In late 2017, Audi unveiled the special-edition R8 RWS, limited to 999 units globally. In omitting a driveshaft to the front axle, the pure rear-driver lost 143 pounds in coupe form, 121 pounds in Spyder guise, and a touch of output to keep everything manageable. Instead of the standard R8’s 562 horsepower and 406 pound-feet of torque, the R8 RWS put out 532 hp and 398 lb-ft. The lack of components, complexity, and weight unlocked tens of thousands of dollars in savings off the standard R8’s MSRP, and a tail-wagging suppleness unavailable in the Quattro model. Last year, Audi added the R8 RWD to the regular European lineup. When Roadshow inquired about a U.S. counterpart, Audi said a decision wouldn’t come “for a few months.” Well, it’s been a few months, and if we want to read into the EPA’s fuel economy site, Audi’s answer was, “Let’s do it.” Motor Authority picked up on FuelEconomy.gov listing four Audi R8 trims for 2021, one of them an R8 2WD coupe, another an R8 Spyder 2WD. This doesn’t make the leaner R8’s importation a certainty, but it shows Audi’s begun to put the work in to make it happen.
The EPA rated the 2018 Audi R8 RWS in both bodystyles at 14 miles per gallon in the city, 25 on the highway, 18 combined. The EPA marks the 2021 models down for 14 city, 23 highway, 17 combined. If and when Audi decides to debut them here, we can ask about the discrepancy; perhaps engineers have turned the wick up on the 5.2-liter V10 for next year. Both RWD trims still come out ahead of the R8 with Quattro, rated at 13 city, 20 highway, and 16 combined. When Motor Authority asked Audi about the R8 RWD, the automaker declined to comment.
If nothing else changes from last year’s car, the rear-wheel-drive R8 will combine the specs of the limited-edition 2018 R8 V10 RWS with the looks of the current R8 V10 Quattro. The giveaways on the RWD model will be split sideblades on the the rear-driver that dress the upper blade in gloss black and lower blade in body color, along with an RWD badge in the cabin facing the passenger. Dynamically, all R8s shift through a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, the R8 RWD taking a touch longer to shift its way to 62 miles per hour. The R8 Quattro coupe gets there in 3.3 seconds, the R8 RWD hardtop takes 3.7 seconds, on to a top speed just under 199 mph.