The Audi R8 returns in rear-wheel drive, but without the limited series that goes with it: unlike the RWS a few years ago, the RWD is a full-fledged model in the R8 lineup. And while it is the most basic offer, it is not the least attractive.
We are currently witnessing an unprecedented technological race in the world of supercars. Ever more impressive powers, the gradual arrival of the hybrid, chassis solutions using extensive electronic controls … There is no doubt that today's super sports cars are real rolling laboratories. Audi is at odds with this trend with its R8 RWD. As the entry level to the R8 family, it does without a lot of the tricks that make its big sisters so desirable. We do not find no quattro transmission, no adaptive suspension, a simple mechanical differential manages the traction and the power peaks "only" at 540 hp.
But less is more as the Great Britons say, and we cannot prove them wrong. By ignoring all-wheel drive and piloted suspension, the R8 loses some of its versatility. The RWD is undeniably less comfortable than an R8 quattro whose damping hardness can be varied, just as it requires a little more humility behind the wheel to handle the cavalry. But by becoming simpler, it also puts the pleasure of driving at the top of its prerogatives.
Something that you don't necessarily realize during the first kilometers on the road. Always with a docility that should inspire many more family-oriented cars, the R8 amazes by the flexibility of its V10, discreet at the bottom of the rev counter, and by the smoothness of its 7-speed S tronic. But the RWD-specific dry suspension is quick to shake you up if the asphalt isn't as good as a circuit, just as the steering would feel almost sticky when riding relaxed. If there is therefore room for doubt when you are only using 10% of your capacity, your revenge is quickly lifted as soon as the road begins to turn and the pace naturally increases. By switching to dynamic mode, the engine wakes up, the gearbox becomes more responsive, the steering is a little more consistent and the feeling of being one with the car becomes paramount. And from the first frank acceleration, the charm operates again.
The naturally aspirated V10 5.2 goes from a hoarse tone to a most enjoyable metallic scream, as the revving seems endless to the red zone perched at 8,500 rpm. What sound ! This block is one of the few to still have a timbre recognizable among a thousand, as much as it offers a real mechanical melody, not just an exhaust noise or worse, a false sound generated in the speakers of the passenger compartment. . The thrust is certainly a little less angry than on the R8 Performance with 620 hp, but who will see the difference on a daily basis?
For its part, the sixty kilos saved compared to an R8 quattro 570 hp is hardly felt. Just the front end is a bit lighter and needs loading when cornering to maximize grip. A short tour of the circuit allows you to quickly realize that the magic is always there and that the beautiful balance of the R8 is safe. And the fact that all horses only run on two wheels does not interfere with driving too much. The grip is good enough and when driving clean, the limits of grip are quite remote. ESP activated, a few small, minimally invasive corrections effectively regulate excess optimisms by cutting the throttle, without completely restricting the engine. Once the aids are cut, the RWD becomes more mischievous and allows even, for the more reckless, to drift shamelessly and pass each turn by aiming for the point of rope through the side window! Either way, the R8 is playful, easy going, engaging and rewarding.
Despite top notch performances, the RWD is clearly not a time killer. Rather, her thing is to bet on the feeling behind the wheel and leave you with a pleasant memory every time you take her for a ride. And by playing on the sensations, we thus become less watching on a lot of points that could upset in a displayed car. 147,540 € in coupe and 161,940 € in discoverable Spyder version. Completely relative comfort? No problem, at least we have fun driving it. The very poor ergonomics of the MMI system, which is operated exclusively from the steering wheel buttons in the absence of a screen on the center console? Quickly forgotten once you have set the few parameters you need for your trip.
The Audi R8 RWD is a simple, no-frills car that advocates a homecoming to driving pleasure and driving fun. And if the recipe is tempting, we will have to act quickly. The R8 is at the end of its life and its future is more than uncertain, to put it optimistically. If a potential future electric version or a new model supposed to take the place of the R8 is rumored to be on the cards, it is almost certain that the fantastic V10 atmo will bow out with the current generation of the German supercar. RWD, quattro, Performance, Coupé, Spyder… Whatever the configuration. If you can get your hands on a recent, low-mileage R8 with the S Tronic transmission, or one of the first generations with a manual gearbox, go for it!