Car reviews - Audi - R8 - RWS
Tail-happy dynamics, million-dollar looks, everyday usability, smooth-shifting automatic, Virtual Cockpit functionality
Room for improvement
Tail-happy dynamics, limited availability, lack of storage space, no user-friendly active safety gear
No all-wheel drive is no problem for Audi’s rear-drive R8 RWS superstar supercar
28 Sep 2018
By TUNG NGUYEN
AUDI’S R8 supercar was a revelation when it launched in 2006, proving that the Ingolstadt brand could build a mid-engined, two-seater sportscar to take on the best from Porsche and Ferrari.
In second-generation form, Audi ditched the entry-level 4.2-litre V8 for a Lamborghini-sourced 5.2-litre V10 powering the coupe and convertible supercar range in two different tunes.
Audi has added a new entry-grade R8 – one that retains the free-breathing V10 engine, but ditches some equipment and the brand’s signature quattro all-wheel-drive system.
With a risk of throwing the baby out with the bathwater, can Audi’s R8 RWS (Rear Wheel Series) actually hold its own against some of the finest automotive metal available on the market with power sent to just a single axle?
Price and equipment
As the new entry point to Audi’s flagship R8 range, the RWS costs $299,129 before on-road costs – some $67,211 cheaper than the $366,340 V10 Coupe.
While a near-$300,000 supercar might not seem like a bargain, stacked up against some of its competitors such as the Mercedes-AMG GT, BMW i8 and McLaren 540C, the R8 RWS could actually come across a bit cheap.
After all, Audi’s latest R8 variant is the cheapest way to access a V10 engine, while its mid-mounted powerplant, million-dollar looks and exclusivity are also major points of difference in the entry-level supercar sphere.
In fact, look across Australia’s new car-market and only two models are currently offered with a V10 – the Audi R8 and Lamborghini Huracan, both mechanically related and sharing the same powertrain.
Only 999 R8 RWS vehicles will be made in the world this year, with just 40 units available to Australian buyers, likely making the latest Audi supercar a rare sight in the wild – those that value a bit of individuality better get their orders in quick.
As standard, the R8 RWS is fitted with LED headlights with sequential rear indicators, heated sports seats, climate control, cruise control, front and rear parking sensors, reversing camera and 12.3-inch Virtual Cockpit display with satellite navigation, digital radio, Bluetooth and smartphone mirroring capabilities.
Our test car also came with metallic paint ($2550), red brake callipers ($1150), gloss-carbon exterior package ($3200) and inlays ($1500), carbon exterior mirrors ($3200) and sideblades ($5000), Bang & Olusfen 13-speaker sound system ($4500) and phone box light ($500), bringing the total up to $321,100 as tested.
In our opinion though, the R8 RWS looks cool enough that it doesn’t need to pricey carbon bits, and the sound system, while great, just gets turned off in favour of the V10 soundtrack.
Measuring 4426mm long, 1940mm wide, 1240mm high with a 2650mm wheelbase, the R8 RWS is able to offer ample space in the interior for its two occupants.
With the engine positioned just aft of the passengers, there is heaps of head-, leg- and shoulder-room for the lucky pair, however storage is severely compromised by its mid-ship layout.
The rear of the R8 RWS offers no storage whatsoever as the back half of the bodywork is exclusively relegated to housing the 5.2-litre V10 powerplant, sports exhaust and all the plumbing needed.
Pop the clamshell bonnet up front however, and you will be greeted by a paltry 112-litre compartment – enough for maybe a medium-sized bag or about two full grocery bags.
If you want to house anything of notable size then, it’s going to have to come into the cabin with the passengers.
Behind the two seats sits a generous parcel shelf, complete with a small storage net, that will accommodate up to 226L of volume, so at least your weekend bags have somewhere to go.
Door pockets are slim and the centre console pops open to reveal two small cupholders, but luckily there is also a small storage cubby positioned above the shifter with wireless phone charging capabilities, as well as two USB ports, a 12V socket and an auxiliary audio input.
Losing the Nappa leather-trimmed seats of its R8 siblings is no bad thing either, as the RWS’ sports pews are swathed in soft Alcantara with heating functionality.
With your derriere practically kissing the ground, the R8 RWS offers the perfect driving position for an engaging and rewarding experience.
While the seat-slide adjustment is manually operated (and the handle is the same as the one found in a Volkswagen Golf, no less), lumbar and tilt functions are electronically controlled.
The R8 RWS’ flat-bottomed, leather-trimmed multifunction steering wheel is also telescoping, so you can get as low and far back as your legs will let you.
No central infotainment screen is fitted, with all functions such as digital radio, satellite navigation and driving data buried in Audi’s fantastic 12.3-inch all-digital Virtual Cockpit instrumentation.
Intuitive, easy-to-use, functional and gorgeous to look at are just some of the characteristics of Virtual Cockpit, and so good is the technology that the lack of a head-up display did not bother us in the slightest.
We’ve been big fans of the system since it launched in the TT sportscar, and it’s no different in the R8 RWS.
Engine and transmission
With the same 5.2-litre V10 powerplant as its siblings, drivers of the RWS have 397kW of power and 540Nm of torque at the disposal of their right foot.
With the former available at 7800rpm and the later from 6500rpm, the RWS powerplant practical begs to be wrung out all the way to its 8500rpm cut off.
We love that the cheaper RWS doesn’t cop a detuned motor, as the V10 quattro sports the same outputs, however, the V10 Plus dials up the motor to 449kW/560Nm, and Lamborghini’s Huracan sports 426kW/540Nm in rear-drive LP580-2 form, 449kW/560 in the LP 610-4 and 470kW/600 with the Performante.
Drive is sent exclusively to the rear axle via a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission for a claimed zero to 100km/h sprint of 3.7 seconds, and while we did not have the proper equipment to test these claims, our patented butt dyno registered the R8 RWS as frighteningly quick.
Just two tenths slower than the all-paw R8, the RWS certainly doesn’t lack in any straight-line performance, no matter what speed or where the revs are.
The dual-clutch transmission delivers lightning quick shifts at speed, but like other units, struggles at crawling speeds around town.
Creeping away from the traffic lights or a stop sign results in noticeable hesitation and jerkiness, which we found was only remedied with a stronger application of the throttle.
Being a supercar though, speed quickly builds, so watch that speedo.
Official fuel economy figures peg the R8 RWS at 12.7-litres per 100km, but we recorded 15.1L/100km from just three days of mixed highway, city and spirited driving.
Ride and handling
Ditching the trademark quattro all-wheel-drive system means the R8 RWS is the only current Audi Sport model to not feature all-paw traction.
However, the removal of the multi-plate centre clutch and front differential means the RWS is also about 50kgs lighter than its V10 coupe sibling.
Clocking the scales at 1590kg (about the same as an all-paw Ford Focus RS) means the rear-drive R8 feels lithe, agile and quick on its feet.
But, like Miley Cyrus on awards night, Audi’s R8 RWS just wants to twerk its rear end every chance it gets – especially in the wet.
Driver’s will have to be on their toes to make sure things don’t get out of hand, but luckily, induced bouts of oversteer are easily controlled thanks to a communicative chassis.
Steering however, feels a little too numb for our tastes, but it can be made (artificially) heavier through the drive select menu.
Fitted with 19-inch wheels wrapped in 245/35 front and 295/35 rear Continental ContiSportContact 6 tyres, the R8 RWS certainly offers plenty of grip in a straight line, able to put power down to the rear axle with relative ease.
Keep the nose pointed straight, and levels of grip are fantastic, while the mechanical limited-slip differential also aids in providing road-holding when hunting for the apex.
When speed climbs a little too high though, the colossally good eight-piston front callipers are on hand to grab massive 365mm discs, while four-pot callipers and 356mm rotors feature in the rear.
The stop pedal has a progressive feel with minimal effort required for the brakes to bite.
The R8 RWS features a multi-link front and rear suspension set-up, but the adaptive dampers of all-wheel-drive models are ditched in favour of fixed sports suspension that offers a smooth (for its class) ride and comfort.
It was never too jarring or unsettled on uneven surfaces but we appreciate that Audi didn’t build the R8 RWS low enough to scrape on a leaf.
In fact, Melbourne’s roads are littered with speed bumps, pot holes and uneven surfaces that didn’t scrape on the R8 RWS’ front bumper even once in our time with the car.
Safety and servicing
Audi’s R8 has not been crash tested by either the Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) or Euro NCAP.
However, standard safety equipment includes six airbags, tyre pressure monitoring system, reversing camera and parking sensors.
Noticeably absent, especially for a pricetag that will get you 10 Toyota Corollas, is active safety equipment such as autonomous emergency braking, adaptive cruise control and blind-spot monitoring.
Supercars are never meant to be the practical choice, but high performance and hot-as-hell looks should not come at the expense of safety.
Other cars in the same bracket, such as BMW’s i8 or front-engined Mercedes-AMG GT, may offer electrification or more engine outputs as a party piece, but the Audi R8 RWS certainly has its own tricks to stand out from the supercar crowd.
The R8 RWS arguably serves up more of a thrill than its all-paw sibling due to its rear-drive format, and doesn’t skimp on performance or supermodel-good looks.
If you can’t tell already, we are a fan of the R8, so if you are worried the cut-price version may also diminish its athletic ability or polished refinement, don’t, put your money down and thank us later.
BMW i8 from $303,300 before on-road costs
Mid-mounted turbocharged 1.5-litre three-cylinder petrol engine paired to an electric motor, the BMW i8 ouputs 266kW/570Nm. More of an eco hero than supercar, the i8 nonetheless sports head-turning looks and an undeniably fun, but slower, driving experience.
Mercedes-AMG GT S from $298,711 before on-road costs
AMG’s signature bi-turbo V8 tuned to 384kW/670Nm translates to a 3.8 second 0-100km/h time, but front-mounted engine means a heavy front axle. While the AMG GT is definitely a looker, the Merc can’t match the Audi R8 RWS for sheer theatre and spectacle.
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