Top Gear's Bargain Heroes: the Audi RS2
With Porsche's help, Audi built one of the finest estates ever. Here's your guide
First, a bit of history
The Audi RS2 wasn’t the world’s first fast estate – the Volvo 850 T5 arrived a year earlier – but it is the most iconic of those early hard-hitting haulers. It was also Audi’s first RS model (yes, an estate) and because Audi didn’t have the expertise it needed for the project, was built with help from Porsche.
Quite a bit of help. The shells, adapted from the standard Audi 80, were constructed at Ingolstadt, then sent to Zuffenhausen near Stuttgart where they received the brake, wheel and tyre package from the Porsche 968 Clubsport, plus the uprated engine, six-speed manual gearbox and new door mirrors.Advertisement - Page continues below
The 2.2-litre 5cyl was boosted by a single KKK turbocharger, yielding 315bhp at 6500rpm and 302lb ft at 3,000rpm. 0-60mph was over in 5.4secs and flat out it would hit 163mph. For the time these were stellar figures, as quick as a Ferrari 456.
It was launched in the UK in summer 1994, costing a hefty £45,705. Only 182 right hand drive versions came to the UK.
How it feels to drive today
It’s the turbo lag that gets you – there’s so much of it. That’s where the gains have come in the last few years. Here you put your foot down at 30mph in third gear and count to four before anything meaningful happens.
Keep the tuneful five cylinder bubbling away and it’s better, but best the best way to overcome the lag is the old rally driver’s trick of left foot braking and building the power up with your right. Not great for brake longevity, but it does mean you exit corners with a proper whoosh.Advertisement - Page continues below
It’s light and nimble and holds a line well as long as you don’t push it too hard, and to be honest I didn’t hurl it about as it’s over 20 years old now and it doesn’t seem right. OK, I did on a couple of occasions and it understeers.
Open the bonnet and you’ll see why – the whole of the in-line longitudinal engine is ahead of the front axle. It’s still quick though – as rapid about the place as a Golf R, and way more involving.
And compared to modern stuff it feels bright and communicative. I’m not sure the steering would have been that great back in the day, but in a world of electric set-ups, this hydraulic system just has more about it.
The pillars are thin, the seats narrow, the gearchange a bit crunchy, the chassis less rigid than we’re now used to, the ride less insulating (but well damped on plump tyres) and overall the whole car is shot through with an eagerness and ability that the vast majority of modern cars struggle to match.
What to watch out for
The RS2 was renowned for its toughness, so mechanically it’s the usual stuff you need to keep an eye on – that the annual oil change and inspection has been carried out, and the sills and arches haven’t succumbed to corrosion.
The six-speed manual gearbox will likely be slack and loose on higher mileage cars and the manually activated locking rear diff on our car (there’s a button on the centre console) wasn’t keen on staying locked.
The one reoccurring issue that owners report is tyre rub. The original tyres were 245/40 ZR17 Dunlop SP Sport 8000, but apparently many newer 245s come up larger, causing them to rub when turning. The answer, apparently, is to fit narrower 235 or 225 tyres stretched to fit.Advertisement - Page continues below
And, of course, you'll want to know what you can expect to pay. With so few in the UK new, they aren't abundant in the classifieds either. This might be one to take your time over, waiting for the car that suits you to come along. Particularly if you want your RS2 in the trademark Nogaro Blue pictured here.
Prices typically vary between £25,000 and £40,000; the bottom end of the scale will likely be a slightly scruffy car with 150,000 miles or more. Head north of £30,000 and the mileage will fall (and cleanliness rise) proportionally.
Alright, so perhaps a £40k car that's over two decades old isn't quite a bargain. But it's so much more special (not to mention scarcer) than the specced up A4 Avant you could spend that money on...