autos

Audi’s R8 RWD is a lighter, tail-happy rocketship — you’re not the navigator in this car, you’re the pilot


NOW this is a little bit confusing.

Audi is synonymous with quattro, which is short for “advanced four-wheel drive magic” perfected over 40 years.

With the Audi R8 RWD you’re not the navigator, you’re the pilot

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With the Audi R8 RWD you’re not the navigator, you’re the pilot

You buy one because: A) You can go round significant corners at considerable speeds, and B) It is your insurance policy in winter.

So why has Audi turned its flagship R8 supercar into a rear-wheel-drive production car?

I’ve absolutely no idea.

You’d think it would start with, say, an A4 to take on the BMW 3 Series. But no.

The car that needs quattro more than anything has had it stripped out to turn it into a lighter, tail-happy 540hp rocketship.

The R8 is a car that needs quattro more than anything but has become a lighter, tail-happy 540hp rocketship

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The R8 is a car that needs quattro more than anything but has become a lighter, tail-happy 540hp rocketship

But do you know what? I liked it a lot.

It’s the simplest, cheapest R8 and made my neck hairs all tingly with anticipation.

You’re not the navigator in this car, you’re the pilot.

Of course, Audi has done all it can to make sure it is impeccably well behaved on public roads.

The traction control cuts in constantly to stop you calling the AA for a dustpan and brush. Unless you are a total idiot.

And you get the same drop-dead looks as the full-fat R8

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And you get the same drop-dead looks as the full-fat R8

But switch off the nanny blankets at a track day and you’ve got over-steer citaaay.

You don’t get fancy adaptive dampers or carbon-ceramic brakes on this entry-level R8 — but you do get the same naturally aspirated V10 as the R8 quattro. And the Lamborghini Huracan for that matter.

That V10 fills me with pure joy.

It shrieks behind your lugholes like an unpleasant medical procedure. It reels in the horizon at an incredible rate.

It’s not as quick as an R8 quattro off the start line, it must be said, but 0-62mph in 3.7 seconds and a top speed of 201mph is enough for most people.

The V10 is sheer joy and hits 0-62mph in 3.7 seconds and a top speed of 201mph

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The V10 is sheer joy and hits 0-62mph in 3.7 seconds and a top speed of 201mph

You also get the same drop-dead looks as the full-fat R8.

Drive it anywhere and it is filmed live on Instagram. Park it anywhere and it is filmed live on Instagram.

The only way to tell the difference is the little RWD badge on the dash.

I won’t waste your time writing about the cockpit because it’s pure class.

This is Audi’s poster hero. Tony Stark’s personal ride. Digital instrument cluster, Alcantara seats, sublime fit and finish. It wants for nothing.

The little RWD badge on the dash is the only way to tell the difference in models

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The little RWD badge on the dash is the only way to tell the difference in models

But now we come to the crucial question.

Would I buy one?

I’m not sure.

The R8 isn’t long for this world. How can it be?

The cockpit doesn't need comment because it’s pure class

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The cockpit doesn’t need comment because it’s pure class

Audi won’t make a new generation with a naked V10.

The EU emissions police have seen to that.

So on that basis, yes, I would buy one.

But if Audi really wanted to make a driver’s car — something collectable and exciting with more feedback — it should have brought back the gated manual and hydraulic steering.

It didn’t.

So on that basis, no, I wouldn’t.

I’d have a quattro. For reasons A and B above.

This entry-level R8 gives the same naturally aspirated V10 as the R8 quattro

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This entry-level R8 gives the same naturally aspirated V10 as the R8 quattro
This R8 is the simplest, cheapest model made

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This R8 is the simplest, cheapest model made
The R8 shrieks behind your lugholes like an unpleasant medical procedure and reels in the horizon at an incredible rate

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The R8 shrieks behind your lugholes like an unpleasant medical procedure and reels in the horizon at an incredible rate

Key facts: AUDI R8 RWD

Price: £116,000

Engine: 5.2-litre V10

Power: 540hp

0-62mph: 3.7 secs

Top speed: 201mph

Economy 22mpg

CO2: 289g/km

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