There’s one major reason why almost all car enthusiasts love the Audi R8 — its engine. The 5.2 liter naturally-aspirated V10 is not only uncommon in today’s modern turbocharged era, but it’s an actual masterpiece. Which is why it’s the focus of Audi’s latest “Tech Talk”.
When the Audi R8 first adopted the V10 engine, as an additional performance upgrade to the standard V8 of the time, it was a breath of fresh air. Even then, almost a decade ago, automakers were trying to downsize and turbocharge, to increase both torque and fuel economy. Now, though, it’s been elevated to a legendary status.
It’s not just its V10 layout or lack of turbochargers that make it special, though. There’s some real genius engineering going on. While it’s a large engine, with 5.2 liters and ten cylinders, it’s surprisingly lightweight. Its crankshaft and connecting rods are light so it can rev higher than your average big engine. So it revs to an astonishing 8,700 rpm. Porsche gets a ton of live for making its 3.0 liter flat-six rev to 9,000 but the R8’s V10 is right there and it’s a lot more engine, in every way.
The free-breathing V10 also has a dry-sump oil system, direct-injection to keep the engine from starving of oil during hard cornering, forty valves and valve springs and rockers made from high-strength titanium. It’s a high-tech, extremely well-thought-out engine that really is a modern masterpiece.
In North American-spec, the Audi R8 V10 makes a whopping 602 hp and 413 lb-ft of torque at its 8,700 rpm redline. That’s admittedly less than the 640 hp Euro-market cars get. However, those same Euro-market cars have exhaust emissions devices that rob them of noise. In America, we get all of the noise and what a wonderful noise it is.
While the Audi R8 V10 is absurdly fast, hitting 60 mph in under three seconds, its highlight isn’t its performance. Its highlight is the noise.
That screaming V10 wails at its near-9,000 rpm redline and makes the most incredible noise. Modern turbocharged cars lack the sort of spine-tingling exhaust note that only naturally-aspirated engines can make and the latter will be missed because of it.
So enjoy the Audi R8 and its killer V10 while it lasts. Normally-aspirated engines are going the way of the Dodo soon enough and it’s engines like the R8’s V10 that we’ll always remember as the high-water mark of internal combustion.