Two decades separate these high-performance sporting estates. How do they compare?
The spec sheets for these performance estates belie the fact that 20 years separate the two models. Upon launch, the pioneering 1994 Audi RS2 was an instant legend, and it was expensive too, at nearly £46,000. That’s the equivalent of £100,000 today, which makes the new Volkswagen Golf R Estate look something of a bargain at £35k. Yet both have 300bhp-plus and identical 0-62mph times of a mere 4.8 seconds.
The Golf R Estate is often overlooked alongside its popular hatchback stablemate today, whereas the RS2 Avant made huge waves when it arrived back in the day. With bespoke engineering, a shocking 315bhp from its highly tuned five-cylinder engine, Porsche wheels, brakes and tyres, and quattro running gear, it could sprint from 0-30mph more quickly than a McLaren F1.
Volkswagen Golf R Estate
Engine: 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, turbo, petrol
Gearbox: 7-spd dual-clutch automatic
Top speed: 155mph
Fuel economy: 39.2mpg
CO2/tax band: 164g/km, 31%
Audi RS2 Avant
Price: £45,705 (when new)
Engine: 2.3-litre, five-cylinder, turbo, petrol
Gearbox: Six-speed manual
Top speed: 163mph
Fuel economy: N/A
CO2/tax band: N/A
Our original Audi RennSport model is a pristine, 2500-mile heritage model, so we’ll be treating it with respect against its lithe-looking, big-wheeled VW contemporary, and won’t expect it to boast quite the same talents. It does look stunning, however, thanks to its pumped-up styling filled with intent and its purposeful detailing extending to the Porsche 911 door mirrors.
At low speed its slick controls help carefully control the highly boosted engine, which feels exciting even as you push the throttle to the floor to access full muscle. It gives much more feedback than the more direct, if more ordinary-feeling, Golf – and the latter’s artificial engine noise can’t compare with the Audi’s burble.
In this battle of old school versus modern sophistication, though, the VW is much faster in real-world use, thanks to its superior responses and instance performance at any revs and speed. Its ancestor is tremendously fast, but its magic really only happens when it’s kept on the boil – and that takes quite a bit of effort. The transmission must be downshifted, the accelerator stomped upon, the revs allowed to hit 3000rpm and the turbo given time to spool up first.
The age difference is apparent on twisting B-roads, too. The Audi’s drive is laden with feel and detail, resulting in a satisfying, cheerful experience – but it’s much softer than the VW. Stick to a respectful 60mph to keep in its sweet spot; pressing too hard will reveal this front-heavy, top-heavy car’s steering kickback and unbalanced handling.
The VW’s several decades of further development are more than apparent in its plentiful grip, quick, confidence-inspiring steering and instant responses. The brilliant handling copes with all that muscle beautifully, and hints at more to come. The Golf R Estate an instant delight, and really should get more recognition next to its hatchback stablemate than it does. With its supercar-like performance and and handling, it deserves the kind of headlines the Audi received in its day.
As an enduring performance great, the RS2 Avant is the one your heart will go for. The original high-performance estate really is thrilling. Despite its age it rivals the Golf R for muscle, and that interactive feel as you work it hard to unleash its potential is a treat to experience. Meanwhile, its VW successor beautifully illustrates the benefits of technological advance over two decades, resulting in ultimate performance that’s easy for everyone to access.