Today if you want to enjoy the experience of driving the original Iconic Audi ur quattro you’ll need fairly deep pockets. Good examples of the last 20 valve engined cars can fetch anything up to £20k or more. The sharp lines of the classic box-flared body and distinctive warble of the inline 5 are irresistible to those who, like myself, imagine themselves hurtling down some wet forest road, flicking the car into tight hairpins and drifting skillfully, all four wheels launching huge lumps of earth and stone into the air. All this to set the tune of that engine. Shame if you’re on a tight budget it’s just a pipe dream.
However, there is another…
Back in 1991, the ur quattro had terrorised slippery b-roads since it’s launch 9 years earlier. It set the standard for all 4 wheel drive cars to come, smashed its way into the world rally scene and blew the doors wide open for every manufacturer to develop their own all wheel drive systems. In short it was a phenomenon. Any car that came along to replace such a powerhouse of engineering and aesthetics was going to have the mother of all headaches filling it’s shoes.
That car was the S2 Coupe.
Based on the Audi 80 platform, the S2 featured the same 5 cylinder 20v turbo as its predecessor. Pushing out 220 bhp through a five speed gearbox the S2 could accelerate to 60 in just under 6 seconds and featured virtually the same permanent 4×4 drivetrain and suspension setup as the quattro that came before it.
So the S2 was a pukka quattro replacement? Yes and no.
Although on paper the figures were as good if not better than the quattro, the new car was always going to be judged against something almost impossible for it to live up to. Road testers raved about the S2′s speed and roadholding skills but didn’t like the use of the variable speed weighted Servotronic steering. The S2 was criticised for it’s slightly drab slab sided looks and it’s lack of driver involvement, crucial things to get right on any car but for one whose name infers a continuation of the fire spitting “S1″ badge, essential.
In 1993 an updated version came on stream that ousted the unloved Servotronic steering in favour of a conventional rack, upgraded engine (230 bhp), and a new close ratio 6 speed gearbox, though it did lose the switchable ABS of the earlier version. These changes went some way to improving the driver experience but the S2 was never really seen as a completely worthy successor to its forebear, even though it was far from flawed. By any other measure, this was a great car.
Fast forward 20 years and take another look at both cars. Yes the ur quattro is still the one everyone knows about, it’s the poster boy for retro 80′s rally chic, helped I’m sure in no small part by a certain Mr Gene Hunt, but what of the S2? I personally think the years have been kind to the Coupe, the once derided high sided lines now look clean and simple, unlike the Coke-bottle swoops of some more modern offerings. But the best thing is, nobody really knows about it. Well, we do obviously, but then we’re clever and special and original in our thinking, and we know a performance bargain when we see one. The fact that you can pick up a very nice S2 for less than 4 grand is the clincher for me. Think about that for a second… You could have a car that does 0-60 in under 6 seconds, has the underpinnings of the iconic quattro and even sounds the same for about the same cash as a bargain family hatchback. For me that’s a no-brainer.
The S2 has a cult following as you would expect, and it’s fairly common for owners to upgrade the engine as a matter of course. A simple ECU upgrade can unlock around 40-50 bhp alone through extra boost and subsequent remapping. A few more pounds spent on mods could easily bring you into the RS2 category of grunt for a fraction of the price.
The S2 is a cult car that could well be a future classic, get one now while it’s still under the radar and grab yourself a bargain… Probably.
S2 Buyers Guide
S2 Central Buyers Guide
S2 Central Tuning
S2-audi.co.uk Magazine Articles
S2 Wikipedia (Audi 80)
S2-Audi.co.uk S2 Documents
Audi-Sport.net S2 Forum
S2Forum (excellent build thread)
Note: Most of these cars are may be “slightly” modified…