June 18, 2000. Audi's R8 racecar crosses the finish line first at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, an accomplishment it will repeat four more times over the next five years. Unbeknownst to the motoring public at large, Audi Sport's success at the world's most famous race spawns the conceptualization and construction of a completely new kind of super sports car.
September 30, 2006. Production versions of the all-new road-going Audi R8 are unveiled to the world at the Mondial de l'Automobile in Paris. Images of the car and enthusiastic journalistic conjecture are instantaneously broadcast across the Internet and the known motoring world is turned on its ear.
October 1, 2006. Audi performance tuners the world over begin devising plans on how to improve on an already legendary vehicle. APR, LLC, stationed in Auburn, Alabama, spearheads the western front.
As a premium tuner of Audi machinery, it was inevitable that APR would develop upgrades for this highly anticipated platform. But the project really gathered steam when Michelin, a long-time collaborator with APR, approached the company about modifying an R8 for promotional purposes, beginning in the tire maker's booth at the 2007 Las Vegas SEMA show. APR has historically been involved with testing various forms of high-performance Michelin rubber, so the undertaking was a natural fit for both parties.
As these projects usually do, this one flew together as the early-November SEMA deadline loomed. APR received this car from an Atlanta dealership (the first R8 to be delivered to that area of the country) in mid-September, leaving around six weeks for the car to be examined, modified and finalized for the show. Back at the APR facilities, each of the company's various divisions had a turn.
Graphic designers took the first stab, poring over the car's existing design and envisioning the look they wanted to give it, from the paint scheme to a brace of subtly revised exterior cosmetics. In the process, they employed what's known as a Pharaoh Arm CMM to scan and recreate the car's body panels digitally, where they could be viewed and altered virtually by using a CAD program. The finished files were subsequently sent to a firm (still an APR secret) commissioned to turn out the cosmetic enhancements.
APR's electrical engineers also had a go, examining the code within the R8's dual ECUs and plotting out mapping points for ignition, fuel delivery and power curves. Concurrently, another team of techs set about partially disassembling the car's rear end to examine its high-performance innards and began mapping a set of tubes to replace the entire exhaust system.
Once the initial assessment was completed-within days-the patient was shipped to Race Technologies in Costa Mesa, California, where it received the first of its hardware upgrades: a set of high-performance Brembo binders. Brembo engineers deemed there was already more than enough caliper in the factory application, but settled on replacing all four discs with larger race-bred rotors for better heat absorption and dissipation. These items incorporate McLaren hardware-originally patented by Brembo on the McLaren F1, formerly the world's fastest street car-which connects the hat to the rotor ring for a true two-piece floating design without any sort of operating noise at low speed.
The new brakes are encased in a set of SDS LXR alloy wheels wrapped in Michelin Pilot Sport 2 rubber initially derived from a Porsche application. Final assembly occurred back in Auburn, where the exhaust was also fitted, the prototype aerodynamics were attached and the ECU reflashed with two of three planned performance programs. The stunning custom paint was applied up the road in Oxford, Alabama, by Hughes Paint and Body. Aero enhancements include a brushed aluminum front splitter attached to the front bumper and a rear spoiler which ever so slightly exaggerates the speed-actuated factory unit. There's also an intake upgrade applied to the car's signature 'sideblades' which serves to both enhance the R8's aggressive lines as well as allow more air into the engine bay. The intake inlet size and respective cross-sectional areas were increased while the induction points were flared and angled outward for increased air uptake at speed.
Exhaust development was a particular sticking point. While the 4.2-liter FSI V8 sounds inherently great (as heard initially on the V8 RS4), the R8's exhaust wail-even under spirited driving-is surprisingly muted. This refined aural delivery is typically Audi and completely satisfactory for the average owner, but perhaps a tad more reserved than some potential buyers would prefer. To make it more convincing and endow the car with a truly exotic exhaust note, nearly as much focus went into sound shaping as improving flow characteristics. The resulting product is aimed at producing a compelling combination of both: better breathing and a more aggressive note at higher engine speeds-with the APR exhaust's integrated flappers for variable volume control and a more insistent roar past 3500 rpm. The overall sound is only slightly louder in terms of measured decibels, but the soundtrack is delivered with a harder edge, reminiscent of a screaming high-compression V8 from F1 days past. The exhaust terminates in a pair of unique tips formed to fit through the factory openings.
Software development is about 80 percent finished, with 91- and 93-octane performance programs complete at the time of writing. As we might have predicted, the factory maps are well optimized and there isn't a whole lot of wiggle room when it comes to increasing power. APR programmers claim to have refined the power curves and improved fuel economy on the 91-octane program, while the 93-octane program offers claimed power gains of 10 to 15 hp. The final piece to the puzzle will be the high-performance 100-octane program, whose fruition is imminent. In addition to the revised power and economy curves, the software package includes optional security features like valet mode and anti-theft, plus security lockouts to keep an admiring public honest.
APR is optimistic about the overall improved output from the exhaust/software combination, speculating gains of 50 or more horsepower with all upgrades in place. Final numbers on the 100-octane program should be close to finalization by the time this story prints. Visit europeancarweb.com for updates as they occur.
2008 APR Audi R8
Longitudinal mid engine, all-wheel drive
4.2-liter V8, dohc, 32 valve.
APR complete exhaust system, APR software
*Wheels and Tires
SDS LXR alloys, xx20, xx20
Michelin Pilot Sport 2
APR front splitter, rear spoiler, sideblade inlets