When Audi rolled out the stunning e-Tron recently at the Frankfurt Auto Show, very few thought that it would see the light of production. Nor did most people realize that the e-Tron’s underpinnings would be based on a completely unknown Audi sportscar. But they were, and the new sportscar will be called the R4. As the name implies, it’s like an R8, only smaller. So you might want to look at these developments this way: The e-Tron is an eco-bent halo car, and the R4 is its “normal” engined variant.
The R4 will be a junior version of the R8, sort of like midget racers were to full-blown Indy roadsters back in the 50s. To go with its diminutive scale, the R4 will feature a set of drivetrains different from its R8 big brother (although the idea of squeezing that V10 from the R8 into the R4 does have a certain appeal). The top-of-the-line model will feature the e-Tron’s all-electric setup.
Audi’s American execs said to expect working prototypes of the electric R4 in two years’ time and an on-sale date in late 2012. The electric model will be the high-end of the engine options and the Audi R4 lineup will round out with engines from the current TT. The 2.5-liter turbo five-cylinder in the TT-RS is a likely choice. That plant puts out a respectable 335 horsepower and there’s also the 2.0-liter, 265-hp four-cylinder from the TTS as an option for the R4.
It’s also worth noting now that the machinations are over, and corporate parent VW now controls Porsche, it is likely that the R4 is expected to share a platform with the next-gen Porsche Boxster. Both coupe and targa versions of the R4 are expected.
In short this is good news. Impressive as the R8 is, it’s also a six-figure car. Impressive styling and performance, to be sure, but also an impressive bottom line. If Audi engineers the R4 right (and there’s no reason why they wouldn’t at the this point) it could be a very usable “middle ground”.