In November 2016, Audi’s performance division decided to change its name from Quattro GmbH to Audi Sport. We wondered why, but this Audi R8 V10 RWS is among the possible reasons, as the performance division’s latest model is not a Quattro. You might guess from the name that it has rear-wheel steering, but RWS supposedly means Rear Wheel Series, suggesting we might see other high-performance Audis that send torque only to their rear wheels. Otherwise, this would be a “series” of one.
Regardless, this is certainly the most purist-oriented second-generation R8. Planned for a run of just 999 units, it packs 402 kilowatts. That power which matches that of the base R8 V10 Quattro but is shy of the 460 kilowatts of the R8 V10 Plus, is churned out by the awesome, naturally aspirated 5.2-litre V10. No all-wheel drive means both less weight and less mechanical drag in the powertrain. Compared with the regular all-wheel-drive R8, its curb weight is down by 50kg to 1589kg, according to Audi, while the company’s claimed weight for the Spyder version is 1680kg, down 40kg from the Quattro model. Visually, the R8 RWS is signified by a matte-black grille, matte-black front and rear airflow openings, and a gloss-black upper side blade on the coupe. A red vinyl trim stripe that stretches from the front left to the right rear is optional on the coupe, which is odd because that is quite a BMW thing rather than Audi. Sport seats are standard, as are black 19-inch wheels wrapped in 35-series rubber.
Audi says the sprint to 100km/h takes 3.7 seconds (3.8 in the Spyder), and top speed is claimed to be 320km/h on the coupe and 318km/h on the Spyder. That acceleration time lags behind Audi’s claims for the Quattro-equipped R8 by 0.2 seconds in both cases; top speed is unchanged. As awesome as this RWS version is, we think there’s still room for improvement – at least from a purist’s point of view. Audi easily could shave off another 22kg or so by swapping out the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission and replacing it with the delightful and beautiful gated six-speed manual that was available on the last-generation R8.
And yes, there will be a market for it, as easy as this car is to drive to work and back in Gauteng, it's not the sort of car you would necessarily do so with, it's the sort of car you'd keep for recreation at the track and maybe a few breakfast runs as well. If Porsche got the hint about what purists want with the 911 GT3, surely Audi could do the same here.
That quibble aside, we suspect the 999 cars will sell out quickly, not least of all because they will be less expensive than an R8 V10 Quattro. An Audi spokesperson says “small quantities” will go to the United States in 2018, although U.S. pricing is currently unavailable. The same goes for South Africa, with no release of exactly when, nor the expected cost.