Audi’s RS Avants are fam­ily wag­ons turned bru­tal su­per­cars

CAR (UK) - - Car Interactive - Words Ben Barry |

The RS2 bears the Porsche in­signia on its in­duc­tion plenum

IT TOOK A BU­GATTI VEY­RON to fi­nally top the McLaren F1’s max­i­mum speed, but in 1995 the all-wheel-drive Audi RS2 took the slightly niche hon­our of beat­ing it from zero to 30mph with a time of just 1.5 sec­onds. In do­ing so it made the es­tate car sexy and set the tem­plate for gen­er­a­tions of hot Audi es­tates. This blue car is one of the most rep­re­sen­ta­tive ex­am­ples on the planet: Audi’s own RS2, just 2500 miles from new.

Based on the Audi 80 Avant and launched in 1994 for £45,705, the RS2 was a joint project with Porsche and is, de­spite its name, Audi’s first ever RS. Es­tate bodyshells were shipped to Porsche’s Zuf­fen­hausen pro­duc­tion fa­cil­ity, where Audi’s fa­mil­iar 2.2-litre five-cylin­der mo­tor was mod­i­fied with a larger tur­bocharger, in­ter­cooler and higher-flow in­jec­tors. Proudly bear­ing the Porsche in­signia on its in­duc­tion plenum, the turbo five made 315bhp, cracked 0-62mph in just 4.8sec and hit 163mph. Still fast now, scorch­ing back then.

The chas­sis was Porsche-fet­tled and the Brembo four-pis­ton brake calipers also bear the Porsche leg­end. There are other clues that this is no ordinary Audi 80, most no­tably the Porsche 968 Club­sport wheels, the 911 mir­rors, the air-in­take-rid­dled front bumper, and the fan­tas­tic Re­caro chairs and fil­lets of car­bon­fi­bre that lift the func­tional in­te­rior. The RS2 is a cu­ri­ous hy­brid of its two par­ents, its con­tem­po­rary su­per­car-em­bar­rass­ing pace al­lied to slightly de­tached dy­nam­ics. There is a per­verse en­joy­ment in feel­ing the boost kick past 3000rpm and haul smooth and hard to 6500rpm in such an un­likely pack­age, and there’s a sat­is­fy­ing me­chan­i­cal heft to the gearshift, feel through the steer­ing rim too, but the throt­tle is stodgy, and there’s so much road and wind noise that the five-cylin­der magic is barely au­di­ble. There’s ap­peal and nos­tal­gia wrapped up in the RS2’s evoca­tive bodyshell, but I’d pol­ish mine more than drive it – which isn’t a bad idea, be­cause the RS2 is a cult clas­sic and val­ues will only in­crease. 2891 were built, but just 182 of those with the steer­ing wheel on the right. You’ll get baggy, left-hand-drive ex­am­ples un­der £30k but there are low-mileage right-hook­ers out there for £80k.

There’s never been an­other RS2, but gen­er­a­tions of RS4s and RS6s fol­lowed. In many ways, the sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion, 2008 RS6

(co­de­named C6) rep­re­sents peak Qu­at­tro RS, with its mon­strous twin-tur­bocharged V10 de­rived from the Lam­borgh­ini Gal­lardo’s. Dry-sumped and with 4991cc, it com­bines 572bhp with dev­as­tat­ing all-wheel drive trac­tion, and in Avant trim was the world’s most pow­er­ful wagon, pok­ier even than the R8 su­per­car.

Audi knew early on it was the last of its kind: project leader Jens Koch said at the launch that there wouldn’t be a more pow­er­ful Audi RS for years. True enough, the C7 RS6 ar­rived in 2012 two cylin­ders and 20 horses poorer.

So the C6 re­mains an in­cred­i­bly fast con­veyance for fam­i­lies, shop­ping and hounds, with gen­er­ous space in the rear seats and al­most enough space be­hind them to park a Cater­ham, never mind tow one. For some, the C6 will be too sub­tle: the en­gine is so smooth and lin­ear with its peak torque from 1500rpm to 6250rpm, and the V10 sound­track so muted, you might ex­pect more drama. And it’s true that the lat­est RS6 made a huge leap dy­nam­i­cally, with more tac­tile steer­ing that avoids its pre­de­ces­sor’s strik­ingly cum­ber­some heft, and a much more nim­ble, pre­cise chas­sis. Yet as an un­der-the-radar luxury ex­press, a car to flick off vast dis­tances in aw­ful con­di­tions at speed, with ab­so­lute re­fine­ment and to­tal se­cu­rity, the C6 RS6 re­mains an awe­some buy.

Pho­tog­ra­phy Barry Hayden

Flat-bot­tomed wheel feels good. Selectable park­ing sen­sor chime tone lets you play tunes in traic Porsche good­ness is scat­tered through­out, but even Stuttgart in­volve­ment can’t hide the truth that the RS2 is an old car now, and feels it

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