Does the Audi R8 really need turbocharging?

The ice caps are melting, our ozone is disintegrating and Johnny Polar Bear is losing his home inch by inch as our pollutants fill the sky. This must stop if we want to breathe clean air and avoid global catastrophe. One of the key things in avoiding Johnny Polar Bear’s house from melting is to start cleaning up our automotive emissions. This is no secret, as automakers have been trying to do this for a decade now. And the most common change is to downsize engines and add turbochargers.

2016 Audi R8 - Front Three Quarters
2016 Audi R8 – Front Three Quarters

Everyone’s doing it. BMW switched its iconic M3 to a turbocharged engine from a free-revving V8, Mercedes-Benz switched out its monster 6.2 liter V8 in favor of a smaller displacement 4.0 liter turbocharged V8 and even Ferrari has moved to turbocharging in the 488 GTB. So naturally, Audi is thinking about doing the same in its R8 halo car. According to Audi board member Ulrich Hackenberg “It is inevitable that we will go to a turbocharged motor for it at some point,” but also went on to mention that it might come during this life cycle “it would be in this model cycle, to give us a fuller range.”

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2016 Audi R8 - Interior
2016 Audi R8 – Interior

The upcoming Audi R8 will utilize a 5.2 liter V10, but will come in two different power specs. The standard R8 will make 540 hp and the R8 Plus will make a healthy 610. Now, for us enthusiasts, this is excellent. While all other automakers are downsizing, Audi is the only company making a supercar with a V10. Aside from Lamborghini who uses the same V10. So for those of us who love the sound of prehistoric dinosaurs turning into noise in an angry orchestra of explosions, the R8 is the supercar for you. But if it switches over to turbocharging, a lot of that character and noise will go away. And that’s a problem.

2016 Audi R8 - TFT Gauges
2016 Audi R8 – TFT Gauges

The R8 was never the sharpest or best supercar. When compared to cars like the Ferrari 458 Italia and the Porsche 911 GT3, it was never the absolute best. But it was damn good and had a lot of character. Now that Ferrari, and soon Porsche, has switched to turbocharging, Audi can slingshot ahead of the them, in terms of character and excitement, because of its massive V10 free-breathing engine. It would be the last of the supercars with a big naturally aspirated engine, and that gives it something special, something the other supercars can’t match. But the best part is, Audi has the means to keep the V10, while others don’t.

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2014 Audi R8 5.2 V10
2014 Audi R8 5.2 V10

See, the big demand for the switch to turbocharging has been increased by the CAFE standards being implemented on all automakers. This makes them have to lower the average emissions rating of their entire lineups. So for companies like Porsche and Ferrari, downsizing and turbocharging is a must, as they both have small lineups, so it’s tough to lower that average. But for companies like Audi who have a slew of four-cylinder diesel powered cars, hybrids and EVs, it’s easy to lower its lineup’s average emissions. Thus giving Audi the freedom to make a couple of gas-guzzling high-performance engines.

Audi Q7 e-tron 3.0 TDI quattro

So it seems as if Audi doesn’t need to switch to turbocharging, at least during this life cycle. It should keep the wonderfully noisy V10 as the sole engine for as long as possible. This way it can keep itself distinguished from the rest of the forced-induction supercars. The R8 currently has more character than most supercars, so let’s keep it that way.

Nico DeMattia

I've been in love with cars since I was a kid, specifically German cars. Now I get to drive them talk about them on the internet.