Audi planned to surprise us all with a very special limited-edition sports car at the 2017 Geneva auto show. We’re talking about a real crowd-stopper: a coupe that might have eclipsed the Lamborghini Huracán Performante, loosely based on the current R8 but dressed in more aggressive sheetmetal and powered by a 700-hp V-8 boasting Ducati-developed desmodromic valve gear that would have allowed a screaming 10,000-rpm redline. It didn’t happen.
The desmo idea was the brainchild of Ferdinand Piech, the driving force behind the acquisition of Ducati. He kicked off two desmo engine development projects: the aformentioned bespoke V-8 for Audi and a modified motorcycle engine earmarked for a sporty urban runabout to be engineered by Porsche. Even though VW Group engineers reportedly succeeded in extending the maintenance intervals and solving the major emissions issues, Audi’s desmo project was shot down at the eleventh hour by quality control. Presumably, grandmaster Piech’s fall from power didn’t help matters either.
Audi Sport’s desmo supercar proposal would have been limited to only 25 vehicles. Instead an entry-level, rear-wheel drive R8, limited to 1,000 units, is now under development. Still powered by a V-10, the deletion of the quattro all-wheel drive system is said to reduce the price by about $50,000.
But Audi still wants a halo supercar. With the desmo dead, the latest thinking is coalescing around a derivative of the Porsche J1, better known as Mission E. To create superior economies of scale, Porsche has made its advanced electric platform available to Audi, Bentley, and Lamborghini. While Bentley is considering J1 for a production version of the EXP12 Speed 6e concept shown in Geneva (Bentley has also been developing its own architecture as we reported when the 6e was unveiled), Lamborghini will likely wait for stage two and its next-generation batteries, which are due in 2025.
Audi needs its image-maker fast, however, and rumors suggest that by 2020, we’ll see an all-electric four-door coupe. It will be designed in-house and emphasize technology like autonomous driving, fast inductive charging, and active aerodynamics. Battery power is expected to range from 70 to 105 kWh, with the motors rated at 230, 265 and 320 hp. Depending on how many motors are used, and in what combination, that means a car with anything from 690 to 960 horsepower all told. That would be pretty super.