How Porsche collaborated with Audi to make the record-breaking RS2 Avant
The Audi RS2 Avant combined the space of a family car with a turbocharged driving experience – and it was developed collaboratively by Audi and Porsche
At launch in 1994, it was the world’s fastest estate car. It was also the first Audi to break the 250 km/h barrier. Even today, the RS2 has a loyal following, hailed as the first truly high-performance family car, and one famously co-developed by Audi and Porsche.
Ever since Ferdinand Porsche established his design and engineering office in Stuttgart in 1931, the Porsche name has been closely linked to customer development projects. The tradition was successfully continued by Porsche Engineering, a 100 per cent subsidiary of Porsche AG that would focus exclusively on providing innovative solutions, now with a high degree of expertise in digitalisation.
It’s a concept that always proves mutually beneficially. In the case of the RS2, Audi needed to keep abreast of the rival BMW M3, both in terms of image and outright performance. And Porsche was able to top up its company coffers in economically challenging times while also reaching a new market segment of sports car enthusiasts.
Twenty-five years after the last RS2 Avant was produced, Ralf Friese, corporate historian at Audi, has come to meet Michael Hölscher, head of the project at Porsche at the time. Friese arrives in a Tropic Green RS2 from Ingolstadt and the Porsche Museum has provided a Viola Metallic 964 to meet it. Components from both the 964 and 993 generation 911, such as the indicators, fog lights and the semi light bar, were all transferred to the RS2, so these cars are in more ways than one distant cousins.
On the square outside the Porsche Museum, Hölscher describes how the cooperation project came about: “A few years prior, we had created the 500 E model together with Mercedes-Benz and this had boosted our profile as a development service provider thanks to fast, high-quality results.” In 1993, Audi announced the high-performance sports estate at the IAA International Motor Show in Frankfurt and the car was launched in March of the following year – right on time, despite a tight schedule and budget.
Michael Hölscher and Ralf Friese
“I am delighted to be able to drive this beautiful car today,” says Hölscher. “With a relatively low production number of 2,891 units, it is a rare sight nowadays.” His team produced the RS2 in the historic Rössle building in Zuffenhausen, the same building in which the Mercedes-Benz 500 E was built. Audi provided painted body parts and some add-ons and Porsche took care of the rest. “We were responsible for new parts and development services,” Hölscher explains, “while Audi took care of body parts and components that could be transferred from other models.”
Numerous Porsche parts were integrated into the RS2 or developed from scratch in Zuffenhausen: the 17” light-alloy wheels stemming from the Cup car, the exterior mirrors including a new mirror base design, the characteristic red high-performance brakes, Porsche lettering in the RS logo as a new component, the front and rear bumpers, the semi light bar, dials and the door openers. The team also fundamentally re-engineered the engine with new parts. “Around 20 percent of the RS2 stems from Porsche,” Hölscher estimates. “We found it essential to make the Porsche character immediately noticeable and the associations clear.”
The compact estate – with a 2.2-litre straight five-cylinder engine, all-wheel drive and 315 PS – would prove quite controversial thanks to its turbocharger. “Back then and to this day, the strong, design-based turbocharger lag puts a driver under a certain amount of pressure,” Hölscher says. “Quite a few drivers were not terribly fond of the sudden push, while proud RS2 owners have always loved the turbocharger. The engine’s response characteristics are sensational, most of all from the lower engine speed range.”
The RS2 was the first Audi that was not electronically speed limited, with a speedometer indicating 300 km/h and a top speed of 262 km/h. The five-door estate sprints from 0-100km/h in just 5.4 seconds and generates a maximum torque of 410 Nm for incredible in-gear acceleration.
“This outing was great fun,” Hölscher says as he returns the RS2’s keys to Friese with something close to reluctance. “It seemed like old times, more than a quarter of a century ago. It’s marvellous to experience how this car can still keep up with contemporary models. And it does so in a very sporty fashion!”