The Audi R8 RWS is a wonderful car with one of the most wonderful naturally-aspirated engines put into production. With that out of the way, let’s take a look at everything wrong with it.
All of this is detailed in the newest episode of Harry’s Garage, done up by the guy who used to run EVO Magazine in its heyday. He was an early Zonda buyer and keeps a garage full of various old Dakar racing-style motorcycles, so I like his taste.
Again, Harry Metcalfe points out in the video that the car is “good” and that the engine is an absolute joy, running up to 8,700 rpm. You see this shone back to you through a lovely instrument panel, you hear it howling behind you, and you get to instantly manipulate it through the wonderful seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. Certainly I, myself, would fault no buyer of this car for getting this car for the engine alone.
Now, with that out of the way, let’s get into Harry’s less charitable observations:
- There are fake vents everywhere, which is extremely strange on a top-flight performance car, particularly for Audi, which prides itself on engineering.
- There is a quiet exhaust mode, but it needs to warm up, so the car always barks into life as loudly as it can, right when you want it to be quiet.
- The steering is as light as a city car in parking assist mode, so it doesn’t feel like a sports car right from the moment you start driving.
- The shocks aren’t adjustable (even though the car keeps a “comfort mode” setting that doesn’t change them), which would be fine, except that the ride is rough for normal roads. A good ride was one of the best parts of the original R8.
- The engine is a true joy to run to redline, but the car is so long-geared that you don’t ever get to play with it unless you’re on a racetrack or on the Autobahn.
- The car does away with its front driveshafts, but it doesn’t actually steer any better than an all-wheel drive R8.
- The car is mid-engined, but it has a high hood like in a front-engine car. You don’t get the feel or the extra visibility you get in normal low-nose midengine cars like the old NSX or the current crop of McLarens and Ferraris. Metcalfe says the car feels like a TT from the view alone.
So you end up with a car with a high-revving engine that you can’t use, with a midengine layout that doesn’t feel like it, with rear-wheel drive that feels no different from its all-wheel drive sister model, with the rough ride of a sports car but without the steering of one.
I wouldn’t say that the R8 is a bad car. I would rev it to the moon all day and not feel bad about it at all. But it is funny that there were so many things that the serious minds at Audi completely got wrong about its most emotional vehicle.