2023 Audi R8 RWD: Bless the Return of Rear-Wheel Drive

Published on December 20, 2021 in First Drives by Gabriel Gélinas

The naturally aspirated Audi R8 sports car is nearing the end of line, but the Ingolstadt-based automaker is now adding a rear-wheel drive variant that will go on sale in Canada as a 2023 model.

Unlike the 2018 R8 RWS, which was limited to 999 units, the new R8 V10 performance RWD is a series production model. It will join the existing R8 V10 performance quattro, both in Coupe and Spyder (convertible) body styles.

562 Horsepower

All Audi R8 models boast a naturally aspirated 5.2-litre V10 engine. However, the R8 RWD generates 562 horsepower at 8,000 rpm, while the R8 quattro cranks output to 610 horsepower. Max torque isn’t the same, either—406 and 428 pound-feet, respectively.

Photo: Tobias Sagmeister

With regard to performance, the R8 RWD Coupe can sprint from 0-100 km/h in 3.7 seconds. Plan an extra tenth of a second with the Spyder.

Track Time

Our test drive of the 2023 Audi R8 V10 performance RWD included quality time on the road with the Spyder and some hot laps with the Coupe at Circuito Maspalomas in Spain. Because the track is so close to the ocean, it can get fairly slippery, so drivers must remain careful.

Photo: Tobias Sagmeister

My first experience there was several years ago at the launch of the Porsche 911 Cabriolet. This time, with the R8 RWD as my dancing partner, I noticed that the car was a bit more aggressive and less prone to understeer than the R8 quattro.

It’s more playful and more responsive, too, and part of the reason is the new Dynamic Steering system, which improves agility and provides more feedback. Even when attacking hairpin turns, you don’t need to turn the steering wheel more than 180 degrees.

Photo: Tobias Sagmeister

By the way, the sport suspension is tuned specifically for the R8 RWD, the front sway bar is made of carbon fibre, and the mechanical limited-slip differential ensures both good handling in tight corners and stable performance in fast corners. With Performance mode activated, the R8 RWD happily goes a little sideways when exiting corners, so you can enjoy more intense trills than with the AWD-equipped variant.

The R8 RWD I drove at Maspalomas featured the optional carbon ceramic brakes along with high-grip Michelin Sport Cup 2 tires. A brief shower left the track wet, creating new challenges for the car. Luckily, there’s a Wet mode you can engage by pushing a button on the steering wheel. The engine automatically adjusts to the lower levels of traction.

Photo: Tobias Sagmeister

Open-Top Motoring

Following this unique experience, I had the opportunity to drive an R8 Spyder on the mountain passes nearby. The cabriolet is 105 kilograms heavier than the hardtop, incidentally, and it rides on Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires that are not as aggressive as the Cup 2 units. That’s not a problem on public roads, mind you—there’s more than adequate grip to be found with the new set of rubber.

Once again, the RWD model proved a bit more playful than the AWD equivalent, which only made the fabulously scenic yet dangerously narrow roads more memorable. The captivating sound of the naturally aspirated V10 bouncing off the canyon walls was icing on the cake.

Photo: Tobias Sagmeister

The R8 Spyder is just as impressive as the Coupe thanks to an extremely rigid body. Remember, the production R8 shares over 60 percent of components with the R8 GT4 LMS race car, and all of them are built at the Böllinger Höfe assembly plant alongside the new, fully electric Audi e-tron GT and RS e-tron GT.

The 2023 Audi R8 V10 performance RWD—Coupe and Spyder—will land in Canada in the third quarter of 2022. Pricing will be announced closer to launch, but naturally it will undercut the R8 V10 performance quattro.

And the Future?

The addition of RWD keeps the current Audi R8 sports car relevant and interesting, at least until the next generation arrives. As the company confirmed recently, the future R8 will be electric.  

You know what that means, don’t you? The days of the naturally aspirated V10 engine are now numbered. Enjoy it while you can.

Test drive report
Test model 2022 Audi R8
Trim level Coupé Performance RWD
Price range $170,250 – $238,850
Price as tested CA$170,250
Warranty (basic) 4 years/80,000 km
Warranty (powertrain) 4 years/80,000 km
Fuel economy (city/highway/observed) 16.7 / 10.3 / N/A L/100km
Options Carbon-ceramic brakes, Dynamic Steering
Competitive models 2022 Porsche 911, 2022 Acura NSX, 2022 Chevrolet Corvette, 2022 Aston Martin Vantage, 2022 Nissan GT-R
Strong points
  • Fabulous V10 sound
  • More aggressive and playful than R8 quattro
  • Superb build quality
Weak points
  • Performance doesn’t quite match the R8 quattro
  • Limited storage inside
  • Small trunk
Editor's rating
Fuel economy 3.5/5 The naturally aspirated V10 is not a model of fuel efficiency.
Comfort 4.0/5 Comfort is surprising for such a competent sports car.
Performance 4.0/5 In a word: spectacular. A bit less power than the R8 quattro, however.
Infotainment 4.0/5 Audi Virtual Cockpit is included along with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
Driving 4.0/5 More aggressive and playful than R8 quattro.
Overall 4.0/5 This new model is the R8 update driving enthusiasts wanted.
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