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.
Read more about the history of Audi’s RS brand.