US-market fast station wagons have been relatively thin on the ground these past few years. But that’s only partially why there’s been so much hype surrounding the Audi RS6 Avant’s availability here. The other part of it comes from a performance car the brand never offered in the US: the Audi RS2 Avant. And recently, YouTuber Doug Demuro took a look at how the original Avant compares to the latest model.
The 2021 Audi RS6 Avant RS Tribute Edition pays homage to an icon
Strictly speaking, the 1994 Audi RS2 Avant wasn’t the first high-performance luxury wagon, Automobile reports. Audi itself had previously released the S2 and S4 Avant. And the RS2 Avant was created in part to be a rival for the contemporary Mercedes-Benz C36 AMG wagon, Hagerty reports. But without the RS2 Avant, Audi’s current RS lineup wouldn’t exist. And without it and the Mercedes 500E, Porsche might not be around today.
The wagon’s status is significant enough that, for 2021, Audi released a limited-edition RS6 Avant in honor of it. It’s called the 2021 Audi RS6 Avant RS Tribute Edition, and it comes in the same Nogaro Blue shade as the RS2, Roadshow reports. And in another nod to the original, the 2021 car has silver wheels and red brake calipers, Car and Driver reports.
That’s in addition to extra blacked-out trim and Pirelli summer performance tires. Plus, inside it has blue contrast stitching, heated rear seats, a heads-up display, and a Bang & Olufsen audio system. The 2021 Audi RS6 Avant RS Tribute Edition also comes with the optional driver-assistance package that includes lane-keeping assist and adaptive cruise control.
Given its age, the Audi RS2 Avant doesn’t have all those same features. But it still offers leather upholstery, A/C, and heated seats. Plus, the RS2 Avant’s Brembo brakes and wheels come from contemporary Porsche products, Road & Track reports.
1994 Audi RS2 Avant vs. 2021 Audi RS6 Avant: how the formula has changed
Mechanically, the 2021 Audi RS6 Avant RS Tribute Edition is identical to the standard model. That means a 4.0-liter twin-turbocharged V8 with 591 hp and 590 lb-ft linked to an 8-speed automatic and all-wheel drive. And despite weighing 5031 pounds, the RS6 Avant is fairly quick. 0-60 mph comes in 3.1 seconds, and the wagon runs the ¼-mile in 11.5 seconds, Car and Driver reports.
Naturally, the 1994 Audi RS2 Avant isn’t quite that fast, though it’s smaller and about 1500 pounds lighter, Autoweek reports. It too has AWD, only with a 6-speed manual and a 2.2-liter turbocharged inline-5 engine with 311 hp and 302 lb-ft, MotorTrend reports. But that’s still good for a 0-60 mph time of 4.8 seconds and a ¼-mile time of 13.6 seconds. And the RS2 Avant famously went 0-30 mph faster than the McLaren F1, Hagerty reports.
But what’s it like driving these two fast luxury wagons? Given that the Audi RS6 Avant is the first RS wagon available in the US, it had a lot to live up to. And it delivers on that promise, Roadshow reports.
The AWD system and the standard rear-wheel steering make the wagon agile despite its size and weight. So does the standard air suspension, which provides both good handling and a comfortable ride. The transmission shifts smoothly and quickly, and overall, the RS6 Avant is simply “blow-your-head-off-fast,” Autoblog reports.
In comparison, the Audi RS2 Avant “drives old,” Demuro reports—but, he makes plain to point out, “not slow.” True, the old-school turbocharger means there’s quite a bit of lag, Jalopnik reports. And it understeers more than the Audi RS6 Avant.
But once you’re on boost, the wagon “surges forward.” Yet it’s still enjoyable to drive and push at legal speeds. And unlike the RS6 Avant, it has a more involving manual. Plus, while it has fewer gadgets, visibility is better, and it’s still a roomy and comfortable commuter. And despite its age, the RS2 Avant’s AWD system means it handles “on rails” even in deep snow, Petrolicious reports.
Getting either one won’t be easy or cheap
The Audi RS2 Avant was produced only for the 1994 and 1995 model years. Luckily, its age means all models are now legal for importation. Unfortunately, the wagon’s status makes it rather valuable, especially if it’s painted blue.
A pristine example can cost as much as $120k, Hagerty reports, though good-condition examples are less than half that price. Even so, the average RS 2 Avant price on Bring a Trailer hovers around $70,000. That’s not too far off the starting price of the 2021 Audi RS6 Avant.
Buying the 2021 Audi RS6 Avant RS Tribute Edition, though, is going to be even tougher. The automaker is only selling 25 examples in the US. The standard model starts at $109,000. But Car and Driver reports the Tribute Edition starts at $137,845.
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