If ever there was a car to make me feel like I’ll never understand the machinations of the performance car overs market, the Audi R8 RWS is it. Here is a car that is exceedingly rare: only 999 were built for all four corners of the planet, those split between Coupes and Spyders. That means the RWS you really want here in the UK - a fixed-roof model in right-hand drive - is about as common as a sunny Easter weekend.
And here is a car that is exceedingly good: I’m yet to come across a reviewer who has driven both the RWS and the non-limited edition, four-wheel drive R8, and concluded that shorn of half its driveshafts the R8 is nowhere near as good as it might be. They’ve all said the same thing I did when I first reviewed it last year. That is, if you really care about driving a supercar rather than just being seen in one, the rear-wheel drive model is sweeter, more fun and in every sense more rewarding to pedal about.
I was reintroduced to the RWS just last week for a forthcoming PH video. Driving one for the third or fourth time, and on this occasion on roads I know very well in South Wales, I became more convinced than ever that the rear-driven R8 is superior as a driver’s car to its four-wheel drive equivalents. Lighter by 50kg and blessed with its own chassis tuning, the RWS has much better steering and it’s engaging to drive at moderate speeds, which other second-generation R8s never are.
If you’d presented that information to me - along with the suspicion that the R8 won’t be around in its current V10 form for a great deal longer - at the tail end of 2017, I’d have bet the farm on this being a car to whip the speculators into a frenzy. If I’d had the means, I might even have taken a punt on an RWS for myself.
And I’d have lost a small fortune. The RWS cost £112,450 new, before options. As I type there are three such cars listed for sale in the PH classifieds, the most expensive of them priced at £99,979 and the cheapest, with only 3200 miles behind it, at £92,500. That’s a loss of £20,000 (or more, most likely, since the original invoice will have been punchier still). So we can be conclusive on this point: the RWS was not one of the small number of performance cars to have been picked up and launched into the stratosphere by the whirlwind that is the speculator market.
I suppose that’s a very good thing for all but the small number of people who put their money into one on the hope that it would be. It’s interesting to compare the Audi’s values to those of another German performance car, one with more or less the same power, new at around the same time and costing an almost identical £111,802. And if you want a Porsche 911 GT3 (991.2) today, you’ll have to pay at least £135,000 for it.
I’m in no doubt which of the two cars I would most like to own. And although I would choose the 911 over the R8 every day of the week, I cannot make sense of the yawning price differential - a year or so after they arrived in the UK - between the two. As a thing to drive, the GT3 is not £42,000 better than the RWS.
It says to me that as values continue to fall, the RWS increasingly becomes the (relative) bargain of the junior supercar sector. It has a long way to go before it falls within my reach, although that loss of £20,000 in 12 months means you might see me in one before the next World Cup (if only that trajectory never levels out…)
But level out it will. In fact, I have a hunch. Eventually, the second-generation R8 will be replaced, quite probably by an electrified supercar with a far less evocative power unit than a soaring 5.2-litre normally-aspirated V10. Consequently, demand will increase for the earlier models, particularly that limited edition one that was actually pretty rare and yet far more enjoyable to drive. That’s when the RWS will get the recognition it deserves, and its values will begin to climb. Just don’t hold me to that - I’ve been wrong about RWS values before.