Audi R8 RWD review: both fit the bill

Happy events are scarce in 2020. And that doesn't seem to be getting better as the year goes by. So when the Audi R8 rear-wheel drive goes from the limited series… to the “straightforward” series, it's a party! Without forgetting the barrier gestures, of course.

Born RWS, under the leadership of Stephan Winkelmann, then in transit at Audi Sport between leaving Lamborghini and joining Bugatti, the RWD version of the German GT remains in the catalog beyond the first 999 copies initially planned. More people will therefore be familiar with the joys of driving a sports car with a mid-engine, atmospheric moreover, with rear-wheel drive. A rare find in today's automobile production.

Even if the changes are minimal compared to the Rear-Wheel Series, It’s always a pleasure, with some excitement, to drive 540 hp without the help of the front axle. All the more so on the wet roads of this early fall. While ESP is popular with its two distinct levels of disconnection, it's best to think twice, if only before selecting the first.

Always a little too light, regardless of the driving mode chosen, the steering still has difficulty providing information on the level of grip. Despite the sharpness of the front axle, lightened by its gimbals and its differential, vigilance is of good quality not to exceed its limits without necessarily wanting to. Especially at the speeds that this aluminum bullet travels without ever forcing.

Once this precaution is taken, the speed and precision with which the steering is applied compensates for the low level of information and the possible delay in the correction made to the trajectory. That the RWD is satisfied with a passive amortization, which is nonetheless considerate, as a bonus assures it the consistency of its reactions depending on the imperfections of the secondary network.

The mechanical locking mechanism on the rear axle inspires that same naturalness, especially when it comes to taking the gas pedal back out of the curve. Which is not to say that this is child's play. If straight-line traction remains strong, it's a different story resting on a fat pavement.

Audi admits to having looked again at the settings of the running gear, without saying more, in order to make the outbursts of its sport more progressive. Good reflexes are not a luxury, however. If this R8 accuses 65 kg less than its integral sisters on the scale, 60% of its 1,595 kg empty still weigh on its second axle. The drift therefore takes on a sometimes impressive scale. Patience extended well beyond the rope point and a kick-out that is already well under way are excellent preambles to a controlled, but exhilarating ride.

It’s actually the restyling of the R8, which took place between the original appearance of the RWS and this RWD, that is causing the most changes. Not aesthetically, but mechanically. That the V10, whose cavalry is not evolving, now delivers 30 hp to the less powerful quattro version (570 hp), does not cause frustration.

But that this same brilliant block, capable of running on only five of its cylinders, adopts particle filters, anti-pollution standards require, is not without consequences on the pleasure. Without completely detracting from the lyricism of revving, still remarkable in the era of generalized overeating, these obstacles to the exhaust create a more muffled sound.

Without being certain that the drastic limitation of emissions is again involved, the operation of the 7-speed robotic gearbox also appears less fluid. The engine brake seems in particular less well erased by the heel-toe generated by the transmission downshifting. This is discouraging from “dropping” a gear in the middle of a corner when the grip conditions are really poor, otherwise the car will throw off balance.

You have to get used to the idea that the R8 is not only an all-rounder with supernatural efficiency and versatility, but also a drive with character, which can now even be chosen in Spyder bodywork. While everything is relative, the RWD is also the cheapest.

Our verdict

Serving as the gateway to the R8 lineup, the RWD also provides an opportunity to experience a less smooth side of this unforgettable V10 sports car.

WE love

  • More engaging driving
  • Atmospheric V10
  • Daily handling

We like less

  • Driving skills required
  • Direction not very clear
  • Attenuated musicality

Audi R8 Coupé V10 RWD tech. Sheet

BUY

  • Version tested € 147,540
  • From 147 540 €
  • Average manufacturer consumption / during the test (l / 100 km) 12.7-12.9 / 19.9
  • CO2/ penalty 288-294 / € 20,000
  • Fiscal power: 46 CV
  • Country of manufacture: Germany

Proposed range

  • Petrol from 540 to 620 hp from € 147,540 to € 229,510

DRIVE

  • Engine: rear central, longitudinal, V10, direct injection, variable valve timing, 40 stop & start valves, 5 204 cm3, chain distribution.
  • Transmission: rear-wheel drive, robotized 7-speed dual clutch
  • Power (hp @ rpm): 540 to 7,800
  • Torque (Nm at rpm): 540 to 6,400
  • Empty weight (kg): 1,595
  • Long x wide x high (m): 4.43 × 1.94 × 1.24
  • Wheelbase (m): 2.65
  • Tank (l): 83
  • Max speed (km / h): 324
  • 0 to 100 km / h: 3 ”7
  • Standard front / rear tires: 245/35 R19 / 295/35 R19
  • Test tires: Continental ContiSportContact

LIVE

RECOMMENDED OPTIONS

  • Electrically folding mirrors: 430 €
  • Laser headlights and dynamic turn signals: 3,960
  • Navigation with touchscreen control: € 3,985

MAIN COMPETITORS

Lamborghini Huracan Evo RWD, from € 191,332

Porsche 911 Carrera S, from € 123,935

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