We’re spoiled for choice when it comes to fast estate cars these days. We could spend hours discussing the latest 600bhp AMG, 200mph Alpina or even the excellent Volkswagen Golf R estate. Eventually, the conversation will circle back to Audis. It’s a niche that the company has made its own, and it’s all thanks to the ballistic RS2 Avant.
“Faster than a McLaren!” exclaimed the front cover of Autocar & Motor in 1994. Based on the 80-derived S2, the first RS Audi was actually the result of a partnership with Porsche. Shells were shipped from Ingolstadt to the Rossle-Bau plant in Zuffenhausen, where Porsche engineers worked their magic.
First up, the regular 2.2-litre, 20-valve five-cylinder engine received a bigger KKK turbo – running at higher boost – along with high-lift camshafts, a new intercooler, bigger exhaust and high-flow fuel injectors. The result? A staggering 315bhp and 302 lb ft.
The engine remains flexible at low rpm, but the the boost comes in with a ferocious kick, accompanied by the off-beat five-cylinder thrum reminiscent of those rally cars. Combined with the quattro four-wheel drive system, it could genuinely out-accelerate a McLaren F1 to 30mph – as Autocar discovered – and being built by Porsche meant that it wasn’t subject to the normal 155mph ‘gentlemen’s agreement’, topping out at 163mph.
A wide-mouthed front bumper, dished Porsche wheels and bright red brake calipers from the 968 Club Sport make it abundantly clear that this Audi means serious business. The full-length red tail lamp strip, colour-coded side strips and and Porsche door mirrors differentiate further from the regular S2. The interior differs very little though, although the Recaro seats look and feel every bit as good as you would expect. The bright blue Alcantara trim on some cars is an acquired taste, but more subtle options were available. Five exterior paint options were available in the UK, but the RS Blue of the car above is the signature colour.
Bespoke 245/40 Dunlop tyres, thicker anti-roll bars and slightly firmed up springs and dampers completed the package. Just like the original quattro rally cars, the RS2 is slightly hampered by the nose-heavy weight distribution inherent to all Audis of the time, but Porsche did a good job of getting the balance just right. The dead-feeling steering came in for some criticism, but thanks to the mighty traction and unflappable high-speed stability, a well-driven RS2 could still cover ground quicker than most dedicated sports cars. And it could do it all day, every day, in all weather conditions. It proved popular with bank robbers looking to make quick getaways too…
Which one to buy?
It was never a big seller, and thanks to the £45,705 basic price in the UK, approximately 180 right-hand-drive examples sold here between 1994 and 1995. Production totalled 2891 in total. Left-hand drive cars are more common, and slightly better value.
Only five different colours were offered in the UK, Polar Silver, Laser Red, Ragusa Green, Volcano Black and RS Blue Pearl effect, with a few more available in left-hand drive markets.
Performance and specs
||2226cc, 20v DOHC in-line five-cylinder
||315bhp @ 6500rpm
||302lb ft @ 3000rpm
||Six-speed manual, four-wheel-drive
|Price when new
Dimensions and weight
• Firstly, make sure you are looking at a genuine RS2 with an ‘ARGE’ chassis plate. Many mechanicals are shared with the regular S2, but parts for these are also scarce and expensive. Anything unique to the RS2 even more so.
• Engines are extremely tough, and will happily take more power. Transmission can wear out though – especially if the car has been abused.
• Most cars have covered more than 100,000 miles – it comes with the territory – so the key is the quality and regularity of servicing and maintenance.
1992: Audi launches the Audi S2 in coupe form, replacing the Audi Quattro as the company’s high-performance offering.
1993: Audi S2 offered in Avant and very limited saloon form.
1994: RS2 launched, based on the S2 Avant, with substantial development by Porsche.
1995: Production ends in July 1995, although many cars registered in 1996 and some in 1997.
Owners clubs, forums and websites
Summary and prices
Values briefly dipped below £10,000 in the mid-2000s, but demand for the RS2 has always out-stripped supply. As it stands, £25,000 is the entry point for a high-mileage left-hand drive car.
Anything sub 100k-miles is considered super-low mileage these days, and you can expect to pay upwards of £40,000 for one of these today. Right-hand drive cars, of which only 180 came to the UK, carry a fair premium over LHD.
It’s certainly no bargain. For the money, there are any number of more exciting and driver-focused machines out there, but there’s something alluring about this legendary wagon. Not only is it unmistakable, but being the first car to wear Audi’s RennSport badge makes it an increasingly important piece of history.