It's not uncommon to see automakers testing performance parts on production vehicles. For that matter, it's not exactly rare to see these test vehicles without any camouflage. Context matters, however, which is why we present these images of a new Audi R8 adorned with wings slicing through a snowbound winter landscape.
The obvious question is, why would Audi need to test some bolt-on wings in a winter environment? These parts look pretty much like the parts available for the previous R8, before the facelift. The front lip looks just a bit different, but that could be due to changes in design for the latest version of the supercar. We can also tell you there's not a shred of camouflage to be found anywhere on this vehicle. So whatever is happening, Audi isn't trying to conceal it.
Gallery: Audi R8 RWD Spy Photos
Here's where things get a bit more interesting. Look closely at the left side of the car and you'll see a wire taped to the door pillar. There's another wire visible on the right side, along with an antenna on the side glass. The wires run inside the car, but that's where our factual analysis ends. Presumably, some form of telemetry is being gathered. It could be as simple as temperature, or it could be something more.
While we're taking a close look, check out the rocker panels behind the front wheels. If this were an all-wheel-drive R8 we'd expect to see a little bit of snow built up there, as you see at the rear. Powered wheels will always fling a bit more snow, especially on something as powerful as a V10 R8, but those rockers are very clean. That leads us to believe this is a rear-wheel-drive R8. Wearing all kinds of aero upgrades. With wires and an antenna fastened to the car. In an extremely snowy environment.
Add it all up, and it suggests something more is happening here than just some simple cold-weather evaluation of performance parts. We know Audi has plans for at least one special edition R8 before the current generation retires. Audi's RS boss Sebastian Grams said as much in December, but details are a complete mystery. Rumours say there could be a track-focused last gasp – a final or ultimate edition – that would be a hardcore model with a RWD setup. And what do we have pictured here? A winged R8 looking more like a race car than a street car, likely turning just the rear wheels. So yeah, this is very interesting.
For now, we'll just have to keep our eyes peeled for other test vehicles like this one. It could simply be monitoring the effect of cold weather on these parts. But it could also be something considerably more exciting than that.