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Driven: Audi R8 RWS to be top-selling model grade

R-rated: Audi’s new R8 RWS loses the brand’s signature quattro all-wheel-drive system, but also drops $55,000 in costs to $299,500 before on-roads.

Rear-drive move also intended to drive Audi R8 volume locally

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Audi logo29 Mar 2018

AUDI Australia has rectified the four-year absence of a sub-$300,000 version of its R8 supercar, with 40 units of the limited edition Rear Wheel Series (RWD) now expected to sell out quickly and lead to a bid for a higher local allocation.

Asking $299,500 plus on-road costs, the R8 RWS wipes $55,000 from the entry to the range, and it now rewinds the second-gen V10 supercar back to a price it last offered in 2015 with the last-of-the-line V8-powered model.

Speaking with GoAuto at the national media launch of the R8 RWS at Phillip Island, Audi Australia product senior executive Matthew Dale confessed the circa-$300,000 price point was a sweet spot for many buyers.

“For us, in the product department, it ($300K price point) definitely was key to positioning the R8 V10 Rear Wheel Series, because we (previously) had a V8,” Mr Dale explained.

“Obviously, the percentage of customers that we had within the V8 model was quite high. When launching the new model, the V10 was right for the car at the time, for where we were positioning the car.

“However, the customers that had purchased were looking for a car that was also unique at that price point, and that was definitely fuel for us to say, ‘okay, that’s a switch within the market’.

“That shows that there is a marketplace there, and that there is a customer for that specific price point and product. So, it’s great that we've managed to get to that price point with V10. It’s exciting.”

The R8 launched in 2007 as a 4.2-litre V8-powered all-wheel-drive model grade only, and its sales peaked the following year with 103 units sold.

Despite the addition of a 5.2-litre V10 quattro in 2009, volume wavered between 29 and 54 over the following five years. The debut of the second-generation, V10-only and, for the first time, auto-only R8 in 2015 saw sales lift from 42 that year to 94 in 2016, however in 2017 it fell 34 per cent to 62 units.

However, Mr Dale said it would likely be easy to sell this year’s 40-unit allocation of 999 global units of the R8 RWS, and was also confident Ingolstadt headquarters would strongly consider raising the local allotment.

“The reason why we’ve got a large percentage as such, of the 999, is because of our success with the Audi product, and essentially the R8 as well,” he said.

“We’re in the top five (countries) year-to-date for Audi Sport product (and) at the moment, we would have approximately 40 per cent of those allocated, whether it be dealer cars or customer vehicles.

“Given the current uptake of the car, I believe 40 units will be quite easy to achieve. If we can show headquarters over in Germany that the car is doing well, hopefully that will give us some grounds to ask us for more. We’ll certainly put our hand up for more if we can get them.”

Asked whether the R8 RWS could outsell the $354,325 R8 V10 quattro, $389,325 R8 V10 plus and $388,500 R8 Spyder V10 quattro, Mr Dale replied: “We’re tracking at the moment around about that figure (40 annual units) on a V10 Plus, the highest percentage of the V10 quattro, (but) it would certainly be up there.”

Mr Dale further concluded that $300K was a highly competitive price point in the sportscar market in Australia, and that was also relayed to Audi in Germany in the hope that a future sub-$300K R8 model would complement the existing V10 in more than a limited-edition capacity.

“This being a global limited edition, we foresee that’s definitely a price point that works in the market,” he added.

“That $300K, there’s a lot more competitors at that level. We’ve got competitors from Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, BMW, so it’s a great price point to be in, and if we can get a product in the future at around that figure as well, we think we’ll be successful.

“Certainly there is potential growth there. It could stand some more interest, given the model life cycle of that car.”

Rumours abound that Audi Sport will this year launch a more affordable version of the R8, using a derivation of the 2.9-litre twin-turbocharged V6 petrol engine currently installed in the RS4 Avant, RS5 and Porsche Panamera and Cayenne.

Until such a model eventuates, however, the R8 RWS – as the name suggests – does the most un-Audi of engineering, dropping the multi-plate centre clutch and front differential for the first time.

The R8 RWS weighs 50kg less than the pricier R8 V10 quattro, at 1590kg, while the R8 RWS Spyder drops 40kg to 1680kg. It also shifts the front-rear weight distribution to 40.6:59.4 – down from 42:58.

It shares a 5.2-litre naturally aspirated V10 petrol engine, with 397kW of power at 7800rpm and 540Nm of torque at 6500rpm, sent via a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission to deliver a 3.7-second 0-100km/h claim – two tenths slower – and combined-cycle fuel consumption of 12.7 litres per 100 kilometres.

The R8 RWS also continues to use 19-inch forged alloy wheels, but in a five-V spoke gloss-black design in lieu of the five-twin spoke used on the R8 V10 quattro.

It can be further distinguished by a matte-black single-frame grille and foglight recesses, and a gloss-black upper-side blade and body-coloured lower-side blade.

The front quattro badge is replaced by Audi Sport, while the interior quattro badge is flicked for a numbered plaque denoting which the build number.

As per higher models, a switchable sports exhaust comes standard for our market, but the rear-drive model loses the multi-mode Audi magnetic ride of the all-wheel drive, instead gaining a fixed sports suspension with 10 per cent firmer damping and anti-roll bars from the track-focused R8 V10 Plus quattro flagship.

That model’s mechanical rear limited-slip differential has also been used in lieu of the electronic management of back-end slip found in the R8 V10 quattro, although as with all models a multi-link front and rear suspension set-up continues.

In the Sport mode of the electronic stability control (ESC), Audi has said the R8 RWS can perform controlled drifts.

The brakes, meanwhile, are eight-piston, 365mm front, and four-piston, 356mm rear units.

Inside, it loses the Nappa leather trim – replaced by leather/Alcantara – as well as the Bang and Olufsen audio, automatic-adaptive high-beam, ambient lighting and more compared with higher-grade models.

Standard equipment includes LED headlights with sequential rear indicators, sports-style heated front seats, cruise control, front and rear parking sensors, rearview camera, single-zone climate control air-conditioning, 12.3-inch colour driver display with satellite navigation and a digital radio.

As with all Audi R8 models, the RWS gets a 226-litre storage space behind the front seats in addition to a 112L front compartment.

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