Audi’s second-generation R8 has been sprung stripped of almost all its camouflage while testing in Germany ahead of its expected launch in Australia in 2016.
Looking more like the sleek and futuristic R8 etron prototype launched at the Frankfurt motor show in 2009, we can already tell that this test mule features a similar slammed glasshouse and dropped nose that featured on the battery-powered show car.
Once again, the R8 is expected to gulp air via a deep front air dam framed on either side by squared intakes feeding air to the front brakes.
The show car’s distinctive “blades” also remain, channelling air into the engine bay via sharply creased channels cut into the R8’s door skins.
While the last R8 featured an all-aluminium body, this generation of the $270,000-plus supercar is expected to also make higher use of lightweight carbon fibre, hidden inside plastic forms, to strip performance-sapping heft from the current generation’s almost 1700kg kerb weight.
However, it’s what will end up under the glass-panelled engine bay sitting behind the driver’s shoulder that holds the most interest.
Despite strong suggestions that the R8 will continue to use a 300kW-plus mid-mounted twin-turbocharged V8 and Lamborghini-sourced atmo V10 spitting out more than 400kW, Audi will also need to hedge against the geekiest kid on the supercar block – BMW’s hybrid i8.
We’re also told to not rule out the possibility of Audi using a 300kW-plus twin-turbo V6 that, if it makes it to production, will be shared with the first V6-engined RS4 in more than a decade.
Speculation is rife that the new R8 will also spawn a plug-in hybrid similar to the 1.5-litre three-cylinder, electric-drive i8 that arrives in Australia in early 2015, and priced to go head-to-head with the Audi.
In terms of the interior, the R8 is expected to take cues from Audi’s recently revealed third-generation TT coupe.
That’s likely to mean a much cleaner look, with a slender instrument cluster and a much smaller hub on the now trademark square-bottomed steering wheel thanks to an advance in airbag packaging that reduces its size without reducing its effectiveness.
Audi’s current R8 was facelifted last year, suggesting the current version of the sports car still has a couple of years to run before its Australian run will end and the new model arrives.