The History and Evolution of the Audi R8

audi-r8

For the fourth time, the Audi R8 was recognized by the World Car Awards by being crowned the 2016 World Performance Car. This came just after the sports car had received the World Car Design of the Year title. This explosive success of the “R8” and its descendants cannot be understated. In many ways, the R8’s quick and dominant success reflect the brand’s own speedy growth around the period it was incepted.

Today, with a refreshed R8 LMS ultra GT3 and accentuated R8 road car, it seems like a good time to reflect on the history and evolution of the Audi R8.

First generation (2007–2015)

R8 V8 Coupe and R8 V10 Coupe

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The first Audi R8 came with a 4.2-liter V8 petrol engine that could generate 420hp power output and 317 lbf ft. of torque. The same engine could be found in the Audi B7 RS4, except this one used a dry sump lubrication system. On December 2008, Audi revealed a newer version of the R8: the Audi R8 V10. This model utilized a 5.2-liter FSI engine and could produce 532hp and 391 lbf ft. of torque. This helped the car accelerate from zero to 100km/h in just 3.9 seconds and reach a maximum speed of 316kmh.

R8 V10 Spyder and R8 V8 Spyder

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On August 2008, pictures of a convertible R8 Spyder, which had been spotted in filming scenes of Iron Man II, appeared online. The shots revealed a clearly visible roof, without the familiar “sideblade”. It was only until 2009 that the vehicle was officially introduced at the Frankfurt Motor Show, featuring an additional chassis support, two roll-over safety bars, and subtle changes like the position of the fuel filler. It was propelled by a 5.2-liter V10 engine. Two years later, Autocar reported the completion of the 4.2 FSI V-8 engined R8 spyder, which could sprint from 0 to 62mph in 4.8 seconds and attain a max speed of 299kmh (or 185mph). Like the latter V10 spyder, the V-8 model came with an automatic pull-out folding cloth roof and an aluminum space frame with carbon components.

R8 LMS (2009–2012)

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In 2009, Audi decided to produce an R8 LMS race car in order to participate in the GT3 European Championship and other national racing series. This car featured a 493bhp V-10 engine, but had to drop the characteristic quattro 4-wheel drive system as per GT3 regulations. This meant the R8 LMS used the traditional rear wheel drive system, with the torque being transmitted through a newly-developed 6-speed sequential sports gearbox. The vehicle reportedly had a price tag of a nauseating $350,000 (US).

The same year, the company unleashed the Audi e-tron concept – a smaller version of the R8 coupe with 4 electric motors producing 313bhp and 332 lbf ft. of torque.

R8 LMS Evolution (2010)

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The 2010 version of the R8 LMS came with a couple of changes, including an enhanced engine cooling system, a six-speed transmission, race-optimized exhaust systems & electronics, and suspension revisions. The final version of the car went for a staggering $332,508. Between 2010 and 2013, Audi concentrated on the production of the R8 GT, which was to be limited to only 333 cars in the world. This rare model of the R8 coupe came with a reduced weight of 1,525 kg from 1425 kg, improved engine power to 552 bhp, and a maximum speed of 199mph. The car could also sprint from zero to 100kmh in just 3.6 seconds. Some noteworthy features included GT badges to replace the V10 ones, front bumper winglets, a fixed rear wing, and red brake caliper covers. For this, the car was sold for $239,000.

R8 GT Spyder

Audi R8 GT Spyder

Introduced in 2011, the R8 GT Spyder was also limited to 333 pieces, featuring a convertible body and a price tag of $231,863. The body was titanium color option with titanium finish nineteen-inch alloy wheels, satellite navigation, red brake callipers, an interior light package, the Audi Music Interface, a premium Bang & Olufsen sound system, and several other new features.

In 2012, the R8 Grand-Am was unleashed as a way for NASCAR to embrace the GT3. The power in this car’s engine was watered down from 464 bhp to 444 bhp in the form of a diminished fuel tank capacity of 83.3 liters, engine electronics & air restrictor, 3-part rims for wheels & suspension, as well as a traction control and a deactivated anti lock system. In general, the R8 Grand Am had a lower down force than the R8 LMS.

For 2012, the Audi R8 Limited edition was unveiled with a maximum of 30 examples. It included front & back air intakes/outlets, Nordic gold body color, black lightweight tailpipes, titanium gray front & back slats, among other features.

R8 LMS ultra

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The R8 LMS ultra was an upgraded version of the R8 LMS. In particular, the car featured new carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP) doors with enhanced engine power (562bhp), updated transmission, new PS1 Audi safety seat, and high energy absorbing crash foams. Additionally, the R8 LMS ultra came with interior, front eighteen-inch wheels with 30-65/18 Michelin tires, improved airflow to the radiator, enlarged air vents, middle-placed steering hydraulics oil cooler, as well as a larger transmission fluid cooler and engine oil cooler. These and other high performance features compiled the car’s price tag to an impressive $368,102 without tax.

R8 Exclusive Selection Edition

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In 2012, the R8 Exclusive Selection Edition was unveiled, limited to just thirty units. Some of its notable features included Carbon Fiber elements, a thicker outlined leather multi-functional steering wheel, exclusive leather Navigation surround, black exhaust finishers, black grille surround, nineteen-inch titanium 5-arm double spoke wheels, carbon fiber exterior splitter & diffuser, and Gray matte body color.

Audi R8 China Edition

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For 2012, Audi also decided to introduce the R8 China edition sports cars, specifically designed for the China market. The model came with two body color options (gray with blue side blades or blue with gray rocker panel side blades), fixed spoiler in carbon matte, instrument wrapped in carbon matte, handbrake and steering wheel shield in Alcantara, and aluminum gear knob scribbled with the characters “R8 专享”.

Police Car

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In 2011, Audi unveiled an R8 police car, inspired by the R8 GTR vehicle. The car was powered by a 612 bhp engine and came with Recaro racing seats, ABT-based carbon body kit, ABT damper, ABT sports suspension, and stainless steel sport exhaust system.

The Audi R8 Today

With the remarkable metamorphoses the Audi R8 has undergone, the car’s impact is unprecedented. The model was arguably the catalyst for the modern super car industry standards. In fact, the Audi R8 is looked upon as an iconic vehicle that transformed what was once considered a stale market into an exciting platform. As such, you can only expect the next Audi unveiling to be a exceptional revival of the R8.


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