When you think of major selling points of various performance brands, each has their own that they’re known for – correctly or not. Think Audi Sport, and you’ll likely think understeer, or at the very least all-wheel drive. The former would be a false assumption for the most part – but the latter is a given. After all, quattro has been in the company’s branding since it dominated rallying with the aptly titled Quattro throughout the 1980s. For Audi to release a rear-wheel drive sports car would be somewhat out of character, and yet here we are staring at the Audi R8 RWS – that’s ‘Rear Wheel Series’.
That’s right, the Audi R8 RWS is Audi going off the reservation to create a rear-wheel driven driver’s car – words I never thought I’d be typing. In reality though, it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise since the R8 shares platforms with the Lamborghini Huracan, which itself has a rear drive version in the LP580-2. It should also come as little surprise since the man in charge of Audi Sport during the R8 RWS’s development was none other than former head of Lamborghini, Stephan Winkelmann. He’s gone now – off to head up Bugatti, but the Audi R8 RWS remains.
Limited to a production run of 999 units, in Coupe and Spyder variants, the Audi R8 RWS is identifiable by matte black elements like the grille and air apertures of the R8. Where a standard Audi R8 features a blacked out side-blade however, the rear wheel drive Audi R8 RWS features the main lower half of the blade in body-colour, with only the top half in gloss black. Additionally, the Audi R8 RWS can be opted with red vinyl detailing running over the bonnet, roof, and rear end.
Beneath the skin though, there are other differences between the Audi R8 RWS and its all-wheel drive counterparts besides the loss of the front driveshafts. The mid-mounted naturally aspirated 5.2-litre V10 engine usually boasts 449kW in V10 Plus trim, but for the Audi R8 RWS, it can only be had with outputs of 397kW @ 8250rpm and 540Nm @ 6500rpm. The standard model’s 7-speed S tronic dual-clutch gearbox remains the only option. But the loss of drive to the front wheels results in a weight saving of 50kg less than the all-wheel driven version (40kg for the Spyder). As such, performance is still impressive, with 0-100km/h taking just 3.7 seconds for the coupe and 3.8 second for the Spyder, and the R8 RWS reaching a top speed of 320km/h.
The chassis and control systems of the Audi R8 RWS have been specifically tuned for its rear-driven layout. If the driver selects Dynamic mode in the standard Audi Drive Select system, with the ESC set to Sport, the Audi R8 RWS will be able to perform many smoky slides, with the ESC system intervening “reliably at the limit” according to Audi.
Christmas has come early at Audi Sport, but it’s the fans that stand to benefit. All we can hope is that this will be the first rear-driven Audi of many in the future – cars built for the purists, or the hoons.