Audi is synonymous with all-wheel drive. Its quattro AWD dates back to 1980, and the company has been perfecting the system ever since. It’s the reason Audi won two World Rally Championships.
Why then, did Audi throw out decades of all-wheel drive know-how for this limited edition R8 RWS?
The RWS — Rear Wheel Series — is an oddity: the first rear-wheel drive Audi of the modern era. Production is limited to just 999 units, and you’ll be lucky to get your hands on one.
If you’ve ever driven a go-kart, you’ll understand why rear-wheel drive is so intoxicating; karts love to drift and slide and skid around corners sideways. This is how you drove your Hot Wheels around the living room floor. This is how people drive in movies, from Bullitt to Ronin to Mad Max. Rear-wheel drive cars can be harder to control at the limit, but are far more rewarding for those drivers who can master them.
The RWS strips the R8 down to the essentials. Everything that gets between the driver and the machine is removed: no high-tech adaptive dampers, no electronically controlled differential.
You and your right foot do business with 532 horsepower from 10 cylinders of naturally aspirated V10. There are more powerful engines out there, but not many that can send shivers of adrenaline down your spine like this one.
Subtle suspension changes mean the car feels snappier — more eager and predictable. It’s like a fog has cleared over the car’s handling and suddenly you can see clearly now.
That said, there’s plenty of grip from the fat rear tires. It retains the everyday usability that made the R8 so popular. And be honest: unless you’re driving up to Mt. Tremblant in January, you really don’t need the all-wheel drive. And you can’t fit your skis in an R8 anyway.
The R8 RWS is a car for purists. The fact that it’s the most affordable R8 in the range, at $163,300 means it’s also our new favourite.