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The five times that Audi almost made the R8 supercar

This is how the Audi R8 ended up, but below are the various concepts that strongly hinted it was on the way.

Audi has some very exciting cars, but there can be little doubt that the coolest model it currently makes is the mighty R8.

When the R8 first appeared in 2006 some people expressed surprise that the company would make a mid-engined supercar, particularly as the VW/Audi Group already owned Lamborghini. But they really shouldn't have, as Audi had telegraphed the R8 from quite a distance before it finally arrived.

Here are five Audi concepts that could all have become the R8.

Quattro Spyder was low-key and actually almost made production. But more sports car than supercar.

Quattro Spyder (1991)

As far back as 1991 Audi was toying with the idea of a mid-engined car. In fact the quattro Spyder was intended for production (orders were actually taken) until boring business reasons got in the way and the project was quietly dropped.

The quattro Spyder was (as the name suggests) AWD and packed a 128kW 2.8-litre V6, making it more of a sports car than the R8 is now. Contrary to popular belief, Audi only ever made one prototype example of the quattro Spyder, and that currently resides in the company's museum in Ingolstadt.

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Avus concept had a W12 engine that didn't exist in 1991. Which is why it was a concept.

Avus quattro (1991)

The quattro Spyder was one of two mid-engined concepts Audi dropped in 1991; the Avus quattro was far closer to the R8's eventual realisation. Tucked inside its sleek, futuristic chromed body was a massive 374kW 6.0-litre W12 driving all four wheels.Well, theoretically that's what the engine was.

The Avus only had a dummy engine as the W12 didn't actually exist at the time, and was still in the early stages of its development. The W12 would appear in 2001 and wouldn't go on to power the R8, instead being the star powertrain for Bentley.

Audi was never really serious about retro Rosemeyer concept. So they gave its W16 engine to Bugatti.

Rosemeyer (2000)

Audi came over all retro with its 2000 incarnation of a mid-engined supercar, named in tribute to German racing legend Bernd Rosemeyer

The Rosemeyer featured styling cues inspired by the Auto Union "Silver Arrows" Grand Prix cars Rosemeyer raced in the 1930s, but was also said to be inspired by a Ferdinand Porsche-penned design for a roadgoing version of the Grand Prix cars that never saw production. The Rosemeyer was rather serious in the engine department, with a 520kW 8.0-litre W16 driving all four wheels. That, of course, is the engine that would eventually end up in the Bugatti Veyron.

Le Mans quattro was pretty close to the production R8. Like, if you removed the "Le Mans" number plate.

Le Mans quattro (2003)

Now we are getting recognisably closer to the production R8, as the Le Mans quattro (built to celebrate Audi's domination of Le Mans in 2000, 2001 and 2002) was the concept that would finally get the green light for production.

The Le Mans quattro packed a mighty 449kW 5.0-litre twin-turbo V10, again driving all four wheels and a six-speed sequential manual transmission, neither of which would make it into the production R8 (although a V10 would eventually get squeezed into it in 2009). The Le Mans quattro was also one of the first cars to feature LED headlights.

RSQ was just one of a multitude of carefully featured Audis in the Will Smith movie I, Robot.

RSQ (2004)

Following on from the Le Mans quattro but still a few years before the R8 would hit production, Audi did a deal with the makers of the Will Smith sci-fi film I, Robot for a bit of gratuitous product placement in the form of the highly futuristic, but still recognisably R8-ish RSQ.

This time it packed a 5.4-litre V10, suggesting that the future wasn't quite so futuristic as we may have believed. Although it did feature one major innovation we are yet to see: instead of conventional wheels, the RSQ rode on spheres. No, we are not entirely sure how a V10 internal combustion engine was supposed to drive spheres.

Stuff

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