Is Audi readying a new dual-clutch transmission for its R8? It appears that way, since spies caught two Audi R8s testing in the Austrian Alps, loaded to the gills with a vast array of testing sensors and equipment. The wheels are fully covered, and capped by test sensors at each wheel hub. The interior is filled with multiple computers, and wires leading into the engine bay and transmission tunnel. It appears that a new electric parking brake has been added next to the lever for the standard parking brake. There is a lot going on, demanding closer scrutiny.
The mountain range where these prototypes were caught is a known testing center for two primary automotive concerns - brakes and transmissions. Close inspection of the interior shots seems to narrow down these prototypes as transmission testbeds. A printed sign inside the R8 coupe tester is partially visible, which reads: "Kupplung sehr empfindlich", meaning that the clutch is very sensitive, or touchy. A further rough translation of the sign goes on to encourage caution, because the clutch is prone to grinding. It seems clear that the transmissions in play here are in an early stage of development and represent a marked change over the current R8's R-Tronic gearbox.
While the VW/Audi group has largely pioneered the dual-clutch automatic transmission (DSG), the R8's optional R-Tronic transmission is only a single-clutch unit, and has received criticism for its rather herky-jerky nature, especially at lower speeds. We hear that due to technical issues, creating a dual-clutch tranny for the R8 is difficult - especially considering the power and torque on tap--and the low volume nature of the R8 makes engineering such a system not necessarily cost-effective. These issues aside, many still question how Audi's halo car can persist with anything less than a top-performing DSG transmission.
Audi is clearly hard at work on some complex changes for the R8's transmission, and to us at least, a dual-clutch transmission would seem to be the only direction Audi could logically go to change or improve the R8. Rumors have been afoot for a while that the R8 would indeed get a new seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. So far we have only seen V8-powered R8s (both as coupe and spyder variants) undergoing these tests, so it remains to be seen if the V-10-powered R8s will be similarly reworked. Until the engineers allow us to rifle through the rest of the paperwork we can see hidden among all that testing gear, observation-based speculation is all we can bring at this point.