Audi’s RS Avants are family wagons turned brutal supercars
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 3omph 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.
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 minors, the air-intake-riddled front bumper, and the fantastic Recaro chairs and fillets of carbon- fibre 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 30oorpm and haul smooth and hard to 6soorpm 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.
Price: £77,625 then, £25k-£35k now
Engine: 4991cc 40v twin-turbo V10, 572bhp @ 6250rpm, 479lb ft @ 1500rpm
Transmission: 6-speed semi-auto, all-wheel drive
Performance: 4.6sec 0-62mph, 155mph (175mph de-restricted)