There was a time when big power meant having a big engine, but that just isn’t the case anymore thanks to various technological advances. Over the years we’ve developed things like direct injection, high-pressure injection, cylinder deactivation, variable valve timing, and let’s not forget advancements made in the turbocharging department. As such, naturally aspirated, large engines are starting to die off as manufacturers transition to developing smaller, but equally powerful engines. One of the more recent cases of this comes in the form of the Audi R8. When the 2017 R8 model made its debut, the naturally aspirated 4.2-liter V-8 found in the entry-level model made its official exit, leaving the 5.2-liter V-10 as the only available engine option. Now, it looks like a new entry-level R8 is on the way, this time powered by a 2.9-liter V-6.
The 2.9-liter in question made its debut in the new Porsche Panamera earlier this year with a power output of 434 horsepower and 405 pound-feet of torque. It was designed through a joint venture between Audi and Porsche and is said to be scalable to offer more than 500 horsepower and 500 pound-feet. This type of scalable power is made possible via computer tuning and control of turbocharger boost pressure. In the Panamera 4S, boost pressure is kept at a rather low 5.8 psi. Since the engine is part of a modular engine family known as KoVoMo, it will also be found in other models in the future. Outside of the Panamera and R8, it will eventually find a home in the RSR, RS5, and potentially the RSQ5, should it ever be confirmed.
So far, Audi has yet to confirm what kind of output we’ll actually see out of the 2.9 in any of its performance models, but in the RS4 and RS5, the 4.2-liter kicked out 444 horsepower and 314 pound-feet while the 2015 R8 benefitted from 430 horsepower and 317 pound-feet. With that said, you can expect similar outputs for the RS models, possibly even increasing to as much as 460 for good measure, while the R8 will likely get something closer to 490 horsepower, leaving it some 50 horsepower shy of the R8 V-10 and around 120 horsepower shy of the wild R8 V-10 plus at 610 horsepower.
Big Things Come in Little Packages
I was kind of wondering when we would hear about a new entry-level R8 as the loss of the V-8 powered model for 2017 was kind of a blow to those who don’t want to kick out more than $160,000 for a high-end sports car. For 2015, the R8 V-8 started out at just $115,900 which made it much more affordable than its big-engined brother. Now that Audi and Porsche have this modular 2.9-liter engine to work with, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see it pop up in more vehicles (other than the aforementioned RS models) in the near future. I am curious to see just how much this 2.9-liter can really put out when tuned to the max. On that thought, this new engine opens up a lot of potential for aftermarket tuners. Aftermarket companies like ECS, MTM, and ABT Sportsline have been known to meddle around with tuning to create large power increases. There’s no doubt in my mind that these companies will capitalize on the scalable nature of this very-tunable 2.9-liter V-6.