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Audi R8 RWS: Performance Car of the Year 2019 - 4th place

By Dylan Campbell, 09 Mar 2019 Performance COTY

Performance Car of the Year 2019 4th place Audi R8 RWS feature

Rear-drive atmo V10 knew how to steal hearts

Supercar good looks, howling atmo V10 and rear-wheel drive – throw in a gate-shift manual and the Audi R8 Rear Wheel Series could almost represent the dream sports car.

Even with its seven-speed twin-clutch auto, the Audi R8 RWS is an extremely desirable driver’s car, which was confirmed by finishing fourth, just off the podium. Nothing to shirk at – the RWS is an outstanding thing.

Perhaps the question to first ask is, what is there not to like about the RWS? Acceleration – ballistic, almost surprisingly so, and not just because its 3.57sec 0-100km/h time bested Audi’s claim by 0.2sec! No, if you drove all the cars here, you’d be unlikely to put the RWS second on the drag strip order ahead of the GT C or M5.

That probably has something to do with the R8’s big 5.2-litre V10 meting out its tremendous oomph in a polite curve all the way to its 8700rpm redline, rather than rudely lumping it all at the bottom of the tacho with a pair of dirty big turbochargers. Interestingly, at PCOTY 2013, the winning R8 V10 Plus – 404kW and all-wheel drive – did, no kidding, 3.57sec to 100km/h (and a slower quarter mile). Perhaps we should do all our straight-line testing at The Bend from now on... 

MOTOR review: R8 RWS

If handling is more your thing than acceleration times, then charming, old-school mid-engine dynamics await you in the big, bad RWS. With 245/295 front/rear tyres, the R8 likes you to keep brake pressure right to the apex – but not too much, ’cos that big lump of V10 will have you facing backwards quicker than you knew what just happened.

Patience, too, is rewarded getting back on the power, where over-eagerness is met with fairly serious power understeer. To get the absolute best out of the slightly precious RWS takes real precision and patience – it’s not a cinch.

Of course, if you signed up to RWS for skids, it will oblige, if also not in quite the benign way you might think – this is no forgiving drift machine. But get it right, and you’ll feel like a superhero.

Then there’s the windows-down sound; epic brakes; flat, low-centre-of-gravity handling; even the price is relatively cheap... so why fourth and not higher? Adaptive dampers and perhaps more grip would be nice, but really, this is where the points game is most apparent, the final three are little bit better across the board. In another time and place, the RWS is absolutely PCOTY-winning material.

All about the drive on Performance Car of the Year 2019

The Numbers

2019 AUDI R8 RWS SPECS:
Engine: 5204cc V10, DOHC, 40v
Power: 397kW @ 7800rpm
Torque: 540Nm @ 6500rpm
Weight: 1590kg
0-100km/h: 3.57sec
0-400m: 11.36sec @ 206.87km/h
The Bend lap time: 1min 28.5sec
Price: $321,100

Judge's Rank

Dylan Campbell - 4th 
"Offers a classic mid-engine supercar experience in 2019."

Louis Cordony - 3rd
"Does theatre. Does milk runs. Does fast. And cheap, too."

David Morley - =5th
"I can’t believe that losing front drive hasn’t ruined it."

Scott Newman - 3rd
"A thrill and a challenge, everything a supercar should be. Love it."

Rick Kelly - =5th
"Cool looks, great sound. More enjoyable on track than on road."

PCOTY 2019 Scoring

Judges DC LC RK DM SN Total
Performance 17.5 13.5 15 18 18 82
Dynamics 17.5 14 16 17 17 81.5
Accessibility 8 6.5 8 7 7 36.5
Liveability 7 8.5 6 7 7 35.5
Value 7.5 8 6 5 8 34.5
X Factor 9.5 7.5 8 9 9.5 43.5
Total 67 58 59 63 66.5 313.5