In the early 1990s Audi was still smarting from unintended acceleration claims, which severely damaged the sales of its 5000 models. Those claims have been largely discredited, but back then the bad taste lingered. Audi bounced back, though, and created one of its most inspired cars in a joint project with Porsche.
Built between March 1994 and July 1995, the Audi RS2 Avant wagon was insanely fast and correspondingly expensive. It was Audi’s first high-performance “RS” model and based on the humble Audi 80 five-passenger wagon. Porsche handled most of the final assembly in its Zuffenhausen factory that had built the Mercedes-Benz 500E. Porsche also beefed up the 6-s-eed gearbox and added 968 Clubsport wheels, tires, and brakes. The engine was a 2.2-liter, 20-valve, inline-five, but Porsche installed a larger KKK turbocharger running 20.3 psi boost. The net result was 315 bhp at 6,500 rpm, 11 more than Audi’s own flagship A8 with its 4.2-liter V8.
Autocar in the UK tested the Audi RS2 Avant and noted it could stay with a Ferrari 456 through a quarter mile, running it in 13.6 seconds at 102 mph. The RS2 Avant also recorded 0-100 mph in 13.1 seconds, and speed was variously recorded at 163 mph or 166 mph depending on which magazine was testing it. Autocar found the RS2 Avant impossible to dislike, despite its aggressive nature and take-no-prisoners power delivery. “It has charisma, even if it lacks character...It’ll take you time to adjust to the engine’s turbo lag and the strength of its charge, but you’re unlikely ever to tire of it.” That turbo lag was, unsurprisingly, savage. All the power arrived at once, and you’d better be pointed where you want to go.
Sadly, the Avant RS2 was not sold in the U.S. and the 2891cars built mostly stayed in Europe where a 160 mph grocery-getter had a certain cachet. The good news is that they’re eligible for import, although demand and prices for the cleanest cars is quite high.