, Audi is very seriously considering a similar chassis configuration of carbon fiber roof, supports, floor and tunnel for its next generation R8.
[b][i]Editor’s Note:[/b] The R8 FRP Audi showed us was on display in a very secure section of the Audi Lightweight Design Center in Neckarsulm. As such, we were unable to shoot our own photography while in this section of the factory so are reliant upon approved released photos provided by Audi. We usually like to show a bit more of a car in a story but certainly appreciate Audi sharing any materials about these experimental vehicles. All of these photos and a few more can be found via our photo gallery button below.[/i]
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