The bright stuff

Audi scores a first in Aus­tralia with laser high beams

The Courier-Mail - Motoring - - Prestige - PAUL GOVER CHIEF RE­PORTER

AUDI has won the race to put the first laser lights on Aus­tralian roads.

BMW is still bat­tling to get ap­proval for the sharp-shoot­ing high-beams on its com­ing i8 hy­brid sports car — but Audi is ready to go with a top-end up­date of its R8.

It in­tends to land a hand­ful of R8 LMX V10 su­per­cars be­fore the end of the year, each fit­ted with laser high beams as part of a per­for­mance pack­age that in­creases out­put to 419kW — and the price be­yond $400,000.

Audi says the LMX is the fastest pro­duc­tion Audi yet to 100km/h, cov­er­ing the bench­mark sprint in 3.4 sec­onds.

But laser lights could have the great­est im­pact in the longer term, as the land­mark setup will trickle down through the Audi range as prices fall. “The only ques­tion is when, and which mod­els,” Audi Aus­tralia man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Andrew Doyle tells Cars­guide at the Le Mans 24-hour race in France — Audi’s win­ning R18 e-tron quat­tro com­bined laser and LEDs to light the track at up to 300km/h through the night.

“Like a lot of tech­nol­ogy, the laser lights will trickle down. I don’t know if they will be in ev­ery­thing, but we have the S3 now with LED head­lamps, which were orig­i­nally only in the A8,” says Doyle. Audi Aus­tralia says it has not had any prob­lem in cer­ti­fy­ing the R8’s lights.

BMW has been blocked by reg­u­la­tions lim­it­ing the out­put of lights — mea­sured in lu­mens — de­spite the abil­ity to tai­lor the range and spread of the light pat­tern with smart op­tics and com­put­erised con­trols.

A sin­gle light source in each laser head­lamp is split and then fo­cused via a se­ries of mir­rors and lenses. It is very com­pact and, on high beam, can throw light more than twice as far as an LED unit.

On the LMX front, the car is a limited run of just 99 copies with a tweaked V10, 20-spoke al­loy wheels and ce­ramic brakes, and mi­nor body dif­fer­ences to give it a slightly sharper look and im­proved aero per­for­mance.

The LMX is likely to be the fi­nal ver­sion of the cur­rent R8, as Audi is work­ing on a sec­ond­gen­er­a­tion car that gets the ba­sic chas­sis now un­der­neath the Lam­borgh­ini Hu­ra­can. Doyle ex­pects only a hand­ful of ex­am­ples to land in Aus­tralia: “But I think the car tells a lot about the Audi brand (and) what the brand can do. It sets a halo ef­fect for the rest of the brand. Any­thing like this is a good op­por­tu­nity. And there is of­ten de­mand for these cars in Aus­tralia, even at a low vol­ume.”

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