Ever since Ford refused to bring the Escort Cosworth and Sierra Sapphire to North America, I've sorta hated that company. In fact, when Ford was sponsoring the Young Indiana Jones series, they offered Sean Patrick Flanery, the young Indy, his pick of any car in Ford's showroom. He promptly asked for the Escort Cosworth.
"Any car but that," they told him.
BMW pulled the same thing with the European-spec E36 M3 (321 hp) and then Audi did it with its RS2.
I kicked and stomped and held my breath till I turned blue but they still said no. My father said the same thing when I asked for a few pounds of black powder (I was going to make a fortune selling reloaded shells). Just a simple, "No son, you're not getting that."
Almost 15 years later I'm driving the car Audi said it would never bring to North America. After 20 minutes of adrenalin-soaked insanity, I'm beginning to understand why.
This car takes genuine skill to drive. A few seconds of inattention will put you in a ditch or worse. My mind replays those videos of Michelle Mouton and Hans Stuck, their feet dancing across all three pedals like speed-addled Riverdancers. Keeping this car in its fairly narrow performance envelope requires an equal helping of proficiency and big brass ones.
For a while I'm able to hold onto the reins. It kicks and snorts and does its best to throw me off but finally settles down. I can't remember having such a satisfying drive, especially from a car that would love nothing more than stomp me to death.
It's a forgone conclusion Audi's RS2 would have been labeled a "death-mobile" by overzealous American lawyers. In hindsight it's probably a good thing they didn't sell it here.
Newer, more powerful Audi cars have since been broken and bridled to the point that a complete noob could hold his own on a racetrack. No need for left foot braking or heel-and-toe shifts... just stab it and steer. The car will do the rest. And do it very, very well.
I'm not the first scribe to whine about how the "human element" has been removed from performance cars. And maybe it hasn't been removed entirely, but it has certainly been marginalized. And while I could write volumes on the awesome technology in new cars, both hardware and software, I'd be seriously remiss if I didn't mention the gigantic strides in tire technology. Just look at those pictures of Stirling Moss driving the Mercedes Silver Arrows. I've seen bicycles with bigger tires. Imagine trying to control a ton of prehistoric metal at speeds in excess of 120 mph... on patches of rubber narrower than your hand.
We've seen tires morph from inner tubes to bias ply to radial with huge advances in rubber chemistry and carcass structure. Want a real test of your car's abilities? Throw on a crappy set of skinny tires and prepare for the ensuing hilarity.
I drove the GMG RS2 for several hours, enough time to totally exhaust myself. I was done with this car, at least for today. I couldn't wait to get back in the new A4 and just veg all the way home. In fact, I was sorta wishing the Audi could drive itself home while I took a nap.
Give them a few more years.
Les Bidrawn Editor firstname.lastname@example.org