Group tests

BMW M5 v TVR Chimaera v Audi RS2 v Renault Clio V6 v Mazda RX-7 v Subaru Impreza v Lotus Espirit - Audi RS2

A realistic buy, quick, well- built and brilliantly usable, but against our other contenders can it offer the same thrills?

I was a little hesitant when a number of my colleagues nominated an RS2. Yes, it is a very, very cool car, but I feared that in this company it would feel a bit remote, a tad lifeless. However, my experience of the RS2 is limited to just a 15-minute drive two or three years ago. Now, with thick-rimmed three-spoke steering wheel in hand and turbocharged five-cylinder engine loping gently on idle, I have to say it feels a pretty special place to be.

The silver-faced speedo reads proudly up to 180mph, the red zone on the rev-counter doesn’t announce itself until after 7000rpm and the carbonfibre trim is a contemporary touch in an old-school dash. I’m warned by owner Jeremy Copp to expect old-school turbo lag, too. Sure enough the big five-cylinder motor seems lazy, almost unable to overcome its internal inertia until the turbocharger wakes up. And it really wakes up – from zero to hero in about one revolution. The business end of the delivery is post-3500rpm, and it feels at least as strong as its 315bhp claim.

Subscribe to evo magazine

If you're passionate about the world's greatest performance cars, experience the thrill of driving with evo magazine. Try your first 5 issues for £5.

Audi’s quattro system deals with the flood of torque with no fuss, but it takes time to make the RS2 flow. The steering is light – spookily so – and light on feel, and the turbo’s on-off delivery makes it tricky to keep everything on the boil through a corner. You turn in, feel a bit of understeer and then feed in the power. If you’re on the cusp of boost at the time, that mild understeer becomes severe. However, keep the boost in, or time it so that it arrives just after the apex, and the RS2 just hooks up and chomps on to the next straight.

In these wet conditions the RS2 is still a hugely effective ground-coverer. Manage the understeer, use the power wisely and it feels neat, tidy and devastatingly effective. However, this car’s dampers haven’t stood the test of time as well as some of the others here (having said that, it has covered 109,000 miles) and the constant jiggling and occasional crash sets the whole structure on edge, like a huge tuning-fork.

Advertisement
Advertisement - Article continues below

Barker was an RS2 advocate, but even he feels the big estate may be slightly out of its depth here: ‘The odo shows 109K, and disappointingly it feels it, with clonky suspension in particular. The clutch is heavy, the gearshift slightly vague, but underneath there’s a very secure all-wheel-drive chassis.’ Green feels the same. ‘No problem in terms of what it does, but it’s the least exciting car here, the least involving I suppose.’ Hayman, a man who hates understeer as much as no-smoking zones, is less charitable: ‘It’s a great tow car, isn’t it? Horribly dull, though.’

Specifications

EngineIn-line 5-cyl, 2226cc, turbo
Max power315bhp @ 6000rpm
Max torque302lb ft @ 3000rpm
Weight1595kg
Power/weight201bhp/ton
0-60mph4.8sec
Max speed162mph (claimed)
Advertisement
Advertisement

Most Popular

Visit/caterham/201924/caterham-620r-v-ariel-atom-35-v-elemental-rp1
Caterham

Caterham 620R v Ariel Atom 3.5 v Elemental Rp1

Flight Club - lightweight track day toys with heavyweight powertrains, Steve Sutcliffe compares them on track at Anglesey circuit in Wales
5 Nov 2019
Visit/alfa-romeo/21322/alfa-romeo-to-launch-new-700bhp-8c-and-600bhp-gtv-coupe
Alfa Romeo

Alfa Romeo culls sports car programme in wake of FCA merger

Italian’s future performance models killed off in favour of more profitable SUVs
11 Nov 2019
Visit/toyota/yaris/201932/toyota-yaris-gr-4-hot-hatchback-teased-successor-to-the-grmn-and-a-true-wrc
Toyota Yaris

Toyota Yaris GR-4 hot hatchback teased – successor to the GRMN and a true WRC homologation special

Gazoo Racing to follow up its 2019 WRC championship with an all-new car based on the GR-4 hot hatch
6 Nov 2019
Visit/hyundai/i30-n-hatchback/201775/hyundai-i30-n-versus-hyundai-i30-tcr
Hyundai i30 N hatchback

Hyundai i30 N versus Hyundai i30 TCR

Can Dickie Meaden beat Steve Sutcliffe in a straight(ish) race? We sent them to the Circuit Nuvolari with a pair of Hyundai i30 Ns to find out.
20 Sep 2019