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Car confidential: New supercar rivals on way

Their dealers must be salivating at the prospect. In two years or so, Audi and Nissan will join the supercar elite, with four-wheel drive flagships to cast a golden hue on showrooms’ more mundane models.

First out of the blocks is Audi’s R8, named after its all-conquering Le Mans 24-hour racer. The mid-engined supercar, a road-going version of the 2003 Le Mans concept, will begin production under the R8 name in late 2006.

CAR Confidential can add some flesh to those bones. A two engine line-up is planned: the 420bhp 4.2-litre V8 from the RS4 and a 5.2-litre V10. The V10 was recently upgraded to 513bhp for Lamborghini’s Gallardo, the R8’s sister car.

Audi’s supercar is a stretched version of the Gallardo’s aluminium spaceframe, which will be assembled in Audi’s Neckarsulm plant alongside Gallardo bodies.

The finished car is true to the Le Mans concept’s look. Audi wants to create an every day supercar, less hardcore and a wee bit more practical than the Lamborghini. So the windscreen is taller than a Gallardo’s to boost headroom, the show car’s wheelbase has stretched by up to 100mm, and the bonnet will sit higher to boost the luggage bay and meet pedestrian protection regulations.

Expect a price around £80,000 when the R8 coupé (a targa version is also due) goes on sale in spring 2007. That’s some seven months before Nissan’s flagship GT-R gets its world premiere at the Tokyo show.

The supercoupé will be badged GT-R, because this time the supercar gets a unique body and proportions, instead of being part of the Skyline saloon and coupé range.

What lurks beneath the skin of the wedgy, 2+2 coupé is a closely guarded secret. Prototypes, disguised as Infiniti G35 Coupés, have been searing around the Nürburgring in close to 8mins – the kind of demolition job done by a Porsche 911 Turbo.

That indicates a power output between 400-500bhp, likely from an enlarged, twin-turbo version of the 350Z’s V6 mounted in the nose.

The GT-R will have one of the most sophisticated all-wheel drive systems around, with infinite distribution of torque to each wheel depending on grip levels and cornering speeds.

Expect the new GT-R to land in UK showrooms in early 2008. And the price? Around £60,000, hint insiders, which looks an absolute steal for such a technological tour de force.

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