The four-ring brand doubles down on performance cars to fight Mercedes-AMG and BMW's M division.
With the rising momentum of autonomous car tech, you might expect automakers to begin shying away from performance cars, but that's not exactly what Audi has in mind. In fact, the German luxury brand has just doubled down on go-faster offerings by launching its Audi Sport sub-brand at Wednesday's New York auto show.
Audi Sport is effectively a replacement for the company's Quattro GMbH operations, and it will envelope the brand's existing RS and S model range. Audi dealers are being asked to qualify as Audi Sport showrooms, a certification process that will involve designated sales specialists with extra training, as well as committing to a larger-than-typical allotment of RS and S models for test drives. Roughly half of the company's network has expressed interest in becoming an Audi Sport dealer so far.
As part of its ramp-up efforts to take on BMW's M and Mercedes-AMG with a fuller range of products, the company has pledged to launch eight new Audi Sport models in the US over the next 24 months. Some of those vehicles we've already seen, including the 2018 TT RS, and the RS3 sedan that I drove last month. Others, like the Audi Sport Edition R8, are brand new.
In truth, the Sport Edition R8 seen here is more of a special-edition trim than a distinct model. Just 200 examples are to be made globally, and they're basically the same V10-powered wundercoupes under the skin as other R8s.
"Sport Edition" in this case works out to starkly contrasting side blades and mirror caps finished in Brilliant Red. Matte or gloss Floret Silver is available for the bodywork, along with Mythos Black, Ibis White (not coincidentally, these are Audi Sport colors). The special model also brings along 20-inch, 10-spoke wheels finished in black, along with matching a black single-frame grille and rear diffuser. There are some other small exterior differences, too, including trapezoidal tailpipe trims painted -- you guessed it -- black.
Cabin changes include Nappa leather seats and trim in a jarring red and black combination, as well as gloss-carbon finish inlays, illuminated kick plates and a flat-bottomed sport wheel featuring a flash of red leather at the dead-ahead 12 o'clock position. Even in photographs, this isn't a color combination for those who prize subtlety.
While the Audi Sport Edition will be available in both 540-horsepower V10 and 610-hp V10 Plus guise overseas, here in the US we will only get the lower-powered model, but it will come with the laser headlamps that are normally optional on base V10s.
US pricing has not yet been established, but a handful of Sport Edition R8 deliveries -- perhaps 20 or so -- are expected to start landing in showrooms this summer.