In the late ’80s, BMW’s M Division developed something revolutionary with the E30 M3. It was the first M3 of all time and it rewrote the book on small sports cars. It was sharp, dynamic and hilariously exciting to drive. It had a proper motorsport-sourced engine and was a true homologated race car for the road. So Audi needed to come up with something special as well, something that could take the E30 M3 on. But the four-ringed brand knew it couldn’t duplicate the E30 M3’s precision while using all-wheel drive and front-heavy architectures. So it went a different route and the Audi RS2 Avant was the end result.
In this new video from Carwow, we see the Audi RS2 Avant take on the E30 BMW M3. Two very different cars from two very different manufacturers, especially at the time, but both are legends and both really started legacies for both brands.
The Audi RS2 Avant was the brand’s first “RS” car and without any experience in such territory, Audi asked Porsche for help. So Audi build the chassis, the body, the engine and the gearbox. Then it was sent to Porsche, where it received an engine upgrade — headlined by a much larger KKK (not to be confused with the hate group) turbo — new suspension and new brakes. It also got Porsche wheels.
While the E30 M3 was a proper little race car. It was designed as a DTM race car but then homologated for the road, as per DTM regulation. It was lightweight, simple and high-strung like a genuine race car should be.
So what are they like? They’re very different beasts. The Audi RS2 Avant is a four-door wagon with a 2.2 liter turbocharged five-cylinder engine, 311 hp and 302 lb-ft of torque, a five-speed manual gearbox and Quattro all-wheel drive. The E30 M3 is a two-door coupe with a 2.3 liter naturally-aspirated four-cylinder engine, 200 hp and 170 lb-ft of toruqe, a five-speed manual and rear-wheel drive.
That makes the RS2 a lot more powerful, though it’s extra power doesn’t equate to as much extra speed as you might think, as its turbo boost takes a while to kick in and it’s a lot heavier than the Bimmer. In this standing drag race from Carwow, Mat Watson botches the launch in the Audi RS2 Avant a bit, which allows the E30 to get ahead, but once the Audi comes on boost it takes off and wins the quarter-mile race with a 15.2 second time, versus the Bimmers 15.7 second time.
In a rolling drag race from 50 mph, the Audi RS2 Avant still has to wait for its old-school turbo to spool up but it still wins the race.
However, what happens on a circuit, where there are corners and where agility, handling and precision matter more than power? Well, the E30 M3 is certainly the better driver’s car, with better steering, handling and dynamics. The RS2 is still fun to drive but it’s heavier, rolls more in corners and has more power out of corners, along with more grip.
So which car does Watson think is best? He actually prefers the Audi RS2 Avant, thanks to its extra power, grip and old-school turbocharged feel. But the E30 M3 is an awesome car and we wouldn’t blame anyone for picking it instead.