Rumors of an Audi R8 with an engine smaller than the naturally aspirated 5.2-liter V10 swirled around the Internet for years and yet it never happened. The second-generation supercar is being retired with the GT RWD special edition pictured here, with plans for an all-electric replacement already announced. According to the now-obsolete gossip, the Four Rings allegedly wanted to put a turbocharged V6 for a more affordable entry-level version.
According to the rumor mill from several years ago, it was supposed to be the indirect successor of the first-generation R8 V8. However, the truth is substantially different. Indeed, the peeps from Ingolstadt had planned a base variant, but with a five-cylinder engine instead of a V6. Specifically, the idea was to use the turbocharged 2.5-liter inline-five from the TT RS and RS3.
The interesting disclosure was made by Marcos Marques, Project Manager eFuels at Porsche, in an interview with journalist Steve Sutcliffe for The Connection. It was supposed to do away with Quattro and use a rear-wheel-drive layout to save weight. While the second-generation R8 has been exclusively offered with a seven-speed, dual-clutch automatic transmission, the cheaper version that never came to be would've also been available with a manual. As you may recall, the first-gen R8 was also sold with a glorious six-speed gated manual.
Marques said the turbocharged R8 had less horsepower but more torque than the V10 model, which implies the inline-five would've been boosted beyond the 369 pound-feet (500 Newton-meters) available in the RS3. For reference, the second-generation R8 had 398 lb-ft (540 Nm) when it debuted in early 2015. He mentioned the turbo five-cylinder was "cleaner and almost as quick" as the V10.
When the time came to launch the rear-wheel-drive R8 RWS in the second half of 2017, the more focused version kept the V10. Audi Sport ultimately decided to sell the supercar exclusively with the 5.2 FSI engine shared with the Lamborghini Huracan.
Marques, who also revealed a quad-turbo, flat-eight Porsche supercar was aborted, believes the five-cylinder, rear-wheel-drive R8 with a manual gearbox or a dual-clutch automatic was a missed opportunity:
"It was a shame because the five-cylinder turbo engine was a good strong engine, it sounded different, and I think it worked well in the R8. The car was lighter and more agile, too, but maybe some people at Audi Sport didn't think it felt like a real R8, so quite late on they decided the car wouldn't happen."
As a final note, the inline-five, V8, and V10 were not the only engines Audi installed in the R8 as some will remember the ludicrous V12 TDI concept from 2008. The twin-turbodiesel monster with nearly 500 horsepower and 738 pound-feet (1,000 Newton-meters) of torque went on to power the Q7 V12 TDI. There was also a short-lived R8 E-Tron electric version.