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When Audi launched the all-new second-generation R8 last year, it did so with a V10 only model. Suggestions of anything smaller than that were flatly discounted to us by then new and now retiring quattro Gmbh boss Heinz Hollerweger, though rumors of an smaller engine persisted in parts of the press who’d know if it were under consideration. In as much, we’d always banked on there being an engine choice slotted below the V10 for the Audi R8, though whether it was an upcoming biturbo 3.0-liter V6 or the TT RS’ burbling 2.5 TFSI remained a point of contention.
Fast forward to early this week, when what looks like a model timeframe chart for the American market surfaced on Instagram. As you can see to the far right of this very interesting table, an “R8 V6” is clearly listed… possibly referred to as V6T although the “T” may have been cropped for the image. If the chart is legit, it seems we need contend no longer if a smaller engine R8 will come and just what that engine will be.
Perhaps in retrospect it is obvious. Operating under the assumption this list is legit, the V6T likely makes the most sense. Last time around, with the R8 4.2 FSI, Audi used its RS 4 and RS 5 models to help get volumes and underwrite the development of the 4.2 FSI high-rev engine… a mill that was a quattro GmbH only affair. Sharing that smaller engine with its RS 4 and RS 5 siblings was the play, while sharing the larger with the Lamborghini Gallardo and now Huracan.
Though not shown yet and thus details remain limited, it is expected that the upcoming B9 RS 4 and RS 5 models (and maybe a new RS Q5) will make use of a new quattro GmbH developed biturbo V6 engine loosely based on the same single turbo V6T already revealed on the new S4. Obviously, the RS version will sport higher horsepower and tolerances. It makes sense that this engine would go into the R8.
Why not reveal the new V6 biturbo with the new R8 a year ago? Likely the change to this engine was a late decision. Sources in the aftermarket with forward-looking views of internal Audi component documents suggested they could see the 4.2 FSI in the system as late as last summer and after the new R8 had been revealed. Even still, the 4.2 FSI has ceased production everywhere in the Volkswagen Group portfolio, which means its chances of remaining only in the limited production R8 would make little sense. Also, the RS 4 and RS 5 reveal hasn’t happened yet, and revealing it now (even if it were ready) may have been putting the cart before the horse. Given Audi stretched the V8 and V10 versions out last time around with the first R8, flipping the script and spacing them out this way would have also served the purpose of keeping new versions of R8 coming during the naturally longer lifespan of Audi’s in-house exotic.
There are other factors at play here. As much as Hollerweger underlined how much he valued the purity of the high-rev concept, non-turbocharged engines are becoming increasingly difficult to keep around given the superior emissions status of turbocharged engines. Since the second R8 dropped, the Porsche 911 has moved to a range almost entirely of turbocharged engines. Also, there are tax breaks for 3.0-liters and below in the highly important Chinese market. No doubt such an engine will serve Audi well over there.
Back to the chart, it suggests the R8 V6 and also the next RS 5 will arrive in America in 2018. We’re guessing that means the R8 V6T could be in Europe as early as next year.