At last, Audi is introducing a rear-wheel-drive R8 into the standard lineup, combining the specs of the limited-edition 2018 R8 V10 RWS with the looks of the 2020 R8 V10 Quattro. It's called the R8 V10 RWD instead of RWS, and for now it's only headed to Europe. Audi told Roadshow that a decision on bringing the R8 V10 RWD to the U.S. is "still not decided" and won't be "for a few months." After the RWS earned universal acclaim for freeing up a dynamic and tail-wagging suppleness unavailable in the Quattro model, and Audi sold out of all 999 units globally, we hope U.S. dealers have already begun the phone- and write-in campaign to sway Ingolstadt decision-makers.
Meanwhile, lust is all we have. The 5.2-liter V10 in the RWD model puts out the same 532 horsepower and 398.3 pound-feet of torque as in the RWS. That makes it the least powerful model in the R8 range, the entry-level all-wheel-drive trim getting 562 hp and 406 lb-ft for the 2020 model year. Available in coupe and Spyder forms, shedding driveline components like the prop shaft and clutches returns a 143-pound weight loss for the coupe compared to the all-paw R8, and a 121-pound weight loss for the Spyder. Shifting through a seven-speed dual clutch and with the aid of a mechanical locking differential, the hardtop accelerates from zero to 62 miles per hour in 3.7 seconds, the roofless version needing just 0.1 longer. Top speed on the coupe is 198.8 mph, the convertible can go 197.6 mph.
The car adopts the updated front and rear fascias bestowed on the 2020 models with one exception: The split sideblades on the RWD stick to the RWS script, the upper blade dressed in gloss black, the lower blade painted body color. The only other tell comes inside, an RWD badge facing the passenger.
The 2018 R8 V10 RWS made a great case for itself by also shedding more than $26,000 from the MSRP of the base Quattro model. Slotting a rear-driver into the lineup could be the first step toward delivering the R8 rumored over the summer that would be a road-legal hard-charger derived from the R8 GT3 race car.
Speaking of racing, Audi has introduced its rear-driving R8 LMS GT4 as well. The 495-hp customer race car that's won 17 championships since last year gets a driver-friendly upgrade for the new year, that being adjustable ABS and traction control. Audi Sport installed the steering wheel from the R8 GT2 car, which includes two dials, each one flicking ABS and traction control through eight settings each.