The genes of the winner
As the first mid-engine sports car of the Audi brand, the R8 not only exploits the entire technological expertise of the company. It also interprets Audi's widely acclaimed design in a new, extreme form: the R8 emerges as a formal statement of sheer dynamism.
"Our aim was to create a powerful sports car – but with an exceptional quality of elegance," remarked Walter de'Silva, Head of Design of the Audi brand group.
In the case of a sports car, the challenges facing the designers are more demanding than for other vehicle concepts. Here, the shape needs to be even more emotionally charged and captivating. On the other hand, the design here has to fall in line with functional requirements to an exceptional degree: a sports car in the 300 km/h league needs to have perfectly balanced aerodynamics.
Plenty of experience with top performance
The large air apertures at the front and rear of the R8, for instance, naturally serve as important design features. Their size was however initially determined by the considerable amount of cooling air required by the high-performance engine, and also of course by the brakes. But Audi's design people are amply experienced in creating high-performance and ultra-high-performance vehicles, over and above its S and RS models: the shape of the multiple Le Mans-winning R8 was created by the same design team that was behind the exterior design of the R8 road version of the sports car.
Admittedly, the issue of aerodynamics needs to be handled with greater subtlety on an elegant, roadgoing car that is intended for every use than on a competition car. Eye-catching spoilers on the body were for instance immediately ruled out, and directional stability is maintained by the complex diffuser underbody in conjunction with the visually restrained, automatically extended rear spoiler.
The basic idea behind the vehicle body is based on the tension-filled contrast between the calm and flowing surfaces that give the Audi R8 its elegance. The technology is exhibited just as overtly: the car's sculpture is opened up at the decisive points, revealing its technology for all to see.
The surfaces are explicitly tactile. They are stretched between the lines and edges, and describe a muscular sculpture whose quality resides in the permanent interplay between concave and convex surfaces. The R8 adeptly plays with light. This enhances its corporeal qualities and introduces movement into the flow of lines and surfaces.
Every line neatly placed
Whatever else may be true, the R8 is instantly recognisable as an Audi. This fact is evident both from the single-frame grille and from the entire powerfully elegant formal idiom, with its neatly placed lines and minimal number of meticulously crafted details. Take for instance the line running around the entire vehicle known as the "loop": it starts at the front spoiler, swoops over the shoulder, encompasses the clearly structured tail end and then returns down the other side to the nose. It particularly accentuates the four wheel arches as symbols of quattro four-wheel drive.
The proportions are of course dictated by the mid-engine concept: the driver's seat is positioned well forward, with the V8 engine located behind it – as on the racing car that shares the same name. The sideblade is a characteristic feature of the side view: in addition to performing the function of directing induced and cooling air to the engine, it divides the vehicle body up into two sections: the occupant cell and the assemblies zone. The large arc of the roof line is another typical Audi feature.
The front end is dominated by the trapezoidal Audi single-frame grille, flanked on either side by large air inlets. For the first time, the four rings of the logo are positioned not over the grille, but on the lid above it. This makes the front end look even more poised and focused on the road.
The flat strips of the headlights lie flush with the upper edge of the air inlets. The headlight covers enclose a microcosm of intelligent technology and innovative design. The xenon plus headlights with their 70 millimetre diameter glass lenses lend the R8's face a clear, demanding gaze – framed by the unique daytime running lights comprising twelve light-emitting diodes that infuse the R8 with an added, unmistakable character. The small lens in front of the turn indicator lights exemplifies the designers' attention to detail: it sports a finely engraved R8 logo that is only perceptible upon closer inspection.
The optional LED headlights are the sheer epitome of innovation. That is because from the end of 2007, the Audi R8 will be the first vehicle in the world to be equipped with light-emitting diodes for all lighting functions – a fact that of course demands a correspondingly progressive design approach. Bionics, in other words design inspired by nature, has provided the key idea: the unit for the low-beam headlights is reminiscent of an opened pine cone. Reflector shells arranged in concentric circles surround the high-performance LED projection system. The internal reflectors for distributing the high-beam light, on the other hand, are architectural in inspiration, recalling the design of the Sydney Opera House.
Passion for lighting design
The tail end is defined by the horizontal spoiler edge. The area beneath it gives the R8 a wide, dominant effect. As at the front end, the tail is dominated by two large air apertures with their substantial transverse struts. And as at the front, the light units are embedded flush with the body panels at their upper edge. These light units are, in turn, shining examples of Ingolstadt's passion for lighting design. Because here for the first time, it has been possible to give all-LED rear lights a three-dimensional character with a pronounced three-dimensional effect irrespective of the angle from which they are viewed.
Elegant showcase for the sports car's beating heart
The roof is delimited by the third brake light, forming the upper edge of the transparent engine compartment lid. This is another visual highlight. The engine is exhibited as the beating heart of this sports car, like a work of art inside a voluminous showcase. The engine can even be seen after dark, when the two sets of three white light-emitting diodes linked to the coming home / leaving home function illuminate the engine compartment. This "showroom" can be fully lined in genuine carbon fibre as an option, for a particularly exclusive look.
Two large-format diffuser apertures in the rear bumper demonstrate the extent to which aerodynamics dictate the shape of the R8. The four round tailpipes of the exhaust system are located in pairs on the right and left above the diffuser apertures. The automatically extended rear spoiler also interacts with the air as it flows around the car. The added downforce it provides boosts the efficiency of the air intake that is generated by the aerodynamic design of the underbody and diffusers. At low speeds, the rear spoiler is retracted flush with the body again. Thanks to the car's aerodynamically effective basic shape and extensive fine-tuning, no demonstratively large spoilers are needed.
The equipment, data and prices stated here refer to the model range offered for sale in Germany. Subject to amendment; errors and omissions excepted.