Audi RS2 (1994)

In the early 90s, after the magnificent Quattro, Audi created a new quattro coupe called S2 based on the contemporary 80 sedan. The S2 ran a 230 horsepower version of the five-cylinder turbocharged engine and a Torsen quattro system similar to its spiritual master. Unfortunately, the car lost the beauty and entertaining driving character of its predecessor and failed to catch the heart of car lovers. People also found it lacking performance to compete with the contemporary BMW M3, which boosted a 286 horsepower straight-6. However, S2 did have something its rivals not offered: a wagon version. The S2 Avant started the trend of performance wagons which would be followed by RS4, RS6 Avant and some AMG Mercedes in the next decade.

But that alone wouldn't put the S2 into our classic car archives. What did that was RS2, a car modified from the S2 Avant by Porsche. At the time, Porsche was producing a fabulous high-performance sedan on behalf of Mercedes-Benz, 500E. The 500E was modified by Porsche and built in its own Zuffenhausen factory based on the W124 saloon. Audi was impressed with Porsche's success of transforming the ordinary Mercedes into a dynamic sports sedan. Simultaneously, Porsche was also seeking a complement to the factory as the production of 500E was going to cease. In this way, Porsche was offered a contract to develop and manufacture an even faster S2 Avant, called RS2.

Porsche installed a bigger KKK turbocharger to the 2.2-litre 20-valve straight 5-cylinder engine. Boost pressure raised from 1.1 bar to 1.4 bar, together with larger intercooler, smoother intake and exhaust, aggressive camshafts, larger fuel injectors and, of course, revised ECU, the power output jumped to 315 hp at 6500 rpm and 302 lbft at 3000 rpm. This was the ultimate evolution of the famous Audi inline-5 engine.

Porsche also fitted the RS2 with 911's massive brakes to ensure terrific stopping power. 911's 17-inch wheels wrapped with high-performance 245/40 ZR Dunlop tires provided tremendous grip. As for the suspensions, stiffer dampers and anti-roll bars were used. The only part didn't touch was the quattro 4-wheel-drive system, which was robust enough to handle the increased power.

Predictable from its ultra-high specific output, the power delivery of RS2 was violent - below 3000 rpm it went like a sheep, once got its turbine spinning at full speed it transformed into a wild beast, pushing the car to 60 mph in 4.8 seconds and then 100 mph in 13.1 seconds, as measured by Autocar. This matched the mighty race purpose Sport Quattro a decade ago, which was incredible for a car having 5 proper seats and a big loading area !

Such an explosive performance was well handled by the quattro drivetrain and the massive tires, but the RS2 didn't feel as fun to drive as the Quattro, or to lesser extent, BMW M3. Its had too severe turbo lag, thus the power delivery was on-off switch like. This should not have appeared in a 1990s car. The chassis also took some blame. Yes, it had strong grip and traction, it had first class braking power, and the chassis was mostly free of understeer, but the steering felt wooden, while body roll was not well controlled. What a pity that even Porsche could not correct the inherent flaws of the S2. The RS2 will be remembered for firebreathing power and speed, but it could not match the status of the original Quattro in the eyes of car lovers.


Year of production
No. produced
Layout, Gearbox
Front-engined, 4wd, 6M
Inline-5, dohc, 4v/cyl, turbo
2226 cc
315 hp
302 lbft
1595 kg
Top speed
163 mph (c) / 158 mph*
0-60 mph
4.8 sec*
0-100 mph 13.1 sec*
* Tested by Autocar

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