“The Audi R8 V10 RWS brings the drive concept of our R8 LMS GT4 racing car onto the road,” says Oliver Hoffmann, Head of Technical Development at Audi Sport GmbH. And that’s not just marketing speak. The R8 RWS shares more than 50 per cent parts commonality with the R8 GT3 racer and 60 per cent with GT4. The RWS, like the R8 quattro models, is assembled by the same technicians who build the racing cars and at the same production facility at Bollinger Hofe.
The transition from R8 V10 to R8 RWS involves the removal of the cardan shaft that takes drive forward, multi-plate centre clutch, front differential and front drive shafts. For the RWS Coupe, this results in a kerb weight of 1590kg, which is 50kg lighter than the equivalent R8 V10 Coupe. The R8 RWS Spyder tips the scales at 1680kg and is 40kg lighter than the R8 V10 Spyder. Actually, not all of the weight-saving is down to the removal of mechanical hardware as the RWS uses manually adjusted bucket seats, netting a total saving of 1.1kg.
Both rear-wheel-drive R8 variants are powered by the 397kW, 540Nm version of Audi’s 5.2-litre naturally aspirated V10, resulting in a power-to-weight ratio of 250kW per tonne for the RWS Coupe and 236kW/tonne for the RWS Spyder. By comparison, the R8 V10 Coupe is endowed with a power-to-weight ratio of 242kW/tonne, while the R8 V10 Spyder has 231kW per tonne.
With the removal of the front-drive hardware, the weight distribution of the RWS models has shifted subtly rearward to 40.6 per cent front and 59.4 per cent rear for the RWS Coupe, and 40.4:59.6 for the RWS Spyder.
Beyond the removal of the hardware, the RWS models required significant recalibration of the software controlling the ABS, and stability and traction control systems. Stability control now allows a bit more leeway in Sport mode and will now let you tweak the tail out under power before guiding you back into line. The electronically assisted power steering also features a unique calibration that, as we’ve discovered on road and track, delivers a very natural and linear rate of response.
The suspension uses fixed-rate passive dampers rather than multi-mode adaptive dampers and they’re now 10 per cent firmer. There’s also a stiffer front anti-roll bar and more negative camber on the rear wheels; both changes aid low-speed agility and high-speed stability. From our drives on a variety of roads and racing circuits in Europe, the United Kingdom and Australia, the suspension of the R8 RWS offers a mesmerising blend of body control and compliance that spans the chasm of daily driving and track attacking. Without the benefit of back-to-back testing it’s difficult to be definitive but if pushed, we’d suggest that the RWS is just a touch sharper in its low-speed suspension response than a V10 Plus fitted with magnetic dampers. It’s certainly not a deal breaker and wouldn’t discourage you from using the new rear-wheel-drive R8 as your daily driver.
And a daily dose of that glorious V10 engine is just what enthusiasts need in an automotive world that’s becoming increasingly homogenised by turbocharging and hybridisation. The 397kW power peak arrives at 7800rpm and is matched to 540Nm from 6500rpm. If these numbers suggest a peaky delivery, nothing could be farther from the truth. With a 5.2-litre swept capacity and 10 pistons pumping away, the RWS feels urgent from off idle all the way through to the 8500rpm redline. The mid-range is rippling with muscle and the top-end rush is one of the great thrills in motoring. It is an all-time great engine and one that we’re thankful for its continuing existence. Long may it reign at the pinnacle of the Audi Sport range.
The seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox is a willing partner for the keen engine. Very much in keeping with the R8’s spread of talents, the gearbox covers all bases, offering intuitive and unobtrusive shifts around town, while ramping up to deliver sizzling cog swaps as the V10 rips to its 8500rpm ceiling. And the bark from the engine as you run down the gearbox into a corner tingles your spine.
Distributing the power to the 295/35 ZR19 rear tyres is a mechanical limited slip diff with 45 per cent lock up under load and 25 per cent on the overrun. When the RWS starts to slide, you can really feel the lock-up effect of the diff and it imbues the chassis with an additional layer of trustworthiness.
With a starting price of $299,950, the R8 RWS Coupe is $67,500 less expensive than the V10 Coupe, and the first time Audi’s offered a V10-powered R8 at under $300,000 (a price point more closely associated with the V8-powered model of the first-generation R8). The RWS Spyder affords open-air access to the V10 orchestra and retails for $321,000.
WIN on Sunday, Sell on Monday might not have the same relevance as it once did, but there’s no doubting the relationship between the Audi R8 road cars, especially the new rear-wheel-drive RWS, and the hugely successful Audi Sport Customer Racing LMS GT3 and LMS GT4 race cars.
Audi GT3 & GT4 – Rear-wheel drive isn’t new when it comes to Audi R8 race cars
Since the first-generation R8 LMS GT3 launched in 2009 (the second-gen arrived in 2015 at the same time as the second-gen road car), it has become the most successful GT3 racer in history. It’s won championships throughout Europe, Asia, the Middle East, the United States and Australia. Beyond the championships, the R8 LMS GT3 has dominated some of the world’s most prestigious endurance races, with victories in 12- and 24-hour races at Bathurst, Dubai and the Nurburgring.
This month, four Audi Sport Customer Racing teams will line up for the Nurburgring 24-Hour with the hope of adding a fifth Ring title to the R8 LMS GT3’s racing resume, which also includes three Bathurst 12-hour victories.
In accordance with the category regulations, the R8 LMS GT3 is rear-wheel drive like new RWS road car. Built in the same production facility at Bollinger Hofe as the racing cars, the R8 RWS shares more than 50 per cent of its parts with the GT3 racer. And the relationship is even closer with the R8 LMS GT4 racing car, with parts commonality of nearly 60 per cent.
Launched last year, the R8 LMS GT4 is the most recent addition to Audi’s Customer Racing programme, joining the R8 LMS GT3, TT Cup (2015) and RS3 LMS that was unveiled in 2016.
Since its introduction less than six months ago, more than 50 GT4s have been manufactured and have begun racing around the world. They have joined more than 200 R8 LMS GT3s and around 100 RS3 LMS racing cars.
Like the R8 LMS GTS and RWS, the R8 GT4 is rear-wheel drive and is powered by the 5.2-litre V10 as used in the R8 road car and GT3 racer. In accordance with the GT4 regulations, the V10 features air restrictors that limit peak power to 364kW. The remapping of the engine for racing purposes results in a maximum torque figure of over 550Nm. The R8 GT3 is also fitted with air restrictors but makes between 375-400kW.
Depending upon the aerodynamic set up for individual circuits, Audi claims that the R8 GT4 can accelerate to 100km/h in under four seconds and features a top speed of over 250km/h.
The engine has proven remarkably durable in the heat of endurance racing. Audi suggests a 10,000km service interval and a rebuild after 20,000km. In practical terms, that allows teams to complete a 24-hour race, along with a 12- and 6-hour event.
While the GT3 variant uses a six-speed pneumatically shifted motorsport sequential gearbox, the R8 GT4 retains the road car’s seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox. Like the RWS, the GT4 puts its power to the tarmac via a mechanical limited-slip diff.
In a departure from the road car, both the GT3 and GT4 racing versions of the R8 use a motorsport-specific hydraulically assisted power steering system, rather than the production car’s EPAS system.
Audi R8 RWS (Coupe)
Engine 5204cc V10, dohc, 40v
Power 397kW @ 7800rpm
Torque 540Nm @ 6500rpm
Transmission Seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox, rear-wheel drive, LSD
Suspension (front and rear) double wishbones, coil springs, anti-roll bar
Brakes 365mm ventilated discs, eight-piston calipers (front), 356mm ventilated discs, four-piston calipers (rear)
Wheels 19 x 8.5-inch (front), 19 x 11.0-inch (rear)
Tyres 245/35 ZR19 (front), 295/35 ZR19 (rear) Weight 1590kg
0-100km/h 3.7sec (claimed)
Top speed 320km/h
Basic price $299,950