Audi Sport celebrates 25 years of RS models: the highest expression of power, performance and technology for a given Audi line.
Audi Sport’s RS models are not quite as well known or widespread as BMW’s M and Mercedes’ AMG vehicles. This one fact makes RS cars and SUVs all the more interesting especially to true enthusiasts. The first RS Audi launched in 1994 and in 25 years, 25 models have sported the RS moniker. All are special but the original RS still gets us overly excited.
Every Audi RS vehicle is based on a basic philosophy: performance, prestige and exclusiveness with full everyday practicality. Now you know why there’s no such thing as an Audi RS R8… Current Managing Director of Audi Sport GmbH, Oliver Hoffmann, said: “For 25 years, our customers have been experiencing the RS models as masterful companions for everyday life that convey pure emotion and maximum driving enjoyment.”
I’ve been incredibly fortunate to drive a third of these RS vehicles over the years. Though this number seems low, remember that the North American market was only every privy to a fraction of these wonderful vehicles.
The original Audi RS was the 1994 RS 2 Avant. The simple mention of “RS 2” conjures up images of a sexy station wagon with a unique front bumper, a turbocharged 311-horsepower 302 lb.-ft. of torque, 2.2-litre 5-cylinder engine, quattro AWD and a 6-speed manual gearbox. A more perfect combination of automotive specs had never before been assembled in such a fashion.
Tragically, in Audi’s press release, there’s no mention of Porsche’s role in modifying the engine, designing the brakes and suspension, and assembling the car for Audi. Oh, and the wheels were17-inch Porsche Cup Wheels and the word “Porsche” was affixed on both ends of the RS 2.
By all established standards of the time, the 1994 Audi RS 2 Avant was one of the fastest accelerating cars available. In fact, it was THE fastest 5-door, 5-seater station wagon. One day, I will drive one. A handful of the 2,900 produced between 1994-1995 have homes in Canada. Anyone?
The follow-up to the RS 2 was the still blindingly attractive 1999 Audi RS 4 Avant. This time, Audi did all the work but kept many of the RS 2’s ingredients with one big exception. The engine was now a twin-turbocharged 2.7-litre V6 that was good for 375-horsepower. Strangely, Audi does mention the association with Cosworth Technology who did work on the V6’s cylinder heads.
In only five years, Audi RS cars had already built a serious cult following. They were less obscure and demand grew is slightly. By 2002, the first RS 6 arrives with a biturbo V8, followed closely by the second-generation RS 4 in 2005. 2008 marked the coming of the aspirational and unholy powerful RS 6 Avant. It’s maniacal twiin-turbocharged Lamborghini-sourced V10 engine produced 571-horsepower, making it the most powerful production Audi to date, and it was a station wagon.
In 2011, the first RS 3 landed with a turbocharged 5-cylinder engine, two years after the Audi TT RS Coupé and Roadster. In 2013, the first Audi SUV to receive the RS treatment was, oddly enough, the Q3. The reason for the selection was that the A3 and Q3 shared a considerable number of components making the compact ute an easy candidate. It was also quite the riot and an unexpectedly entertainment and addictive vehicle to drive. Then came the magnificent Audi RS 7 Sportback after a new RS 6 Avant, both with a twin-turbocharged 560-horsepower 4.0-litre V8.
Over the decade and a half, all Audi RS cars and SUV have pushed the limits of Audi Sport’s basic philosophy. Audi is, however, just getting warmed up.
Fast-forward to today and, depending on where you live, there are currently seven new RS vehicles to select from: Audi TT RS, Audi RS 3 Sportback and Sedan, Audi RS 4 Avant, and Audi RS 5 Coupé and Sportback. If you’re keeping track, you’ve noticed that there are holes in the 2019 collection of Audi’s RS collection.
Just recently, Audi flew us to Munich, Germany, to get a glimpse of what’s to come from Audi Sport in the next four months or so. I wish I could tell you more right now other than there are a number of new models in the works but unfortunately, I cannot share anything with you for fear of being made to buy new clothing by Audi Canada’s sharply-dressed PR representative…