Not content with shaking up the automotive order among the likes of the Porsche 911 and Aston Martin V8 Vantage with its stunning R8, the company is now planning a new mid-engined model to take on the Porsche Boxster and Mercedes SLK.
The high-performance two-seater cabriolet is codenamed R2, and is being developed with VW. Audi’s sister firm is also believed to be putting the finishing touches to a production version of the BlueSport concept car revealed at the 2009 Detroit Motor Show.
The mid-engined R2 gets an all-new chassis and suspension derived from the MkV VW Golf. A four-wheel-drive variant is also a possibility, using a development of the Golf R32’s Haldex system. Plus, there are rumours that a hybrid – with electric power driving the front wheels – is planned, to help Audi reduce the CO2 emissions of its range.
The engine line-up is certain to include a mix of 2.0-litre four cylinder and 2.5-litre five-cylinder turbocharged petrol units. A diesel is under consideration, but it’s unlikely to be offered from launch. All models will offer a choice between six-speed manual and seven-ratio R tronic semi-automatic gearboxes.
Performance should be stunning, with power outputs ranging from 200bhp to a spectacular 380bhp. Top speed will be limited to 155mph, while the 0-60mph time is likely to drop below six seconds.
The R2 continues to develop Audi’s successful design theme as the tail-lamps of the new car will be sculpted to mimic the Q of its famous Quattro badge, just as they are on the R8.
A third rear brake light will sit above Audi’s badge, while the engine cover is to be kept free of aerodynamic extras. Instead, an underbody diffuser helps to improve the car’s stability at speed.
Inside, the high-quality cabin is likely to share much of its equipment with the BlueSport. That means an enormous touchscreen cabin control set-up, as well as lightweight sports seats.
In addition, a clever heating system inspired by the innovative ‘headscarf’ system offered in Mercedes’ SLK is integrated into the seatbacks.
The R2 also gets dramatic gaping side vents, designed to feed cold air to the powerplant, providing clues to the car’s mid-engine layout. Expect the baby R8 to be launched in 2012, with a starting price of around £30,000.