The performance boost in power rear-wheel drive is already very welcome, helping to enhance the extra excitement and engagement that the two-wheel drive design provides. It’s a shame the V10 isn’t quite as straightforward as it once was, but other than that there’s not much to complain about here.
Audi R8 and its superb naturally aspirated V10 engine in borrowed time. They both persevered amid downsizing rumors a few years ago, but the end approached the supercar that changed Audi’s image forever.
In a year or so there will be no more, and it will almost certainly be replaced by something completely electric. But do not be too sad, because Audi will not allow the device that has rewritten the rules for the use of the supercar to go out without making a fuss.
Recent spy footage suggests that Audi is working on a very hard-core special car that looks very much like a successor to the first-generation R8 GT. The car you see here isn’t — it’s an R8 Performance RWD, which we think of as more of a support job for the R8’s swansong. And it’s definitely worth getting to the show early for it.
Rear-wheel drive R8s have been around for a while, starting with the limited-range RWS, before the R8 RWD became a constant in the range after a mid-life refresh. The R8 Performance RWD serves as a replacement for both the latter and the now-discontinued entry-level R8 quattro.
The headline here is boosting power by 29 hp, bringing the 5.2-liter V10’s output to 562 hp – in line with the old quattro, but still way off the 614bhp offered by the R8 Performance and the 602bhp delivered by the related, more exotic , Lamborghini Huracan Evo RWD. Power makes its way to the rear via a seven-speed ‘S Tronic’ dual-clutch automatic gearbox and a mechanical limited-slip differential.
Car group tests
used car tests
Also new is the Dynamic Steering option, something previously reserved for R8 four-wheel drive vehicles, although this is not available in the UK. As before, there are no exterior badges to distinguish this car – you have to look for some less obvious visual clues, including the use of gloss black trim instead of matte titanium, 19-inch wheels instead of 20s, and body-color lower side blades .
Some of that goes out the window when selecting the Edition, as found on our test car, which bumps up the wheel size to 20 inches and offers the same carbon fiber side blade finish as seen on the quattro version. However, supercar watchers can at least rely on staring through the window to spy the “RWD” sign on the dashboard.
To drive, the R8 RWD distinguishes itself from the quattro even more distinctly. The extra power this time around means the traction constraints are more noticeable, even in dry areas — put your foot down from idle or low speed and work through the gears, and the ESP light will flash as hard as the rear 305mm tires struggle to handle the demands of the V10, which It still looks great when spinning up to 8000 rpm, if it’s noticeably more muted than previous R8s thanks to the installation of particulate filters.
The R8 RWD feels a little too powerful for its own good, and that’s half the gravity. The other half comes in how it behaves in the corners—giving up driving to the front wheels results in a more stable and spirited car, even with the electronic aids fully engaged.
The recalibrated electrostatic precipitator is generally very successful – and its interventions are usually very precise. If preferred, there’s an ESP Sport ‘middle of the road’ setting which calls for help again, making driving more demanding and engaging with just the right amount of movement in the rear. Audi says this mode allows drivers to perform a “controlled drift,” something we’ll be sure to test the next time we have one of those on a track.
The UK’s dynamic steering omission is a good thing on our part. While the controversial system – which changes the steering ratio depending on speed and driving mode – has gotten better over the years, it can still feel unpredictable and unnatural. On the other hand, the standard rack on Performance RWD makes for a better second-generation R8 road car.
Eliminating the front driveshafts (which contribute to a 65kg overall weight savings, by the way) improves steering, providing a reasonable degree of feedback while providing the right amount of resistance when turning the wheel. The speed is also local.
McLaren will have more steering feel, thanks in large part to that company’s insistence on hydraulic-on-electric power assist, as well as more frontal stinging – the trim steers its ugly head in the R8 RWD, particularly in tighter cornering. .
However, it is satisfying, as it involves driving the car, with the help of damping. You can’t choose an adaptive setting on RWD, but it’s not something we missed, this car’s passive setting brilliantly balances comfort and composure. Off-road, the ride can get a little chatty, but not unacceptably well.
The R8 is made up enough that you won’t think twice about taking it on a longer ride. It also helps that the cabin on this six-year-old still looks great, with an amazing design and excellent quality. And the superb overall view of a mid-engine car makes the R8 particularly handy on “normal” rides.
You’ll just need to keep in mind that a long ride isn’t going to be particularly cheap, especially if you drift too far with the throttle—we averaged just over 18 mpg over a few days with the car. Carrying capacity is also fairly modest, although you do get some space behind the coupe version’s seats, and the 112-liter front luggage compartment is more useful than you might expect.
Much of the past few paragraphs can be attributed to the R8 quattro, of course, which also has the advantage of an all-wheel drive system, making it faster in wet conditions and thus increasing its usability. Doing it without this for an extra layer of engagement seems like more than an acceptable deal – whether you want to make it depend on what you’re after as a driver.
Audi R8 Performance RWD Edition
5.2 liter Petrol V10
|power/torque||562 hp / 550 Nm|
Seven-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
|0 to 62 mph:||3.7 seconds|
|maximum speed:||204 mph|
|fuel economy:||21.9 mpg|
|Carbon Dioxide:||295 g/km|
|For sale:||right Now|
Now click here to read our review of the all-wheel drive Audi R8…
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