It is safe to say that the words performance and diesel are not often used together, diesel engines are renowned for their ability to produce more miles per gallon than their petrol counterparts, whilst also producing considerably more torque from much lower down the rev range. Unfortunately diesel does have its drawbacks, including leaving the driver with hands smelling of diesel after filling up at, and belching out huge clouds of black smoke when accelerating to any motorist that may be following behind.
However in 2006 Audi set out to change the public's perception of the diesel engine when it took its R10 diesel powered prototype to race in the famous Le Mans 24 hour race. The 24 hour Le Mans was a happy hunting ground for Audi who had already won the race five times previously with its petrol powered R8, and beat off stiff competition from Bentley and BMW in the process.
On its first race at Le Mans the diesel R10 was a winner, and so the belief of what a diesel engine was capable of began to shift. Audi has swiftly followed this up with further successes at Le Mans and in the American Le Mans series, and now it has launched its first diesel powered super car in the shape of the Audi R8 V12 Tdi.
The diesel Audi R8 looks almost identical to the petrol powered model especially with its LED car bulbs, however very eagle eyed spotters will notice that the carbon fibre side blades are slightly larger, which allows them to scoop larger volumes of air into the twin intercoolers. Being a diesel the R8 has an abundance of torque, over 700 lb ft, meaning you could leave this car in sixth gear all day and still be first away at the traffic light grand prix.
With all that torque available from right at the bottom of the rev range the Audi R8 diesel is no slouch hitting sixty in just over four seconds and accelerating up to 180 mph. Unfortunately like all diesels the R8's power band is very narrow and maximum revs occur at just 4500 rpm, however you can console yourself with the fact that the diesel powered R8 produces considerably less carbon dioxide than its petrol equivalent.
The making of the diesel powered Audi R8 has really pushed the performance boundaries of the diesel engine, however until Ferrari include a diesel powered car in their model range, I think its safe to say that the petrol engine still has plenty of time left.