Here’s some bone-headed, yet understandable news from Audi: They’ve decided to kill off the R8 TDI. Sure, times are tight, and maybe now’s not the best time to making another variant of any given company’s uber-sportscar, but if you ask me, now is exactly the right time to be building a car like the R8 TDI.
Debuting at the 2008 Detroit Auto Show, the Audi R8 TDI concept car had been given the green light for production, and that was still the case when Audi went to the trouble of showing a slightly revised version of the R8 TDI later at the Geneva show. But LeftLaneNews says that according to Audi insiders, the German automaker has decided to terminate the project. Audi referred to soft global demand for high-end cars like the R8 in general, as well as weak response to diesels in America, and Audi was concerned that it wouldn’t be able to recoup its initial investment in tooling up for and making an oil-burner R8.
When the R8 TDI was first shown in Detroit and Geneva, it was powered by a 5.5-liter, 500-horsepower engine based on the automake’s R10 Le Mans racecar engine, which struck me as being both cool, and odd. Sure, using a de-tuned race engine is always cool and gives a road car a great amount of cache’ versus other automakers. But it also struck me as odd, because Audi, via VW, already had a big, whompin’, stompin’ V10 TDI on hand. For a brief time, VW was producing a version of the Touareg, corporate sibling to Audi’s Q7 SUV that had a V10 diesel under the bonnet. As a matter of fact, that version of the Touareg was quite the darling of the bio-diesel crowd when it came out, and was highly coveted in California, where new diesel sales were banned at the time.
Anyway, going with the Le Mans sourced mill versus the off the rack option did sort of make sense. I chalked it up to engine architecture, and thought that it was great, one way or the other, that Audi was making a move like this. Sadly, Audi seems to now be backing away from that move. The engineers at Audi were difficulty fitting a production-ready Le Mans 12-cylinder diesel engine in the R8’s engine bay. The massive twin turbochargers were particularly difficult to fit, which is understandable (just ask any aftermarket obsessed kid who’s still trying to cram a turbo under the hood of their car).