Audi R8 Essential History
Despite a rich motorsports history with overwhelming success in both rallying and endurance racing, Audi’s always remained at arm’s length when it came to producing a true sports car. The once-popular Audi TT has most of the right ingredients, but the front-wheel-drive underpinnings pulled primarily from the VW Golf kept it well below the Porsche Boxster, Nissan Z cars, and BMW’s assorted roadsters and two-seat coupes.
Since the early 1980s, Audi remained content developing high-performance versions of its premium coupes and sedans, focusing on promoting all-wheel drive technology and turbocharged engines, even if the resulting speed-specials were softer and more road-oriented than the adrenalin-charging weapons from Mercedes-Benz’ AMG or BMW’s M division.
It was only during the early-2000s when the reality of an Audi supercar began to coalesce, born from Audi’s ongoing Le Mans domination and the then-recent acquisition of Lamborghini by the Volkswagen Auto Group. To amortize the cost of development of the nascent Lamborghini Gallardo and to bring Audi a little closer in-line with Mercedes and BMW, the plan for the mid-engine Audi R8—the brand’s first supercar—took shape with the Le Mans Quattro concept in 2003.
Audi Le Mans Quattro Concept
Visually, the Audi Le Mans Quattro concept was nearly identical to the production R8 that arrived in 2007, though the wild twin-turbo V-10 engine was tossed for a more production-friendly iteration of Audi’s naturally aspirated 4.2-liter V-8. Power was reasonable for a mid-engine sports car of the era, with 414 horsepower and 317 lb-ft of torque sent to all-four wheels through either Audi’s R-Tronic six-speed automated manual or a gated six-speed manual transmission. Zero-to-60-mph times for these early R8s were around the low four-second mark, with a top speed around 188 mph.
The Audi R8 Goes V-10
For the 2009 model year, the R8’s Lamborghini roots shone in full-force, when the updated…