Audi R8 RWS (2017-2018) review
The alarmingly fast Audi R8 V10 Rear Wheel Series is the supercar you’ll want if you find the standard model’s grippy four-wheel-drive system dampens your fun
What's not so good
Find out more about the Audi R8 RWS (2017-2018)
The rear-wheel-drive Audi R8 V10 RWS is lighter and more challenging to drive than the four-wheel-drive model it is based upon, but on slippery roads it has the potential to catch out the unwary.
If you’re used to driving the regular Audi R8, sitting in the RWS model’s driver’s seat will be like settling down in your favourite ergonomic office chair – assuming your office chair has a huge engine strapped to the back of it.
The only distinguishing feature from the standard model is the 1-999 plaque on the dashboard – designating which particular car you own of the 999 R8 RWS models that will be built. Not all supercars are known for their beautifully built cabins, but the R8 certainly is – and everything is simply laid out, with Audi’s intuitive MMI infotainment system used to control all the car’s main functions bar the ventilation.
There’s no need for the central infotainment screen you get in other Audis, because the firm’s excellent 12.3-inch virtual cockpit display comes as standard. It’s in the instrument binnacle where you’d expect to find a conventional bank of analogue dials. It’s an ideal solution allowing you to fill the screen with a huge central rev counter when you’re on a challenging road before switching back to a full-sized, easy-to-follow sat-nav map when the time comes to head home.
Driving the Audi R8 RWS with stability control turned off is a bit like an expert climber tackling a cliff face without ropes – it’ll probably be okay, but if things go wrong they’ll go wrong big
This usability is one of the R8’s strengths – in coupe form, it’s as easy to get comfortable in as any other Audi. There’s a wide range of steering wheel and seat adjustment so all sizes can fit and you get a surprisingly good view out to all four corners. The only fly in the ointment is the restricted room in the Spyder convertible version that’ll leave six-footers wishing for more legroom.
Unfortunately, Spyder models also make do with a tiny 112-litre boot, while the coupe – which doesn’t have to make room for a folding fabric roof – has an additional 226 litres behind the two seats.
If you’re buying an R8, though, you don’t want to be talking about boot space – you want to be talking about the 5.2-litre 540hp V10 that lurks under the R8’s rear hatch. It’s a firecracker of an engine that screams to its redline with an aural depth that makes an F1 car sound like a family hatchback with a cracked exhaust and a misfire.
But while the noise shares little in common with an F1 car the performance is comparable: the coupe can get from 0-62mph in just 3.7 seconds before it tops out at an F1-worrying 198mph, and the Spyder is just fractionally slower.
Surprisingly, though, if you’re buying the RWS, raw performance figures play second fiddle to the act of having fun. Its rear-wheel-drive setup means big slides are readily available if you have the talent to do them and it’s possible to guide the car around corners on the throttle. It’s more engaging than the standard car and – on dry roads with the stability control turned on – no more intimidating.
As if that wasn’t already enough, with no power going through the front wheels, the RWS’ front tyres grip harder than in the standard car and it’s easier to understand what they’re doing through the steering wheel. Factor in a 50kg weight saving (40kg in Spyder models) and the RWS does feel a little more agile than its more complex sibling.
The weight saving does little to improve fuel economy, sadly, and getting Audi’s claimed average figure of 22.8mpg isn’t easy. At least, the R8 is available with a raft of kit that makes it one of the safer cars of its type on the road.
That said, it’s best to avoid crashing in the first place by going for the grippier standard R8. For 99% of the time, it’ll be as fun as the RWS and it’ll be more forgiving on the soaking-wet roads that it’s hard to avoid in the UK. If you savour a challenge, though, the extra focus needed to drive the RWS – not to mention its rarity – may be too big a lure for you to pass up, and not many people would argue with your decision.