This Audi RS2 Utilizes Quattro In The Swiss Alps
Photography by Giovanni K.
Story by Alex Sobran and Giovanni K.
I’ve been interested in cars for as long as I can recall, and if I’m honest, it probably started even further back than the memories stretch. What I can say with complete certainty though is that growing up never meant growing out of my passion. The cars that really interest me are those with stories to tell, the ones produced with the manufacturer’s best talent at the helm, cars that left a mark as soon as they left the factory.
Of all the greats to choose from, my favorite, the F40, falls frustratingly beyond my budget. Surrounded by a flurry of speculative investing upon its launch, I was more interested in the actual car rather than worrying about its supposed production run; the thing that mattered most was what it was as a car, not as a piece of a portfolio. And it was a lot of car. Always thrilling to drive and often intimidating too, the F40 deserves your full attention, and why shouldn’t it? Being closer to a race car than one for the road made this thing properly fast, while the heavily-vented no-nonsense look of the car let everyone know it.
Since this is about a certain Audi though, it’s time to talk about Porsche. I’ve owned a 997 Turbo and a 991 GT3, currently own a 996 GT2, and will surely have another car from Stuttgart in my garage in the future. It’s safe to assume that I like the marque. Many people do of course, but in the early ‘90s Porsche could have really used their support to help them get out of a bout of financial troubles. One way they went about their fiscal recovery involved collaboration projects on production cars; first with Mercedes and the legendary 500E, and then with Audi on their first RS model, the RS2.
Based on the Audi 80 Avant, the 5-cylinder wagon was re-worked by both manufacturers until they arrived at what you see here. Remember, this is in 1994, and this car is still impressive over two decades later: 0-60mph is possible in under 5 seconds thanks to the over 300 horsepower generated by a 2.2 liter engine with a big turbocharger egging it on. Top speed was in excess of 160mph, just in case you were running exceptionally late.
So where was Porsche’s hand in all of this? To start, you can see some pretty damning fingerprints on the exterior: the mirrors, front foglights, and front bumper should give you some good hints if the Cup-style wheels and 911 brakes didn’t already. Furthermore, the big red heckblende between the taillights creates a look similar to the rear ends of its Porsche contemporaries. And if you have a sense for the details, notice how the car’s badging incorporates “Porsche” underneath Audi’s four rings. The cooperative effort went below the skin too though. Porsche was very involved with the car’s suspension and braking setup (the big Brembos also read “Porsche,” and for the obvious reason), and in order to put those systems to the test they also went under the hood and worked-over the cams, exhaust, induction, ignition, and cooling required to wring out power from the enlarged turbocharger.
Of course all this teaming-up makes the car special—and I can’t say that it isn’t a big part of why I love this car—but to me the real reason for wanting to own an RS2 is its relation to the Group B Quattros. I know, it’s not a Sport Quattro. I know, the RS2 was never rallied by Audi. I get it. But as someone who considers the sounds of a Group B Quattro aural nirvana, I can’t help but be reminded of that when the boost kicks in and those distinctive inline-5 noises tell me that the car is doing all it can to break free of the legendary Quattro traction.
Knowing that I wanted to own an RS2 before the prices became too high, I started scanning markets about three years ago looking for the right one (and even better if I could find one near me in Switzerland). I wanted to find something in good condition with relatively low mileage, but this proved difficult without having to pay a small fortune. After almost two years of this search, I happened to be driving around my home in the Alps when I noticed a black one parked along the road next to a local mechanic’s shop. The car was scheduled for some light service work (of course I had to find out what the car was doing so close by), and I asked the typical follow-up: is it for sale? Though there was no signage on the car, its owner was apparently open to selling it as half an hour later he and I had made the deal. After an exhausting, and near exhaustive, search I had finally found my dream RS2.
The car is a 1994 painted in Volcano Schwarz Metallic, it has a black full leather interior with carbon fiber inserts, and best of all, just barely over 115,000 km, or 70,000 miles. Since owning it for about a year now, I have a lot of praise to give, but the most impressive aspect of the RS2 has to be the boost: there is massive lag up to a certain point on the tach, and then it just becomes a different car past that. I think this is a big part of the driving experience, and one that I have certainly had some fun with! And in the snow the car really feels like it’s in its element. The handling is pretty unbelievable in poor road conditions, making you confident in its abilities regardless of wherever you might be. It’s on rails in the deep slush we get up here, truly remarkable, especially when compared with my Porsche.
I also like the fact that not everyone knows what the car is. Sometimes people will think I’m driving an old 80 Avant and others will be amazed to see an RS2, especially now with their increasing rarity—I don’t plan on adding to the supply of these cars anytime soon!