This section comes with the caveat that a cancelled flight meant our time with the car was short, and thus a full road test on British roads beckons.
But moving on – does this car feel rear-driven, then? In normal driving, not overtly, it must be said. Stability still pervades, but it’s now served with an element of poise that wasn’t always there before.
In fact, the most remarkable thing about the RWS model is the way it rides on that retuned suspension. On the admittedly smooth roads north of Madrid, its travel seemed to be simultaneously longer and more gracefully controlled than before. It’s hard to describe, but imagine air suspension with the communication injected back into it, and the front axle in particular seems to have shuffled off the slightly brittle sensation of the four-wheel-drive car. It is wonderfully, unexpectedly supple and invites you to push the chassis hard.
Indeed, contrary to what you might think – and, make no mistake, this car can powerslide for Germany – the RWS model is actually mostly about its leading axle. Drive with some commitment and those familiar with the existing R8 will detect a palpably crisper, lighter response from the steering, which no longer operates under the strain of 50kg of driveshafts and differential hardware.
We’ve got a lot of time for the way the all-wheel-drive R8 will jink sideways under power and then ferociously haul itself straight, and its all-weather pace can be bewildering even if you’re not in the mood, but the RWS is altogether more gratifying to drive at the brink of grip and traction. No surprises there.
To vividly make the point, Audi gave us an empty military base and a few cones to explore the car’s limit-handling, although any conclusions are to be taken with a pinch of salt, owing to the fact that winter rubber was used. Thank the abrasive surface for that; it would have ripped summer tyres to ribbons in minutes.
If this sounds puerile, apologies – but with the RWS, you’re not required to throw the chassis so violently to get it sideways and neither do you have to be quite so quick applying counter-steer. Its window of opportunity is usefully large in this sense, and if you anticipate the moment the rear axle is going to break away you can wind on the opposite lock almost at your leisure. It’s a truly enchanting feeling and the RWS is impressively benign given the location of its engine.
Of course, on the road this is all largely irrelevant, but the RWS still allows its driver to indulge in that quarter-turn of counter-steer with that much less jeopardy involved, and recalibrated electronic stability control helps in this regard.