The 8 best fast Audis

31st May 2023
Russell Campbell

While the performance of the new 503PS Audi SQ8 can’t be argued with, it’s not the car you would immediately think of when searching for the definitive fast Audi. Here, though, you’ll find a list of models that do cut the mustard. Fast estates naturally play their part, but you’ll also find affordable classics, rally raiders and a bonafide supercar lurking on this page – so keep reading as we guide you through eight of the best fast Audis you can buy today.


1. C5 Audi RS6 Avant (2003)

Just one car could lead this guide to the best fast Audis – the RS6, a car that perfectly embodies the company’s reputation for building ludicrously fast and infinitely practical performance cars that non-car people wouldn’t take a second look at.

Under the RS6’s gently massaged body lurked a 450PS (330kW) twin-turbocharged V8 that was hooked up to Audi’s trademark quattro four-wheel drive for 0-62mph in 4.9 seconds and a limited 155mph top speed. The handling was characteristically 'Audi', the RS6 preferring to be gently nudged into corners before exploding you out the other end with four-wheel-drive traction than backed in using any natural chassis balance.

Admittedly, an E39 BMW M5 was far more engaging, but the RS6’s estate car body (a saloon was also available) opened it up to a new age of customers looking for practicality and performance. It’s an even more tempting proposition when you realise good examples now cost as little as £15,000.


2. Audi Quattro (1980)

No list of fast Audis would be complete without an Audi Quattro – the car famed for dominating rallying and one that confirmed Audi as a builder of genuine performance machines. 

The Quattro’s four-wheel drive traction turned rallying on its head as the Audi left its two-wheel-drive competition struggling in its wake. Turns out, it was also a pretty good road car. The Quattro’s four-wheel drive system made it easy for the 200PS (147kW) 2.1-litre five-cylinder to transmit all its power to the road with clinical efficiency. Performance of 0-62mph in 7.1 seconds and a 137mph top speed is still current today.

So it’s a surprise to find examples of this motoring icon can still be picked up for less than £50,000 in tidy condition.


3. Audi R8 V8 (2007)

When Audi revealed plans to build a Porsche 911-slaying supercar, most people laughed – how could Audi, a company famed for producing quick but, ultimately, under-steering estates, build a car that could legitimately stand toe-to-toe with sports car royalty…

The laughing stopped when people drove the R8. It packed a rumbling V8 that had just as much charisma as the Porsche flat-six, and a four-wheel drive system that was eager to send power rewards for smoky, beautifully controllable slides on demand. Performance wasn’t to be sniffed at either – the 420PS (309kW) 4.2-litre V8 got the R8 from 0-62mph in four seconds and onto a 187mph top speed. You could even have it with a gated manual shift. 

But while the R8 feels like a thoroughbred to drive, it will be cheaper to maintain than flasher – dare we say, Italian – rivals and has an interior that still feels modern today. With prices starting from less than £35,000, it could be very hard to resist.


4. Audi RS3 Sportback (2021)

The Audi RS3 has been much maligned as the poser’s hot hatch – a car more concerned with the bragging rights of explosive performance figures than it is with serving up the visceral feels that make driving such a joy.

And you’d be forgiven for thinking nothing had changed with this new model. After all, it’s still a four-wheel drive hatchback with a blown 2.5-litre five-cylinder now producing 400PS (294kW) for 0-62mph in just 3.8 seconds. But push beyond the new RS3's limits and it demonstrates a fun side not present in any of its predecessors, thanks to its clever rear diff delivering a compulsion to drift neatly out of bends under power.

But it’s still an RS3 so you get a beautifully-built, high-tech interior that has all the space that most people need. And, while the latest model costs more than £60,000 new, you can save more than £20,000 by buying a nearly-new example.


5. Audi RS2 (1994)

An Audi RS2 in Nagro Blue is likely the first car that pops into your head when you think about an RS-badged Audi estate. To build it, Audi handed an 80 Avant to Porsche, who promptly added a subtle body kit, 911 wing mirrors and Carrera Cup wheels hiding huge Porsche branded callipers.

Naturally, power came from a turbocharged 20V five-cylinder engine that Porsche breathed on to produce 319PS (234kW), enough to get the RS2 from 0-62mph in 5.4 seconds and onto a 163mph top speed. The driving experience could have been patented for most of the RS2’s successors – it prefers to enter a corner neatly before catapulting you out the other end on a surge of four-wheel-drive grip and turbo boost.

It’s an iconic driving experience to match an iconic car, which makes it well worth the £50,000 you’ll need to get a nice example.


6. Audi S1 (2015)

The Audi S1 was the grown-up small hot hatchback offering electric pace and surefooted handling in a tiny hatchback complete with a subtle body kit and four less-than-subtle exhausts.

Power comes from VAG's familiar 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine producing a punchy 231PS (170kW) that, when combined with the S1’s standard four-wheel drive, meant it could get from 0-62mph in 5.8 seconds and had to be limited to 155mph. Sure, the S1 wasn’t as playful as the likes of a Fiesta ST but it was quicker point-to-point in the dry and utterly dominant in the wet. 

Even today, the S1 feels posh inside with a smart design and high-quality materials making up for telltale signs of ageing, like the small infotainment screen and a liberal sprinkling of physical buttons. Capable of returning nearly 40mpg and with prices starting from less than £15,000, the S1 is likely the most sensible option on this list.  


7. Audi S8 (2001)

The D2 Audi S8 was made famous by the film Ronin, where it tore through France leaving a trail of destroyed Peugeots and Citroens in its wake, while simultaneously making it clear why we all needed a fast Audi limousine in our lives.

Power came from a 369PS (271kW) 4.2-litre V8 that was good for 0-62mph in 6.6 seconds and a 155mph limited top speed. Sadly, having the engine slung far ahead of the front axle meant the S8 handled like a sledgehammer, although, once you got it straightened up, there was no shortage of traction from the car’s trusty quattro four-wheel drive system.

The S8’s lightweight space frame chassis remains high-tech today, but other areas are less cutting edge like the tiny, washed-out infotainment screen. Nevertheless, the leather and wood-lined interior is a nice place to be. This heady mix of performance and luxury is yours for less than £10,000 for a decent car or closer to £20,000 for a mint example.


8. Audi S2 (1991)

The Audi S2 replaced the legendary Quattro – an unfortunate position for any car to find itself in – and, predictably, it was roundly criticised for being a dullard next to its adored predecessor. However, as a solidly built, easy-to-live-with coupe that had a wealth of traction, the S2 was a roadmap for sporty Audi’s of the future.

Its aerodynamic body achieved a drag coefficient of 0.32Cd, meaning the S2 topped out at 150mph – 10mph faster than the Quattro – making the newer car an ideal long-distance machine when combined with its quiet cabin and comfortable suspension. Testers loved the S2’s tight gearbox but were less complimentary of its vague variable-weight steering.

Now though, the S2 makes for an interesting and usable four-seater classic fast Audi, but one that you can pick up on a budget of less than £10,000.

  • List

  • Audi

  • RS6

  • R8

  • RS3

  • RS2

  • Quattro

  • S1

  • RS4

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