2021 Audi R8 RWD test drive

The rear wheel drive Audi R8 has returned for 2021! Originally introduced in 2018 as a limited edition of 999 units, the rear wheel drive model was meant to appeal to sports enthusiasts who eschew the rear wheel drive by the seat of your pants style of driving. This formula worked for VW Group stablemate Porsche with the stripped out versions of its 911 model, which have found cult status amongst collectors. 2021 Audi R8 RWD logo

Now permanently included in the Audi R8 lineup, the model has been identified as the 2021 Audi R8 RWD (Rear Wheel Drive) as opposed to RWS (Rear Wheel Series).

From the outside, there’s very little to distinguish this 2-wheel drive model from the Quattro version.

Technically there’s a fair bit of mechanical revision hidden away under the hood and bodywork. To start with, even though it’s the same aluminum 5.2L V10 engine installed under the rear glass cover, the engine have been de-tuned from 562 horsepower to 532HP. Torque drops from 406 lb-ft to 398lb-ft. (With only two wheels and less running gear to navigate, I wonder how much the actual power at the wheels has changed?) Another factor in the equation is the power to weight ratio. The RWD version weighs 65 kilos (143 pounds) less than the Quattro Coupe.

With the front end lighter and now un-powered, Audi reworked the suspension and steering geometry to compensate for the balance shift.

Inside the cabin, its still the same business-like environment save for the dash mounted “RWD” emblem where a “QUATTRO” identifier typically rests. The racing inspired, flat bottomed steering wheel was wrapped in leather and contained the iconic red ignition button and other vehicle control adjustments with fingertip adjustments. The Audi Virtual Cockpit with its TFT LCD screen filled the instrument binnacle. The screen can be customized to display the information individual drivers wish to see, whether its the typical speed and RPM gauges or a full NAV system overlay with Google maps integration.2021 Audi R8 RWD steering wheel

The leather covered and heated, sport bucket seats had a multitude of power adjustments plus manual thigh bolsters. At a smidge over 6 feet tall, I did feel that I was at the outer limit of seat distance from the pedals and steering wheel.

The driver’s cockpit is remarkably efficient. Between the steering controls, multi-function knobs on the dash and centre console, the interior of the R8 is incredibly uncluttered and yet allows for intuitive control over the various, audio, HVAC and vehicle systems available on this potent coupe. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard feature in R8.

Although the engine has been slightly declawed, thankfully the thunderous rumble of the 10 pistons combusting has not changed. The sound from this state of the art power-plant is wholly satisfying. The V10 shuttle power through the same 7-speed S-Tronic dual clutch transmission found in the Quattro models, but now only to the rear wheels.

Acceleration is slightly slower at 3.7 seconds, a increase of 0.2 seconds from 0-100 kms/hr. Part of that change is no doubt due to only the rear wheels pushing instead of all four. (To be honest, my body can’t tell the difference as it still plants you firmly back into the leather buckets when you rocket away from a stop.)

Handling is noticeably different however. The lighter front end and rear wheel propulsion give the Audi R8 RWD a more agile feel in cornering. The RWD can even get a bit tail happy in cornering with the throttle applied. Thank goodness the traction control system reigns matters in after a bit of hooning, saving embarrassment. The optional 20 inch 5 spoke wheels did increase firmness in ride comfort, even with the Audi Drive Select system set to comfort. However the gigantic 245/30 tires up front and 305/30 rubber at the rear, helped keep the rear wheel drive power under control.2021 Audi R8 V10 RWD rear

The Audi R8 sits as the benchmark of the companies performance offerings. While the RWD version is not the fastest model they make, it should be revered for what it stands for, driving excitement. The concept has been explored by a number of automakers – give enthusiasts a package that’s fun to drive and they will come. The icing on the cake for the R8 RWD is that Audi has reflected the hardware removal in the pricing. The 2021 Audi R8 RWD starts at $167,800 while the Quattro Coupe tips off at $192,800. The difference allows you to get the R8 RWD as your summer car and have $25k left over to buy a winter beater. The test vehicle came with the optional wheels and tires, Ibis White paint, red brake calipers, sport exhaust and black out emblems, for an as tester price of $175,300 plus Freight, PDI and taxes. Feel free to use the build and price feature on Audi’s website for full pricing on the 2021 Audi R8 RWD.