Schroedinger would be proud of the impossible-to-know state of the Audi R8. In March we heard that there’d be no third generation for one of the most well-known sports cars of the era. Most, however, did expect an R8 V6 to bow this year at the New York Auto Show. If the downsized coupe actually exists as a production proposition, it skipped out on NYC. But three months later, a report said the six-pot two-door would come with the 2019 R8 refresh. While we await provable info on that, Autocar reports that a third-generation R8 is on the way around 2022, and it will be an all-electric offering aiming its rings at the genuine supercar crowd.
Autocar, going on what “senior company sources have hinted,” said we could be looking at “perhaps as much as 1,000 bhp,” and a return of the R8 E-tron badge on a rocket “likely to have a 0-62 mph time of about 2.0 sec.”
A third-gen, electric R8 would mark the third attempt at a battery-powered halo car for Audi, and — if this is the rumor that becomes fact — would be the first one with a genuine chance for success. The Ingolstadt carmaker developed an electric first-gen R8, canceling the project in 2013 before going to market. Audi tried again with the second-gen coupe in 2015 and got all the way to showrooms, but the car was handicapped by an output of 376 horsepower and 605 pound-feet of torque, and a 204-mile range — performance that couldn’t surpass the Tesla Model S — attached to a seven-figure price. Company execs pulled the car from the market after one year and fewer than 100 sales.
The recent PB18 concept from Pebble Beach is a good place to start thinking about a potential R8 EV. The PB18 contained three electric motors, 764 horsepower and 612 pound-feet of torque, and a simulated 62-mph sprint of “scarcely more than two seconds” on the way to a 186-mph top speed. Coincidentally, the PB18 fit the same dimensions as the current Audi R8, though the PB18’s body was shaped into a two-door shooting brake. Autocar wrote that the “E-tron GT will feature a two-door, four-seat design and offer more than 800 bhp,” and that its technology could be ported to the third-gen R8.
This raises a bit more confusion. Peter Oberndorfer, Audi’s global head of product and technology communications, told Motoring in March that the E-tron GT would be “a very sporty four-door car, not the successor to the R8.” Our guess is that even though the PB18 was a two-door, that it contains more clues about the E-tron GT, expected to arrive in 2020, than any R8.
Yet the PB18 featured a 95-kWh solid-state battery pack, and Audi’s known to want solid-state juice for any sports car. As Oberndorfer told Motoring in that same interview, “[If] you go very fast you need a lot of battery and don’t want to spend three days going from the Nürburgring to Munich or the other way around. …” Solid-state power could get the R8 the output and recharging times to make sense, and an R8 EV could provide the same halo service for the new E-tron division as the original R8 did for the regular Audi lineup.
We’re still not ready to put any faith in this yet. In March, the carmaker’s R&D boss said Audi Sport hadn’t come up with any plan for a next-gen R8. If Audi’s really settled now on an all-electric R8 to bow in just four years, we think Audi Sport would have had a roadmap laid out in March; look at how long the Porsche Taycan has been publicly under development, and how long we still have to wait for it. When Slashgear queried its sources, the outlet said, “So we’re hearing, things are still very much at the discussion phase as to what Audi might do for the new R8’s powertrain,” including the possibility of a V10-powered coupe and an electric R8 E-tron.
At this rate, we’re going to run out of our monthly allotment of salt to use on other rumors before September’s out.