Audi’s diesel heresy, the car that almost blew up the world of supercars

It was 2008 when Audi, not content with inventing the supercar for daily use, sought to go further by presenting the controversial and groundbreaking Audi R8 V12 TDI Concept. Audi seemed to have no limits in its ambitious idea of ​​changing the rules of the game in a segment dominated with an iron fist by brands such as Ferrari, Lamborghini or Porsche. The Audi R8 had assumed the role of rookie, but since it was the rare concept of the category, in Audi decided to breastfeed their supremacy at Le Mans by creating the first diesel supercaran Audi R8 V12 TDI that still stars in the nightmares of more than one petolhead.

Only Audi could dream of a diesel supercar and that’s how the Audi R8 V12 TDI was born.

The Audi R8 has always defended the idea of ​​reinventing the concept of a traditional supercar, that idea of ​​high performance that is impossible to marry with comfort, technology and even day-to-day use. The first generation of the Audi R8 searched for that market niche, fighting with not a few critics for it, but becoming strong in an approach that only they had managed to bring to reality. Available with V8 and V10 engines that managed to convince even the most suspicious, it was a diesel powered V12 that really could have changed things forever.

Audi walked year after year through the 24 Hours of Le Mans accumulating victories, adding at that time two of them using TDI engines that later would be many more. Thus Audi had managed to make diesel a symbol of sportiness and competition, serving as a technological showcase for its street cars. With the Audi R8 on the market, rumors resounded about a possible transmission of this technology, but no one thought that Audi was capable of considering such a thing. They were wrong.

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The Audi R8 Le Mans Concept made its official debut at the 2008 Detroit Auto Show., based on the same production R8 presented in 2005, but housing a huge 6.0 V12 TDI engine that paid homage to the prototypes that ran in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Audi’s objective with this concept was twofold: on the one hand show the possibilities of diesel in a market as reluctant as the US. and on the other throw a trial balloon on what could be a production car using the new and advanced V12 TDI, an engine that also became by right the largest diesel engine ever installed in a series production car. Months later, a more “rational” evolution of this prototype would arrive, called the Audi R8 V12 TDI Concept, an iteration that seemed to be the penultimate step before its serial production. Numerous voices in the motor industry branded this bet as little less than heresy, but if anyone could do it, it was Audi.

The Audi R8 V12 TDI installed a 6.0 V12 TDI engine capable of reaching the 500 hp maximum power and the 1,000 Nm of torque, doing 0-100 km/h in 4.2 seconds and exceeding 300 km/h at the top, not bad for a “tractor” burning diesel, right? We are talking about the first twelve-cylinder developed by Volkswagen-Audi, nothing to do with the W-engines that have become the indisputable hallmark of the Volkswagen group. The new block 6.0 V12 TDI really shared little with the Le Mans prototypeAlthough the inspiration was the Audi R10 TDI with a 650 hp 5.5 V12 TDI engine. THE German manufacturer shot marketing and track experience, but the reality is that the 6.0 V12 TDI was a completely new powertrainsharing numerous elements and solutions with the V6 and V8 TDI of the time, although with certain important changes such as the angle between banks that was now 60º (Audi always uses 90º in its V), the use of a turbocharger for every 6 cylinders and the use of Bosch Common Rail injection at 2,000 bars instead of the usual popular injector-pump of the 1.9 and 2.0 TDI.

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This experiment reached the Audi R8 with not a few technical challenges since the central location of the engine and the torque tolerance of the gearbox were a serious problem, because it must be remembered that the original prototype made use of a 6-speed manual transmission. The 5.2 V10 engine was already squeezing every last millimeter out of the R8’s engine compartment, while the available gearboxes (manual, R-Tronic and S-Tronic) were unable to tame the massive 1,000Nm of torque from the TDI. To take the car to the street, a specific transmission was needed, something unthinkable for the viability of this R8, since it forced to develop a gearbox expressly for the V12 TDI or to borrow the DSG designed by Rircardo for the Bugatti Veyron. The accounts did not come out.

The V12 TDI did hit the market, although not in an Audi R8

The idea of ​​seeing an Audi R8 V12 TDI was losing strength, as much as for the project that ended up being shelved forever. Nevertheless, In parallel, another experiment was developed using the same V12 TDI engine, but now under the hood of an Audi Q7.a move that once again put the North American market in the spotlight to convince its inhabitants of the possibilities of diesel.

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The Audi Q7 V12 TDI was indeed a reality, but in the end it was only marketed in Europe and was on sale for a very short time. Audi’s ambitious bet with its largest TDI ever manufactured did not come to fruition, the costs and needs of this mechanic were totally disproportionatesomething that Volkswagen already suffered in its own flesh with the 313 hp 5.0 V10 engine installed in Volkswagen Phaeton and Volkswagen Touareg.

The delusions of grandeur with the TDI had just known their limits, and it is that despite the fact that the 6.0 V12 TDI was a technological marvel demonstrating the possibilities of diesel engines, it did not convince the revolution of supercars that the Audi R8 V12 TDI sought. , nor did the huge Audi Q7 V12 TDI convince. And even despite the limited commercial history of the V12 TDI, Audi achieved a large part of its objective, as the marketing tool worked by turning the supercar market upside down and seeing how one way or another, the TDI technology “inherited” from Le Mans ended up powering a road car.

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