Audi R8 e-tron: First Drive Of Audi's Electric Supercar

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We'll start with the bad news: No, Audi definitely won't be producing any more examples of its R8 e-tron electric supercar.

And even if it did, it'd be well beyond the reach of mere mortals--rumor has it that each of the ten e-trons currently in existence have set Audi back around $1.3 million.

All of which is a great pity, because our track-based first drive of the R8 e-tron at Berlin's Tempelhof airfield shows that Audi really does understand electric cars--even if it's less keen on the economics of producing them.

Thorough engineering

The R8 e-tron looks very much like the regular gasoline R8s on which it's based, but under the skin the cars are wildly different.

Naturally, the power source is far removed from the V-8 and V-10s normally found in R8 models. It's actually the least powerful R8 yet, its two 140 kW electric motors equating to a 374-horsepower maximum.

More telling is the e-tron's 605 lb-ft torque figure--around a third greater than a Tesla Model S Performance, with its 443 lb-ft output.

To accommodate the 48.6 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack, the R8's chassis has been substantially redesigned. The T-shaped pack sits along the car's center tunnel and then upright behind the passenger compartment, the electric drivetrain sitting aft of this and powering the rear wheels alone.

Light weight and aerodynamics were high priorities. Much of the bodywork is now carbon fiber, shedding 50 lbs from the body-in-white.

Audi R8 e-tron, technical details

Audi R8 e-tron, technical details

Enlarge Photo

Unique glass-fiber reinforced plastic springs--more durable than their steel equivalents, apparently--save 40 percent compared to steel, and titanium rear wheel hubs also save weight. The car's total weight is just over 3,900 lbs.

H-rated tires--good for the car's lower top speed (described below) reduce rolling resistance yet offer plenty of grip, and save 4.4 lbs per corner.

The wheels are clever too--carbon fiber flaps mounted between the spokes close with centrifugal force at 30 mph, reducing the car's coefficient of drag by 0.02, for a total 0.27.

And on the "gee, look at that!" side, there's Audi's pioneering organic LED (OLED) rear-view mirror--weird at first, but very cool.

The numbers

To continue the Model S comparisons (as a suitable performance benchmark) 62 mph arrives in 4.2 seconds to the Tesla's 4.4, and top speed is limited to 124 mph, just shy of the 130-odd achievable in the Model S Performance.

Overall range is a so-so 133 miles, limited by how much battery Audi could cram in to the R8's frame. It's also one of Audi's numerous reasons for not making the car--they're simply not happy with 133 miles.

Incidentally, that top speed and the range are closely related. Audi told us that the e-tron uses 90 kilowatts of power at about 135 mph, which would drain the battery in 20-30 minutes. The 124 mph top speed at least ensures more than half an hour of Autobahn-style driving...

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Comments (9)
  1. I didn't know about the carbon fiber flaps mounted on the wheels. I think they look pretty good compared to most attempts to make aero-wheels.

    But in the pictures, the flaps look like they are closed at standstill. Are there any more pictures on these and how they look open versus closed?

  2. I think the close-up shot of the wheels further on in the gallery shows the flaps open, albeit only a little - I suspect the difference between open and closed is only an inch or two. Unfortunately I don't have a close-up to compare them with.

  3. Only an inch? Interesting. Guess that is to provide some cooling at slow speed.

  4. Great car, it's to bad Audi has cold feet.

  5. Seems kinda poor relative to the Model S, a 'supercar' that can only shave 2 tenths off a stock 5.2 person sedan? (And IIRC Musk's own Model S has clocked sub-4s launches?)

    Audi's got to do a lot better to catch up to Tesla.. Vorsprung durch technik indeed..

  6. This is what happens when you join the party rather late, all of the cake has been eaten, and all of the girls are either taken or too drunk to be attractive. ;)

  7. Great article. I love that they're putting some real effort into electric vehicle research, though they still need to take it to that next level of commitment. Would love to see something designed from the ground up by electric, with a more realistic focus on mass production.

    Would the Tesla Roadster be a better comparison, considering they're both two-seaters?

    Generally it still seems like there's still a lot of resistance to electrics (honestly expected more from Audi), and no wonder, the new (and in some ways greatly simplified) paradigm of electric vehicle design will make much of ICE power engineering redundant.

  8. It really puts into perspective what Tesla have done. Seriously, they're shipping a more advanced, longer range, cheaper and faster (Model S has been clocked at 4.2 0-60) family electric car than Audi can develop in the lab. These guys are in trouble. Imagine their embarrassment on the track as a family sedan pulls past them with two kids and a labrador in the back.

  9. When they start with "No, we're definitely not going to make this," I think we should leave it for Dream Cars & Customs magazine, or some such. It affords them some credibility for a moment to have their electric supercar shown. I mean, after the first few times, they have their free publicity, let's move on.

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