Audi’s announcement that the already ultra-high-performance R8 is now available with a 386-kW (518-hp) 5.2-L V10 engine producing 530 N·m (391 lb·ft) at 6500 rpm flies in the face of the global economic slowdown and increasing emphasis on environmental cars. But Audi is convinced that there continues to be a place for such low-volume, high-powered cars.
The R8 V10, on public display for the first time at the 2009 North American International Auto Show this month, has a claimed top speed of 315 km/h (196 mph) and a 0-100 km/h (0-62 mph) time of 3.9 s, with a combined fuel consumption of 13.7 L/100 km—only 0.05 L/100 km worse than the V8’s figure. The direct-injection, dry-sump, gasoline engine, which delivers maximum power at 8000 rpm, is based on the unit used for the Lamborghini Gallardo and drives all four wheels.
The engine is installed longitudinally and is described by Audi as being almost identical to the unit powering the R8 LMS that will be raced in the GT3 class. It adds 31 kg (68 lb) to the weight of the V8-engined R8. Vehicle weight bias is 44% front, 56% rear, and power-to-weight ratio is 238 kW/t (290 hp/ton).
The R8 V10 can be equipped with a six-speed manual gearbox or R tronic sequential shift transmission. Ventilated and perforated, 380-mm (15.0-in) front and 356-mm (14.0-in) rear disc brakes are fitted, and a ceramic system is available.
The V10 has an additional technology dimension: Audi describes it as the first car in the world to be equipped with all-LED (light-emitting diode) headlights, supplied by Philips Lumileds. Significantly, the technology is used for low- and high-beam settings, together with daytime running lights and indicators. An interior light package including LED footwell lighting, light and rain sensors, and LED engine compartment lighting is also standard.
Dr. Wolfgang Huhn, who heads Audi’s Light and Visibility Department, said: "A lot of people initially viewed this development as a mere marketing gimmick. Yet everyone who has seen these lights in action is not only astonished by the excellent output but also thrilled with the homogeneous distribution of light and the agreeable, daylight-esque color of the light."
The move toward LED technology for Audi started at the 2003 NAIAS in Detroit, when Audi presented the Pikes Peak quattro concept study, the design that led to the production Q7. The concept had what were described as the world’s first LED fog lights integrated into the bumper. The lights were strip-shaped.
Another claimed first was the use of LED daytime running lights in the series production 12-cylinder Audi A8.
The advance of the technology has been significant and is based not just on aesthetics but also in terms of efficiency. Audi has stated that present-generation xenon and LED headlights are four times more energy-efficient than halogen lights, and that by 2018, LED technology should be about eight times more efficient than halogen. LEDs have an almost indefinite service life and react up to 10 times more quickly than traditional incandescent bulbs.
So, when daytime running lights become mandatory in the European Union in May 2011, LEDs will provide significant power-saving advantages. Audi’s published figures show that a vehicle’s conventional low-beam headlights, taillights, and license-plate illumination consume some 200 W. An output of only 15 W is required to power the Audi A4’s LED daytime running lights, a system that has the added advantage of notably better visibility for other road users and equates to a decrease of about 0.2 L/100 km of fuel and some 4 g fewer CO2 emissions/km.
Audi reckons that its models with LED daytime running lights sold in 2008 alone consumed—during their first year in use—about 10 million fewer liters of fuel and emitted approximately 25,000 fewer metric tons of CO2.
The LED headlights in the Pikes Peak concept generated 18 lumens, but the latest white high-performance LEDs reached the market this year with 100 lumens/W, exceeding the efficiency of xenon lights for the first time, stated Audi.
The company has released further details of its thinking with regard to LED applications, explaining that "digital light" can be made more or less bright electronically and precisely adapted to a driver’s needs. Audi specialists believe that future generations of headlights will react to weather conditions, a vehicle’s speed, the distance between vehicles, and potentially dangerous objects.
"We’re striving to create intelligent headlights and taillights, which think and anticipate in the interest of enhancing a driver’s safety and comfort," added Huhn. "For example, there are already high-beam headlights in pre-series development, which will allow drivers to navigate roads at night without temporarily blinding oncoming drivers. This is made possible by a variable distribution of light; an electronic system continuously calculates the distance to any approaching vehicle to ensure that the road ahead is ideally illuminated at all times—without irritating oncoming drivers."