Nobody does fast estates quite like Audi. They’ve been dominating the space for nearly three decades, and this car is the blueprint.
Though others have attempted to muscle in on the patch over the years, it’s hard to picture a fast estate car without four rings sitting interlinked on the grille. While the beating heart of Audi’s rapid family wagons has gone through a number of evolutions, from offbeat turbocharged five-cylinders to ripping naturally-aspirated V8s to a sledgehammer of a twin-turbo V10, the general recipe has remained consistent: four-wheel drive, relatively understated looks and lots of power.
This bright blue slab of rectilinear ’90s-ness, though, is where it began: the Audi RS2. Though it was pipped to the post by a couple of years by the ultra-rare E34 BMW M5 Touring, most fast wagons in the subsequent 30 years have been created in the Audi’s image.
The uninitiated will simply see an Audi 80 Avant; a humble, hardworking hauler only notable now for its scarcity in the post-scrappage scheme Britain of the 2020s. Look closer, though, and there’s some clues to the fury that lurks beneath the RS2’s unassuming features. The side mirrors and alloys, for example, will be intimately familiar to anyone acquainted with the 964-generation Porsche 911.
There’s a reason for this – to create the RS2, Audi sent its staple turbocharged five-cylinder engine, and the bones of the 80 Avant, to the engineering wing of its VW Group stablemates at Porsche, who also assembled the car at their Zuffenhausen plant.
Engine, brakes and suspension were all overhauled by Porsche, with profound results. 311bhp sounds relatively tame in a modern context, but in 1994, a fairly small, four-wheel drive estate car with this kind of power had very few matches in terms of real-world performance.
More telling are the acceleration figures: a period road test by Autocar pegged an RS2 at 1.5 seconds for the run from 0-30mph – quicker than a McLaren F1. Summoning up all the boost provided by the larger turbocharger fitted by Porsche, it continues to pull hard through the gears to a 163mph top speed.
It’s no wonder that Audi have stuck with such a brutally effective blueprint for every subsequent generation of RS4 and RS6 – there’s something deeply appealing about a package that can embarrass sports cars while bringing the entire family along.