For a car that debuted just three years ago and still isn’t available for public consumption, Audi’s R8 e-tron has a bit of history.
Launched as the e-tron concept at the 2009 Frankfurt auto show, we managed to climb behind the wheel of a prototype in December of that year. In 2010, a prototype R8 e-tron barely completed a third parade lap in Le Mans before running out of juice. But development work continued; last year, Audi confirmed yet again that the electric R8 would be offered to customers. This June, Audi racing driver Markus Winkelhock took the super e-tron out for a hot lap at the Nürburgring in order to highlight its dynamic capabilities. The project was on track for a launch in early 2013—seemingly destined for a shootout with the soon-to-be-available Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Electric Drive. That was yesterday. Today, however, Car and Driver has learned that all work on the R8 e-tron has been halted.
The stoppage and subsequent review being conducted is at the behest of Audi’s new R&D chief Wolfgang Dürheimer. This means that a launch in early 2013 is not going to happen; it also means—and we are told this explicitly—that the entire project could be killed..
..It seems that Dürheimer is leaving no stone unturned in Ingolstadt and Neckarsulm, and we applaud his no-nonsense approach. Yes, we enjoyed our time behind the wheel of the e-tron concept, but we struggle to see a world in which a fully electric vehicle—with its heft, its driving characteristics, and its range limitations—can satisfy true car enthusiasts. The R8 e-tron was conspicuously absent from the press launch of the upgraded R8 at the Misano racetrack near Rimini, Italy, but it wasn’t missed.