The Audi R8 RWS is currently on our bucket lists of cars we must drive before we, well, kick the bucket. It’s probably the most special car Audi currently makes, even if its run is so limited that Audi no longer actually makes it. RWS stands for “Rear Wheel Series” and it’s the first rear-wheel drive Audi, maybe ever. That means that the Audi R8 RWS is a mid-engine, rear-wheel drive, V10-powered supercar. Sign us up.
But the R8 RWS isn’t the only rear-wheel drive, hardcore supercar on the market with a high-revving naturally-aspirated engine. The Porsche 911 GT3 Touring Pack is here to take the rear-drive R8 head-on and it’s a serious weapon in itself.
So which one of these cars is better? Well, Top Gear took both cars to Wales in the middle of winter to find out. On summer tires. I can’t tell if that’s brilliant or insane.
First up is the Audi R8 RWS, with its 5.2 liter naturally-aspirated V10 engine that makes 540 hp and 398 lb-ft of torque, seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox and just its rear wheels providing traction. According to TG, it feels similar to the standard R8 Quattro at normal speeds but, once properly on it, the steering feels a bit sharper and engaging, uncorrupted by front axles. But it’s never sketchy or hard to handle like you might imagine a rear-drive V10-powered supercar to be. It proves just how good and well sorted the R8 chassis is.
That engine, though. Its rear-wheel drive layout might be the big news but its free-breathing V10 is always the lead singer of the R8 band. It screams to its 8,500 rpm redline and makes a glorious noise getting there. It’s operatic and exotic and flipping fantastic. The rest of the car, though, is a bit less exotic. Its suspension is comfortable, its interior is very typically Audi and its technology is easy to use.
On the other hand, the Porsche 911 GT3 Touring Pack is a hardcore monster ready to eat up, chew and spit out its occupants. It, too, uses a naturally-aspirated engine but the Porsche’s is a 4.0 liter flat-six. It also revs high, but to a stratospheric 9,000 rpm. While the 911 GT3 makes a good noise, it’s more mechanical and purposeful, rather than beautiful and exotic like the R8’s. So its dramatic and exciting but it doesn’t tickle the senses like the R8’s V10. It’s fast, though, making 500 hp and 339 lb-ft of torque.
Where the 911 GT3 Touring Pack differentiates itself from the Audi R8 RWS is in how it feels. It’s much harder edged, with a significantly firmer suspension, half rollcage in the back and almost no sound deadening. So it’s uncomfortable, loud and quite raucous. However, it rewards by being pure and engaging to drive in a way that the R8 can’t. Its steering extremely communicative and its feedback is near telepathic. Being a Touring Pack model, it also comes with a proper six-speed manual gearbox, rather than the R8’s dual-clutch auto. So it involves the driver far more.
In the end, Top Gear chose the 911 GT3 over the Audi R8 RWS. Both are excellent cars and both are fantastic fun to drive. But TG felt that the 911 is the more rewarding one to drive fast, the one that feels more special. They claim the Audi R8 RWS to be the best R8 ever made, with better steering and more balanced dynamics, but it’s just not the driver’s car that the 911 GT3 Touring Pack is.