The explosive Audi RS2, all 311bhp of it, is often reckoned to be the world’s first high-performance estate.
Certainly it was the first car to combine the practicality of a bigger- booted wagon body with the straight- line speed of a supercar. Thanks to its quattro four-wheel-drive system and punchy turbocharged engine, it was actually faster to 30mph than the mighty McLaren F1, as discovered by this magazine’s road testers in the mid-1990s – but the first rapid estate car it was not. BMW’s E34 M5 Touring had arrived two years before it, in 1992, albeit in left-hand- drive markets only.
Another two years before that, Subaru had endowed an estate car with more power than was strictly necessary by offering the Legacy with as much as 197bhp in its home market of Japan.
Whether it was Audi, BMW or Subaru that invented the fast estate is a matter for debate, then. But which manufacturer builds the best high- performance wagons in 2018? That we can answer for certain.
As the leading proponents of the breed it’s a face-off between Audi Sport and Mercedes-AMG. First, we’ll pitch Neckarsulm’s brand new RS4 against Affalterbach’s C63 S, before lining the RS6 up against the E63 S.
Only then will one of these German companies be crowned king of the crushingly fast estate car.
RS4 vs C63 S:
There is something about this RS4’s Misano Red paint, in direct sun at least, that does it a disservice. It seems to flatten the topography of the bodywork, those squared-off box arches getting lost in the car’s flanks. The visual muscle seen in photographs seems to have atrophied to nothing. In fact, looking at it in situ, it’s hard to be certain this is the range-topping RS model, but for that modest badge in the grille. The Mercedes-AMG C63 S that’s sitting alongside the RS4 looks pumped- up and purposeful by comparison, despite its demure (and confusingly named) Brilliant Blue paint.