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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 18 August 2018

Road test: 2018 Audi R8 V10 RWS

Audi temporarily quits quattro for rear-wheel drive

Given Audi’s long and illustrious love affair with four-wheel drive, via its iconic “quattro” moniker, when the German carmaker decides to temporarily abandon that modus operandi, it is something of an automotive event.

So it is for the R8 V10 RWS, a lightweight version of its already speedy two-seater sports car that is inspired by Audi’s current contribution to GT endurance racing, the R8 LMS. But despite the temptation to approach the hand-built, 540hp, 1,590-kilogram car with the same kind of caution you would give UAE roads in torrential rain, with all the driver assists flicked to “on”, it isn’t actually a tail-happy monster.

That should really come as no surprise, given it is a sister model of Lamborghini’s Huracán, which has for the past two years been offered with a similar drive-train without gaining any reputation for swapping ends on a regular basis. Sure, hand a teenager with a freshly minted licence either car and things might not end well, but for the rest of us, there isn’t a particularly vicious bite to avoid.

The RWS – Rear Wheel Series – is limited to a combined 999 units, between Coupe and Spyder versions. The plaque on the passenger-side dash appears to suggest that our test model is, as the Germans would have it, nummer eins (number one), although further investigation seems to suggest that refers to it being “one of”, rather than the very first example off the production line.

The paintwork is all in white, apart from an off-centre, sash-like red stripe running the length of its bonnet, roof and engine cover above the 5.2-litre V10, giving the impression of a decorated beauty-contest winner. And it is indeed a finely honed visual treat, albeit without the shout-about-it bravado of the Huracán.

The Coupe races from 0 to 100kph in 3.7 seconds (the Spyder takes an additional 0.1 seconds), and honestly feels a good deal quicker when you are this close to the hard stuff. The steering is precise, with a tautness and weight that never veers into heaviness, as all good sports cars should wield. RWS, here, equals real-world smiles.

Without a private racetrack at my disposal and not wishing to attract the attention of the local constabulary, I can’t confirm the exact fun levels provided by the controlled “drift” mode – achieved by switching to Dynamic and setting the stabilisation control to Sport, with the electronic stability control designed to yank things back from the brink of disaster at the limits. With German engineering at play, it is probably safe to say it is as much enjoyment you can have without any significant danger.

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In the name of those aforementioned lightweight goals, which saves 50 kilograms versus the regular Coupe (or a 40kg reduction for the Spyder), frills are fairly thin on the ground.

There is, for example, no reversing camera, which nowadays somehow feels like driving sans a limb, especially when piloting a car that costs more than half a million dirhams.

The upside is that other motorists in general give you a little more respect and room in an R8 – its muted approach compared to many sports-car peers seems to stoke less of the green-eyed monster in fellow road users while keeping them aware that this isn’t a pocket-change motor.

In that respect, the standard R8 was already an in-the-know buy compared with various flashier competitors. Is the RWS worth the additional outlay? For straight-up driving thrills, and seeing the thing in your driveway every morning, the answer is almost certainly in the affirmative.

The specs: 2018 Audi R8 V10 RWS

Price: base / as tested: From Dh632,225

Engine: 5.2-litre V10

Gearbox: Seven-speed automatic

Power: 540hp @ 8,250rpm

Torque: 540Nm @ 6,500rpm

Fuel economy, combined: 12.4L / 100km

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