Audi is known for making cars with all-wheel drive. The company used the drivetrain layout to make its cars victorious in rally and capable in all road conditions. Quattro was so important to the company that Audi's tuning division (think BMW's M or Mercedes's AMG) was previously named after the system.
But the company isn't only all-wheel drive. Since 2000, Audi won the 24 Hours of Le Mans 13 times with rear-wheel drive (or part-time hybrid all-wheel drive) cars. The company has had the rear-wheel drive R8 LMS racing in GT3 competition and, starting next year, in GT4. But the company has made precisely 0 cars with rear-wheel drive in that time frame.
Until now. Audi Sport GmbH, the division formerly known as quattro, has created this, the R8 RWS. A roadgoing homage to the R8 GT3 and GT4, the R8 RWS is the car that was alluded to months ago by former Lamborghini CEO and current Audi Sport boss Stephan Winkelmann. The R8 RWS, Winkelmann says, is "made for purists."
The RWS has the same seven-speed dual clutch gearbox and 540 horsepower V10 as the R8. The 610 horsepower version from the R8 Plus isn't an option. If that sounds familiar, that's because this is nearly exactly how Lamborghini separates the rear-wheel and all-wheel drive versions of the R8's platform mate, the Huracan.
By getting rid of the all-wheel drive system, the RWS Coupe loses 110 pounds and the Spyder 88 pounds compared to the 'regular' R8s. The coupe hits 62 in 3.7 seconds, with the Spyder one tenth of a second behind. Both cars are a tenth or two behind their all-wheel drive counterparts.
One bigger difference is that putting the car in Dynamic Mode and turning the ESC to Sport may as well be called Drift Mode, as the RWS will allow controlled slides in that setting. Audi Sport promises that ESC will "intervene reliably at the limit." We'll have to try that to be sure.
If you aren't driving the RWS, you can spot one thanks to the matte black grille, the gloss black upper side blade (on the coupe), and the body color lower blade. You can also get a red stripe that runs the full length of the car. Or you can just look for an R8 drifting around your nearest intersection.
There will only be 999 R8 RWS Coupes and Spyders built, with deliveries starting to the US in 2018. But you better get an order in now.