- The lack of high-performance-sports-car plans is glaring at Audi, but Car and Driver has learned that an EV replacement for the R8 is in the works.
- Don’t get too anxious, though: the launch date for this new model, currently called the Rnext, has been pushed back to 2029.
- Whether Audi will design its own platform or use a Porsche matrix is still unclear, but if Ingolstadt can have things its way, Lamborghini and Bentley are likely to get bespoke spinoffs.
Imagine Audi competing in Formula 1 in 2026 without a high-performance sports car in its portfolio to reap the motorsports rub-off. How silly would that be? And yet, at the moment, the brand’s future road map has no successor to the TT, no replacement for the R8, or in fact any other ultrafast, high-visibility, big-margin, image-building product.
While elsewhere in the Volkswagen Group, Lamborghini has the next Aventador and Huracánpretty much cast in stone, Rimac is preparing a follow-up to the Bugatti Chiron fitted with an awesome 1800-hp hybrid V-8, and Porsche is seriously contemplating an electric supercar and hypercar, Audi’s think tank harbors plenty of great ideas but not enough hard plans.
To date, the duel between Markus Duesmann (wearing the four-rings livery as Audi chairman) and Oliver Blume (with Porsche embossed in his armor as the brand’s CEO) has ended in a dead heat, but now that Blume has stepped into the hot seat recently vacated by Herbert Diess, the young CEO is calling the shots. Will he let the Audi CTO Oliver Hoffmann develop his own bespoke sports-car architecture as planned? Or is he going to urge the group’s Bavarian satellite to use the SSP6 componentry being compiled exclusively for Porsche? “A decision won’t be made before next spring,” claims one insider. “Blume will keep the brands on a long leash to stimulate creativity and differentiation,” believes another. “In the end, the bottom line is all that matters,” quips a third.
Let’s assume for a moment that Audi has free rein and can push ahead with AU634/0, which is the code name for Rnext. While the car at this point does not share a single item with the Huracán replacement, the high-voltage effort is destined to spawn a Lamborghini model late in the decade and a Bentley offspring in the early 2030s. There is still a long way to go, but that’s the plan. We expect three body styles to make it into production: a two-seat coupe and spyder as well as a roomier 2+2, the latter perhaps as a shooting brake.
Porsche Batteries, Slim Packaging
Modularity and scalability are key to keeping the costs down, which is why all models allegedly will use Porsche-sourced high-performance batteries. Will the construction be aluminum or carbon fiber? Perhaps a bit of both, with a synthetic weave for the tub and lightweight metal for the suspension. A cell-to-chassis concept, where the battery pack is a stressed component, promises even fewer calories, slimmer packaging, and extra rigidity.
What we have so far is yet another electric supercar to be positioned in the $250,000-to-$300,000 range that may be eaten for breakfast by the less pricey Tesla Roadster, if that ever comes. In all likelihood, not even breathtaking design, extraordinary efficiency, and superb quality will make the Rnext a sure-fire success guaranteed to eclipse the competition.
True, admits Audi’s Hoffmann. What defines the difference between greatness and mere competence is how such a car drives. No, we’re not talking 1000 watts of power here, because 1000 horsepower can already be taken for granted when the next RS6 e-tron bows. Instead, the vehicle dynamics specialists are waxing lyrical about their breakthrough neuronal Quattro system that shares its massive brain power with the steering, brakes, and suspension for, to quote Hoffmann, “total control and absolute excitement.”
Branding Is Everything
That’s the good news. The bad news is that AU634/0 is conspicuous by its absence from the latest cycle plan, which does show the next-gen e-tron GT with a Porsche SSP6 platform moniker and a 2029 release date. We asked around and were told that the Rnext will appear in the not yet finalized Planning Round 72 in early 2023.
So, at this point, it seems anything is possible. Porsche still could allow Audi to use the Cayman/Boxster platform for a 2027 TT replacement. And it could design the dramatically different electric future 911, code-named PO998, around a component set flexible enough to also accommodate the Rnext.
Porsche could, but we wouldn’t bet on it. Brand identity is key when a premium nameplate trades on the stock exchange. And let’s face it: After three years of fierce good cop/bad cop rivalry, isn’t it about time for the new King of Wolfsburg to show some leniency and tolerance towards the Duke of Ingolstadt?
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