That’s the V6 in question hovering over the car there.
Photo: Audi

The original Audi R8 debuted with eight little diamonds arranged in a vee behind the driver. That singing 4.2-liter naturally-aspirated V8 begat a bigger V10, and now it seems pretty clear that a new twin-turbo 2.9-liter V6 will slot into its place. I’m not cautiously optimistic. I am extremely pumped for this.

The V8 and V10 R8s were lovely and wonderful (my heart lies with the eight more than the 10) but they sort of weren’t very... Audi? Do you know what I mean? They never quite matched the bruising, road-conquering, super torquey character of the rest of Audi’s cars. The whole formula didn’t fit in.

To me, at its heart, Audi should be like it was in its mid-90s renaissance. The B5 Audi S4 wagon, really, represents a platonic Audi ideal. Heavy? Sure. Difficult to own? Sure. Visually dignified, alluring, but still tunable to make enough boost to blow up a parking lot? Absolutely.

That B5 Audi S4 ran a 2.7-liter twin-turbo V6, an engine that’s not particularly hard to find tuned up to a thousand horsepower.

This is what, for better or for worse, the Audi R8 has been missing.

But now it looks like that it’s what the R8 is going to be getting, as Autocar reports, following up rumors we’ve been hearing in 2015 and reaffirmed in 2016. We already know that Audi is likely phasing out the R8 once the next baby Lamborghini comes around in 2020. In the meantime, though, we may get a kind of entry level R8 trim to complement the big V10, and it’d be another twin-turbo V6.

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Graphic: Audi

It’d make sense for this R8 to use the 2.9-liter twin-turbo V6 that Audi and Porsche are sticking in anything hybrid or high-performance, from the Audi RS5 to the Porsche Panamera and Bentley Bentayga hybrids. Yeah, I was also surprised to find out this was all the same EA839 engine, as Audi announced late last year:

The development of the new generation of spark ignition V engines is underway in the same project building. The basis was provided by the V8 4.0 TFSI, which was designed in Neckarsulm and launched in 2012 (EA 824). Audi is responsible for the development of the new V6 spark ignition engines (code EA 839), while Porsche is handling the new V8 engine with the internal code EA 825.

[...]

A new feature for the V6 TFSI engines, the 3.0 TFSI and its high performance variant, the 2.9 TFSI, whose development Audi headed and which Porsche also uses, is the central location of the injectors in the combustion chambers. This feature can also be found in the 4.0 TFSI. At Porsche the engines are already running in the Panamera. At Audi the 3.0 TFSI drives several models. The RS 5 Coupé [...] is the first to employ the new 2.9 TFSI.

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That engine has a closed deck and iron cylinder liners, as YouWheel points out, which sound like they would be more boost-friendly than not. Audi says in its above press release that the twin turbos each are capable of making 21 pounds of boost (1.5 bar), and German Wikipedia claims the same source puts maximum boost at about 36 PSI (2.5 bar).

Graphic: Audi

The Audi RS5 makes 444 horsepower with this engine, and the Porsche Panamera 4S makes 434 with a relatively low boost. What’s funny is that Porsche claims it did the 2.9-liter variant of that that V6, the high-output twin-turbo version, as is noted in this SAE paper on it:

The 2.9-L V6 makes the third Panamera power source and was designed in house by Porsche without VW involvement, engineers claim. It produces 324 kW (434 hp) at 5650 rpm and is rated at a claimed 550 N·m (406 lb·ft) from 1750 - 5500 rpm. Claimed performance figures include a best (with Sport Chrono package) 0-100-km/h time of 4.2s.

The new V6 also has its two turbochargers tucked between the cylinder banks. The engine weighs 14 kg (31 lb) less than the previous car’s V6. Although similar in design to the V8 gasoline unit, the V6 has variable valve timing in both part- and high-load operation.

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I don’t know why I enjoy trying to untangle the knot that is the Volkswagen Auto Group, but I do. I very much do.

Whatever! The new Audi R8 with a V6 would be a perfect Audi, and we’re supposed to see it at the end of the month at the New York Auto Show, as Australia’s Motoring reports. I suspect it will be about five minutes after that when some tuner cranks up the boost to a billion.

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UPDATE: An unnamed Audi spokesperson told Road & Track that “there is no V6 planned for the R8" but I am extremely skeptical of this claim. I assume that all future product decisions at Audi are devised in an underground bunker built outside of Neckarsulm during the Cold War, printed out onto documents kept in locked attaché cases. (The printers themselves being immediately destroyed after the documents are produced.) These cases are then kept within a secondary secret bunker-within-the-bunker until the very last moment before the plans are fully ready to be disseminated across internal channels only seconds before the official announcement is made to the press.