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Audi R8 V12 TDI Concept (2008) driven review

Published:10 April 2008

Audi R8 V12 TDI Concept (2008) driven review
  • At a glance
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By Georg Kacher

European editor, secrets uncoverer, futurist, first man behind any wheel

By Georg Kacher

European editor, secrets uncoverer, futurist, first man behind any wheel

Does the world need the Audi R8 V12 TDI, a supercar powered by diesel? We love the regular Audi R8. It’s our 2007 performance car of the year, with sublime steering that belies its Ingolstadt roots, and one of the best gearboxes around. That high-revving 4.2-litre V8 sounds wonderful and the quattro system juggles all-weather security with rear bias for tail-out action. How could you want any more? Well, there is a V10 version coming in 2009...

But over the past few years Audi has sought to fill every conceivable niche. Welcome then, to the Audi R8 V12 TDI, the world’s first diesel production supercar. Yes, it's a concept car for now, but Audi is seriously debating the future of this car.

Hold on, did you say Audi R8 V12 TDI?

We did indeed. Underneath that stunning bodywork sits an oil-burning engine. The car was first unveiled at the Detroit Motor Show at the start of 2008 in a shade of silver. Since then it’s been repainted red and now CAR Online has been to Miami for a drive of this rather special concept car.

The job of the R8 V12 TDI is two-fold. For one, it is designed to showcase the Hungarian-built V12 TDI engine. At six litres it easily surpasses the 5.0-litre V10 that sits in the nose of Volkswagen's Phaeton and Touareg. The new V12 will be available in the Q7 from later in 2008, will probably be in the next A8, and maybe, just maybe in the R8…

That’s right, the second reason for the R8 diesel concept is to preview a production car that is currently 50:50. But that’s without taking into account the influence of a certain Dr Ferdinand Piech, the man who insisted that the impossible be made reality with the Bugatti Veyron.

Click 'Next' to read more on the R8 TDI

Look out for the June 2008 issue of CAR Magazine for a full feature on the R8 TDI

So can you just drop a V12 into the R8 in place of a V8?

Not quite. The 6.0-litre V12 is considerably longer than the 4.2-litre V8 so it now sits tight behind the rear seats. To feed the big engine the side intakes are larger and a NACA duct sits on the roof, feeding air to the hungry engine. Either side of the roof-mounted duct sits a polycarbonate panel that gives us a glorious view of the Miami sunshine. It's neatly finished.

Inside there is a bit of concept car trinketry with contrasting red accents everywhere and a Drive Select toggle on the left spoke of the steering wheel. Select Dynamic, Sport or Race depending on your mood, and the car adapts the dynamic settings accordingly.

So, what’ll she do mister?

Prod the big red starter button on the other steering wheel spoke and you’re met with a noise that is neither TDI nor track-ready . There’s tantalising wastegate hiss but you’re left wondering just what this engine is.

The one thing that is certain is the potential of this engine. The headline figures are 493bhp and 737lb ft. The latter arrives at a piffling 1750rpm and keeps being produced until 3000rpm. Audi is claiming, on paper, a 4.2 second run to 60 mph and a top speed of 203mph. Yet it’ll apparently average nearly 30mpg and keep the air clean thanks to Audi’s NOx beating AdBlue technology. It's called having your cake and eating it...

Click 'Next' to read more on the R8 TDI

Look out for the June 2008 issue of CAR Magazine for a full feature on the R8 TDI

I sense a but…

You do indeed. This is a concept. The R8 V12 TDI’s minders were insistent on a 3000rpm limit, despite a 4500rpm cut-out. And the 737lb ft had been cut to a mere 295lb ft in the first two gears, and 369lb ft thereafter to protect the six-speed manual tranmission. The concept is worth €3m, you see. Still, it does smack of ludicrous concept-car claims that can't be delivered in the real world.

But there’s a but with the but. This thing has effortless grunt. Absolutely effortless grunt - even with the concept car restrictions in place. It might not scream to 8000rpm, but it will overtake almost anything in the blink of an eye. Despite a decidedly portly 1900kg kerbweight.

Verdict

This is one stunning car, and we can only admire Audi for making it. If they build a production version, we will be gobsmacked. Even if the marketeers do insist on harping on about the links to the derv-sipping, Le Mans winning R10.

Price-wise, although it’s not 100 percent confirmed, expect £120-130k. At that price, the diesel R8 will have a unique offering that truly stands out from rivals Aston Martin, Ferrari and Lamborghini.

A supercar too far? Or the future of the sports car? Click 'Add comment' and let us know

Specs

Price when new: £125,000
On sale in the UK: 2009 (est)
Engine: 6.0-litre twin-turbo diesel V12, 493bhp, 737lb ft @ 1750-3000rpm
Transmission: Six-speed manual, four-wheel drive
Performance: 4.2sec 0-60mph, 203mph, 28mpg
Weight / material: 1900kg/aluminium and carbonfibre
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm):

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Photo Gallery

  • Audi R8 V12 TDI above
  • Audi R8 V12 TDI interior
  • Audi R8 V12 TDI rear three-quarter
  • Audi R8 V12 TDI rear three-quarter
  • Audi R8 V12 TDI front three-quarter

By Georg Kacher

European editor, secrets uncoverer, futurist, first man behind any wheel

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