The Audi R8 is a special car. Not perfect, when you stack it up against a key rival or two, but with its sister car the Lamborghini Huracan it remains one of just two supercars you can still buy with a high-revving, normally-aspirated V10.
That, it seems, might carry a bit more weight than you’d imagine in an age where the pursuit of cold, scientific solutions to cleaner motoring is far outweighing the desires of petrol-swiggers like us. If you haven’t already read about it, Audi has confirmed that the TT – hugely popular in the UK but weirdly nowhere else – will be dumped like an old fish head and replaced with something electric that may not even be a coupe. The thirsty R8, on the other hand, could get a stay of execution.
We reckon that’s more than a little interesting, given that rumours have been whizzing around the interweb for years about the mid-engined missile’s apparent electric successor. The R8 e-tron, after all, was first mooted about a decade ago before fewer than 100 were built in 2015, each being sold (to total lunatics) for around €1 million. No wonder it flopped, but the point is that Audi has been ready to exclusively electrify its big cheese for ages… and yet it still might not.
Perhaps Audi is protecting the values of those few e-trons that were sold four years ago. Prices for a car that could reach the same 280 miles or so would surely be lower today, and such wealthy clients are not to be casually insulted like that.
Another sensible possibility is that Audi wants to give itself more time to work on weight reduction of an electric R8. It’s no good putting a fully-grown rhino’s worth of battery mass into the chassis of a supposedly lithe, agile supercar. The likes Rimac and Automobili Pininfarina get away with it because they bring the novelty of bonkers straight-line speed, and most will just sit in storage for decades anyway.
R8s are driven; any significant dynamic flaws will be torn to shreds online. There’s also the small matter of the current EV supercar crop’s seven-figure price tags that permit the use of wildly exotic lightweight materials way out of the R8’s league.
A delay of one full model cycle, about eight years, would give Audi time to try to make comparatively lightweight solid-state batteries viable, for example. It’s arguably already notched up one failure on the electric R8 front, so next time it really needs to be right.
But perhaps we’re focusing too hard on the car, not human nature. The R8 is an exciting thing, full of blaring defiance and ego-flattering technology. Is it too much of a stretch to picture its tailored overlords in Ingolstadt getting sentimental over it? If the switch to lower revs and turbos is like a casualty-strewn zombie movie where most of the R8’s contemporaries have already been turned, the Audi has almost survived to the end; it’s a hero. We can see why petrolheads at Audi Sport might not want it lobotomised before the final scene.
Then again, maybe the praise is actually due down at Sant’Agata. Lamborghini is said to strongly prefer hybridising the Huracan’s V10 rather than downsizing or going electric. The business case becomes much less laughable if the R8’s sales figures are bundled into the equation. Across Europe and North America Audi sold around 2000 of them last year.
The bottom line is that the TT, good car though it is, just isn’t inspiring enough to make Audi persevere with a new one. It can be chopped in for a soulless electric five-door and almost nobody will cry about it. The R8, on the other hand, still symbolises something great about Audi Sport as dusk falls on the internal combustion era. Until an electric version is truly ready to take the mantle, perhaps the best course is one that leads to eight more years of screaming V10s.