2018 Audi R8 RWS first drive: Fire up the not-a-quattro

This car shouldn’t exist. It’s a unicorn in vehicular form; a rear-wheel drive Audi. And not just any Audi, but the pinnacle of Audis – the R8.

Welcome to the car that Audi Sport said it would never do, the awkwardly-named Audi R8 RWS, or Rear Wheel Series.

2018 Audi R8 RWS

First impressions 

So, they did a rear-wheel drive R8 – is it all roll-caged up and hardcore? Nope. Not even a little bit. In fact, you’d struggle to differentiate the RWS from the standard R8 models if you saw it on the street. So if you're expecting this to the R8 what the GT3 RS is to the 911, you'll be quite underwhelmed.

Key visual indicators are the matte black grille and apertures at the front and rear of the car, and a gloss black upper ‘blade’ trailing off the window line. There are unique five-spoke 19-inch alloys, or the 20s pictured here are optional. You can, of course, jazz your R8 up with bespoke paint (including matt paint) with Audi Exclusive finishes, and that 'blade' can be a contrast colour or indeed carbonfibre if you’ve got the cash to pay for it all.

2018 Audi R8 RWS
2018 Audi R8 RWS
2018 Audi R8 RWS

Mechanical changes are surprisingly mild. Obviously the front driveshafts have disappeared and that’s helped to save 50kg over the four-wheel drive car, but there’s also a thicker front anti-roll bar, slightly tweaked steering software and suspension setup, and a mechanical diff instead of the electronically-actuated affair on the standard R8.

Perhaps more telling is what you can’t add to the R8 RWS, given that the adaptive dampers and variable-rat...