The facelifted and significantly re-engineered Audi R8 that goes on sale this autumn has been scooped for the first time.
Spotted testing at night in non-reflective paintwork, this otherwise undisguised R8 Spyder gives away the visual changes of the facelifted supercar, due to be revealed at the Moscow show this August.
But the substantial changes are under the skin. There’s a new seven-speed, dual-clutch transmission on the options list — and this has required a completely new rear structure.
Originally, the R8 was engineered with a six-speed transmission in mind, operated either by a conventional clutch and shift mechanism or an optional R-tronic clutchless sequential-change system.
However, Audi’s product planners and marketeers significantly underestimated the global demand for a self-shifting gearbox. The lack of one in the R8 is understood to have put off significant numbers of buyers from all over the globe, depressing sales of the R8.
So Audi has taken the expensive step of redesigning the whole of the rear tub, engine carrier and suspension to accept the much wider and heavier dual-clutch transmission, even though the current R8 has only two years further on sale.
As yet it’s unclear whether the S-tronic dual-clutch gearbox will be offered with both V8 and V10 powerplants.
The V10 is expected to get a mild hike from 525bhp to about 540bhp, although the 424bhp 4.2-litre V8 is tipped to stay largely unchanged.
The high cost of re-engineering an existing model is expected to be largely recouped when Audi launches a new R8 in late 2014 or early 2015. Although that car, codenamed AU724, will pioneer a new styling direction for Audi and feature a predominantly aluminium body, the driveline architecture will be carried over from this autumn’s facelifted model.
As these scoops show, the facelift features subtle visual changes, such as new exhaust outlet shapes and revised light clusters front and rear.
The exhausts will change to a circular shape, replacing the current oval graphic, while the rear lights appear to have lost their distinctive quad, square-shaped outline. The same goes for the front headlamps, where the LED running lights appear to have been repositioned at the top of the reflector.