Ingolstadt, Germany - It may come as a bit of a surprise that a brand such as Audi, which prides itself on high performance cars with quattro all-wheel drive, would develop a special edition model with power delivered to the rear wheels only. But indeed it has, with a new limited edition R8 RWS.
It’s important to remember, however, that the fleet of of R8 LMS and GT4 race cars doing duty on tracks around the world are rear-wheel driven (despite quattro insignias), as per modern touring car rules. So, technically speaking, the RWS is the closest thing any road-going civilian will get to driving a slick-shod fire-breather like the one South African driver Kelvin van der Linde took to victory at this year’s Nurburgring 24 Hour race.
The R8 RWS (Rear Wheel Series) is limited to just 999 units, which are split between Coupe and Spyder variants. Audi South Africa says the car is under consideration for our market, but if it arrives it would be in extremely limited numbers.
Power comes from the same 5.2-litre V10 as used in the current non-Plus R8 Coupe quattro, with 397kW and 540Nm. Performance figures are quoted at 3.7 and 3.8 seconds for the Coupe and Spyder respectively in 0-100km/h tests, while top speeds are pegged at 320 and 318km/h.
The traction disadvantage does play a role off the line, but hardly as much as you’d think: the RWS’s quattrified siblings accelerate to 100km/h just two tenths quicker. Top speeds are identical.
The deletion of a propshaft, centre differential and front axle means a 50 kilogram drop in kerb weight to 1509kg and of course, without drive to the front it’s now much easier to get the R8 into a proper sideways powerslide - or, as Audi prefers, “controlled drifts”.
The RWS is far less racy in appearance than its LMS counterparts, with body-coloured side blades, relatively small 19-inch rims and a small retractable spoiler just behind the rear engine cover. It can be optionally spiced up though, with the same red decal job as the GT4 club racer. Inside, the seats are covered in leather and alcantara, and a plaque reading “1 of 999” is stuck to the dashboard.
Lamborghini developed a similar creation in 2010, when the Italian brand’s chief test driver, Valentino Balboni, requested a limited run of 250 Gallardos in rear-wheel drive. All Gallardo types until that point (and there were many) were all-wheel drive only, as that car shared its platform with the first generation Audi R8.
The Gallardo 550-2 Balboni edition is now highly sought after by collectors, just as the R8 RWS will probably be in a decade’s time