It was an absolute honor for me to review this 20 years old "Halo car", The Legendary Audi RS2, the first EVER RS product from Audi.
The Audi RS2 Avant was produced by a fascinating joint venture between Audi and Porsche. It was based on the Audi 80 Avant S2, and was powered by a modified version of its 2.2-litre five-cylinder 20-valve KKK24 turbocharged engine that developed 311bhp. Final assembly was completed by Porsche in Zuffenhausen, where two other "Halo cars" were born, namely the Rare Mercedes E500 "Hammer" and the Legendary Porsche 959!
Before driving it, I predict the performance must be fascinating, especially if Autocar magazine famously timed the RS2 from 0-30mph in 1.5 seconds and put a headline "Quicker than a McLaren F1" on the front cover back in 1994. This is how legends are based upon, and Audi has capitalized on the RS2's critical success and following it up with generations of super-estate cars, making the genre its own. Handling must be excellent too, with Porsche-designed braking and suspension systems, Porsche Cup brakes and Cup wheels being a carryover straight from the 964.
RS2 combined super-sports car acceleration with five-door practicality, creating the ultimate performance car for the family. The RS2 was very rare and expensive back in the day, costing more than a Jag XJR, E36 M3 and Mercedes C36. 20 years ago, I could only dream of seeing one of these Hot Rod wagon, let alone driving one.
It's a dream come true today when I was handed the key to this beautiful Blue superwagon and I quickly proceed to climb in and start my drive. I only had 10 minutes to play with it, so I have to make every second count. The interior haven't aged a bit, the nice Recaro seats, steering wheel and shifter still look the business. The carbon fiber trimmings looks refreshingly nice, maybe because they are real carbon fiber, as opposed to fake ones widely used nowadays. The instrument gauges are white faced and very "Porsche inspired". Let's not waste time and startup this beast.
The engine roars to life without much drama, the car rolls off from a standstill in a very docile manner, not the kind of beast I was expecting that can slay a McLaren F1. The suspension is stiff but still very compliant compared to modern day Audi RS cars in "Sport mode" suspension setting. The steering is surprisingly light but numb in feel. The brakes are very good, in a classic Porsche manner, which means you have to REALLY press it hard to tap into the awesome reserve of braking power. The clutch pedal has a nice feel and take up point, which shouldn't be too tiresome to drive in traffic. The manual shifter has a very good mechanical feel, which is better than most modern Audi's synthetic feel. The Quattro system on this car also has a very mechanical feel, you can sense the differentials working its magic through the seat of your pants.
The test route this time is a stretch of winding mountain roads, perfect spot to find out the handling characteristic of this RS2. Full throttle acceleration from a standstill, the 2.2L Inline 5 is lazy at first, but once the tach hit 3500RPM, the KKK turbo spools up and propels you forward and pin you down onto the Recaro. Short-shift at 6500RPM and revs drop back to the 3500 RPM sweet spot and acceleration continues. This feels exactly like the single turbo Porsche 911 of the 90's, namely the 964 3.3 Turbo. Big turbo lag met with big turbo rush, it does take some getting use to, but keep it at the sweet spot, you will grin like an idiot.
Approaching a corner at a rather brisk pace, all you need to do is squeeze the excellent Porsche sourced brakes, downshift a gear and turn in. The turn-in is just right, not too sharp, not too soft either. Right before apex, you should start feeding the throttle to build-up the boost. Initially, you will feel the huge turbo lag, but if you get the timing just right, the turbo will reach full boost right at apex and fire you to the next corner like a bullet! BUT hold-on, you must apply a tad more steering lock at apex, because once the boost comes, the RS2 will push wide unexpectedly before the mechanical differential and Quattro system does its magic to keep the understeer in check.
To drive the RS2 fast, you must understand the car's strengths and shortcomings. Use it to your advantage, the car will reward you with excellent speed and poise. In other words, it's a bit like what Bruce Lee said, "Be like Water, Flow with it!" In conclusion, the Audi RS2 lives up to its legendary reputation and it is a true collector's car.