At launch, the Audi RS2 was the fastest estate car on earth
Despite the promise, the RS2 was no Quattro. It had the grip, balance but not the turn-in or, crucially, the involvement
Porsche's involvement was most obvious in the Clubsport wheels and brakes
Plastic centre panel clearly helped distance the RS2 from lesser models
The RS2 was faster to 30mph than a McLaren F1
Despite its £45,705 price tag, it was faster to 60mph than the Ferrari 456 and 512 TR
In full afterburner launch mode, acceleration is a sight to behold
Despite the enduring fondness for the RS2, at the time of testing, we said the BMW 540i Touring was the better bet
In 1994, the RS2 also counted the BMW M3, Escort Cosworth, Volvo 850 T5 and Lancia Integrale as - much cheaper - rivals
A trio of gauges in the centre console allow monitoring of oil pressure, oil temperature and battery charge status
Its four-wheel drive system made it adept on the rough stuff
Aggressive looks came as standard, but its Audi 80 Avant roots are clear to see
It takes time to adjust to the turbo lag, but you'll not tire of it
We achieved 0-30mph in 1.5sec, 0-60 in 4.8sec and 0-100mph in 13.1sec
Despite a decent sized boot, practicality suffered with a lack of tie-down points
The rear seats fold flat - unique for such a potent estate car at the time
Oversized speedo was framed by traditional warning lights and a message display
Porsche's 17in wheels don't do much of a job of hiding the Clubsport brakes
Cosmetic kevlar trim and black-on-white dials were among changes to the basic Audi 80 dash
RS2 featured a choice of lurid blue or silver Alcantara-trimmed Recaro sports seats
Audi's 20-valve five got a 40 per cent power boost to 315bhp with the help of a KKK turbo
The tweaked ride was surprisingly soft
Despite very obvious flaws, it's impossible not to like the RS2
When the Audi RS2 Avant reached UK shores in August 1994, Autocar was keen to discover if the fastest-ever estate car at that time had a stronger whiff of Zuffenhausen about it than Ingolstadt, due to its myriad of Porsche components.
Priced at £45,705 even 20 years ago, it was by no means inexpensive. Specially finished Audi 80 estate shells were shipped to Porsche’s Zuffenhausen facility in Stuttgart where they were shoehorned with 2.2-litre five cylinder 20-valve turbocharged engines, re-worked gearboxes and Porsche 968 Clubsport wheels, tyres and brakes.
Bolted on for good measure was a KKK turbocharger that was 30 per cent larger than on the Audi S2, running 1.4 bar of boost. A six-speed manual transmission delivered power to all four wheels, which had a manually activated locking differential at the rear axle.
The result was a motor kicking out 311bhp at 6500rpm and 302lb ft of torque at 3000rpm, which enabled the RS2 Avant to sprint from 0-62mph in 5.4sec while romping to its 163mph top speed. By today’s standards, these performance numbers would keep a Porsche Cayman S with PDK incredibly honest.
It was also the most remarkable car Autocar figured from 0-30mph. Dispatching the speed in 1.5sec, the RS2 Avant infamously outpaced a McLaren F1 over the same measurement. To put that milestone into perspective, a new Alpina B3 Biturbo fails to match that landmark, at 2.0sec.
As we said in the road test at the time: “It is a most extraordinary horizon-chaser. It’ll stay with a Ferrari 456 most of the way past the quarter-mile post on to the kilometre, thanks to some spectacular forced induction in-gear increments: 40-60mph in third in 2.8sec, 60-80mph in fourth in 3.6sec, 80-100mph in fifth in 5.1sec and 100-120mph in sixth in 7.7sec.”
The downside to this mind-blowing acceleration of its time was the savage turbo boost, with one tester finding its arrival irritating at times and almost too violent in second gear.
And what the Audi RS2 Avant had in abundance with grunt, it lacked in handling finesse.
“The RS2 still drives like an Audi. On first acquaintance, you might mistake this hybrid for a long-lost relative of the Quattro. The balance is there, the endless grip is there, and there’s an absence of understeer that Quattro drivers would welcome, but there’s no bite. No turn-in so sharp you cut your own rails through corners. But above all, no feel,” said our report.
In spite of its flaws, we found the Audi RS2 Avant impossible not to like. It may have lacked the fluid ride and engaging handling of the 2006 B7 RS4, and the fabulous V8 motor of the current RS4 Avant, but over time it has cemented itself as a Quattro GmbH legend.
As our road test affirmed: “It has charisma, even if it lacks character. It’ll take you time to adjust to the engine’s turbo lag and the strength of its charge, but you’re unlikely ever to tire of it. No, it’s not a Clubsport, or even a 928. When the roads get interesting, it doesn’t. It is, above all, still an Audi, for better or for worse.”
Audi has already started its celebration of the RS2 by launching a commemorative special editition of the RS4 Avant. Dubbed the Nogaro edition, the car comes with new blue paintwork and bespoke interior trim and will launch at the Geneva motor show next month. Audi is still deciding whether to bring the car to the UK, however.