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Audi's rear-wheel drive R8 RWS is an enthusiast's dream

Audi is synonymous with all-wheel drive, but the German automaker is taking its flagship R8 supercar in a different (and more fun) direction.

Debuting at the 2017 Frankfurt Motor Show, the Audi R8 V10 RWS is the first Audi production model of any kind with rear-wheel drive (although it has built front-wheel drive cars). The RWS (short for Rear Wheel Series) will be offered as a limited edition, and should bring a whole new dimension to the R8 driving experience. Specifically, epic power slides.

It may be the first production rear-wheel drive Audi, but the R8 RWS isn’t totally without precedent. The R8 shares its basic platform with the Lamborghini Huracán, and the Lambo is already available with rear-wheel drive, in LP580-2 form. Audi also previously developed the R8 LMS, a racing version of the R8 with rear-wheel drive. Making a road-going rear-wheel drive R8 wasn’t so much a technical challenge as a philosophical one: Audi is all about all-wheel drive.

But the R8 RWS opens up new possibilities for what is already a capable performance car. Rear-wheel drive allows the driver to kick the back end out and drift. It’s not the fastest way to get around, but it sure is fun. The RWS will also be a bit lighter than the all-wheel drive R8. The coupe version weighs 110.2 pounds less than its all-wheel drive equivalent, while the convertible Spyder is 88.2 pounds lighter.

The RWS uses the same 5.2-liter V10 engine as the all-wheel drive R8, with 540 horsepower and 398 pound-feet of torque. Audi says the R8 RWS coupe will do 0 to 62 mph in 3.7 seconds and reach a top speed of 198.8 mph. Corresponding figures for the Spyder are 3.8 seconds and 197.6 mph. The rear-wheel drive versions will likely be slightly slower than their all-wheel drive counterparts.

Visually, the RWS will be hard to distinguish from other R8 models. The only differentiator is matte black trim for the grille and other exterior pieces. However, owners can opt for red stripes, a look based on the livery worn by Audi’s R8 LMS race cars.

Production of the R8 RWS will be limited to 999 units. The car goes on sale in Europe later this year, but Audi has not confirmed whether it will be available in the U.S. European pricing starts at 140,000 euros ($167,461) for the coupe, and 153,000 euros ($183,010) for the Spyder.

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