Back to Tech Articles Menu

This buyers guide was originally written over 5 years ago so some areas may be out of date. No responsibility or liability is accepted if an S2 is purchased using this guide. In other words buyer beware.

This guide was first published in the Audi Owners Club newsletter, Audience, back in 2000. Details have changed slightly, early S2 Coupe

The new Audi Coupe was introduced in November 1988 and installation of the 5 cylinder turbo engine in the type 8B Coupe had never been intended, therefore SMS Motorsport in Cadolzburg, Germany were contracted by Audi to perform installation and testing. This took roughly 2 years and the Audi S2 was originally launched in the UK in October 1990 in Coupe form only.

It came fitted with a 3B 20v 220bhp turbo 5 cylinder 2.2 litre engine which was modified from the Audi 200 chassis to fit into the Coupe shell. The main difference being the modified cooling system.

This was mated to a 5 speed Torsen gearbox which was a beefed up version of the standard Coupe 20v 'box. The original planned quattro turbo gearbox would not fit without major modifications. To help protect the gearbox, boost pressure was reduced slightly to maintain maximum output torque at 309Nm which is just below the limit of the gearbox.

The standard wheels fitment was 5 spoke Speedline alloys with 205/55 ZR16 tyres - uk models all came with a full sized spare of the same size and type.

Standard equipment was similar to the Coupe of the time. Air con and leather were optional extras which are often attractive to 2nd hand buyers.

S2 badges on the front grill (rhs) and the right side of the tailgate were the only main features on the exterior. A keen eye will also spot a larger front bumper to accomodate the intercooler. Headlamp washers were standard

later S2 Coupe In October 1992, there was a significant change to the S2. An all new engine unique to the S2 was developed. The 230 bhp ABY engine with advanced distributorless igntion control and increased boost pressure in addition to a small power increase of 10hp. The big difference with this engine was the improved torque which was enabled by the inclusion of a new 6 speed manual gearbox. Unfortunately, it also spelled the demise of the switchable ABS. A new ABS controller was introduced which did not require ABS to be manually disabled. The tailgate badge moved to the left side. Also deleted was the servotronic power steering assitance. This was not popular amongst the press when the early cars were tested.

Within a short time, the same engine was also available in the 80 Avant S2 and also the 80 sedan S2, although sadly, this last model was not available in the UK.

In August 1993 for the 1994 model year, some cosmetic changes were introduced. The 5 spoke alloys were replaced by a slightly wider 7.5"x16" 6 spoke Avus alloy manufactured by Speedline. The tyre size of 205/55ZR16 remained the same. Additional changes were clear front indicators in the bumper. Also included was a new ellipsoidal projector headlamp.
The 1995 model year cars, had the last major change with the introduction of airbag steering wheels and the loss of the ProCon Ten safety system.
1996 cars came with immobilisers.

S2 Engine bay As the cars progressed, the equipment levels gradually improved such that leather and air con are more common on later cars.

The next section covers things which should be checked. This is in addtion to normal checks required when purchasing any car.

front side view- Avant All tyres should be same type and tread pattern. Standard running pressure is 36PSI. Tyres typically last around 20k miles on the fronts and about 30-40k on the rears although this can vary by tyre type. Look for uneven tyre wear on inside and outside edges or both. Wear on a single edge on 1 or more tyre indicates there may be problems with alignment so bear this in mind. All quattros can be adjusted for camber and toe on all 4 corners.

Open the boot and lift the carpet on the right side. Remove the storage bin. On the panel below this, there should be a data sticker similar to this .
The chassis number on this sticker must match the chassis number located at the base of the windscreen. If not or if the sticker is not there, ask why or walk away.

Open the bonnet and look for signs of fluid leakage from the following areas:

Hydraulic pump cross head plugs

Hydraulic steering fluid container and pipes/hoses

engine cut away- colour Radiator end caps, bleed valve and all hoses

cooling system expansion bottle

Brake fluid reservoir

Head gasket

It may not be possible to see all of the above areas without light

Many of these cars will have alarms or immobilisers or several of both, mainly due to insurance. Not all alarms are perfect and very few are installed correctly so watch out for any strange electrical quirks. I personally do not like alarms.

Switch on the ignition. Coupe interior On the dash you should get an orange ABS bulb and a red handbrake warning light coming on. You may also get an autocheck warning for oil, battery since the engine is not started. If you do not get an ABS light coming on, I personally would walk away. It may be just a bulb but it could be much worse - faulty sensors, controllers, relays etc.

Assuming all is well so far, start the engine. The engine should start easily and fire within a few cranks. Long crank times are not a good sign although not a showstopper. Within 10 seconds the ABS light should go out. Any airbag equipped car should also see the airbag light go off.
On a 5 speed car, there should be an ABS cancel switch on the centre console. Press this switch and the orange ABS LED should come on. Press the switch again to cancel. The diff lock switch is next to the handbrake and this should be checked for operation. A green led should appear and again, the ABS orange light should show on the instruments.

If arranged or permitted, test drive the car.
This should be for at least 20-25 mins of mixed road types and include at least one area of full acceleration in 3rd and 4th gear.

During the test drive,

Ensure the water temp gauge reads correctly and does not drop when at speed.
Listen for clunks, pings, bangs or knocks when going over bumps, on full lock, when changing gear etc.
Check for vibration during braking
Ensure the car drives in a straight line
Watch for smoke in the mirror (steam is ok when cold)
Expect smooth acceleration with no missing or cutouts
Listen for a blowing exhaust
Most of the cars for sale have covered a minimum of 80000 miles while many are double that. Any noises found during the test drive will usually be worn bushes or mounts in either the suspension or transmission / engine support areas.

Common items which may need replacing are top strut mounts, wishbone bushes, ball joints, tie rods, diff bushes, gearbox mounts, subframe bushes, anti-roll bar bushes / links. With the power on tap, the brakes are often criticised. While they are a weak point they are acceptable for road use if maintained. Many cars will have had the brakes upgraded. You will need to declare this for insurance.

The exhaust is long lasting and good for well over 100000 miles. It may be reaching the end of its service life. Replacements are extremely expensive so bear this mind.

colour cut away The following are items which have been known on other cars but are not to be expected on every car.

Tailgate rattle - this can be very annoying. The tailgate stops can be adjusted as can the lock.

Leaking rear light clusters - remove the spare wheel and check the carpet below for dampness. Also check under the carpet on the other side in the small storage bin. Remove the light cluster boards and look for signs of corrosion.

If the lights are operated, they should be independent. If another light comes on when the brakes are activated, the indicators are operated or reverse is selected, budget for replacing the light seals and the circuit boards.

black and white cut away
Speedometer - can stop working altogether. This is often due to the face of the dial paint peeling and causing the needle to stick. The instrument cluster is very expensive to replace.

Temperature gauge / thermostat. The temperature gauge should sit in the middle (just below 90) all the time once the car is up to operating temperature.
If it's intermittent in operation this is probably the multifunction temperature sender (MFTS) which sends the signal to the gauge.
If the gauge is low at high speed this is probably the thermostat or an air lock in the system.
If autocheck warnings for water come one while driving this can be a low coolant level, a thermostat or the MFTS.

Brake warnings - when started from cold, you may get an autocheck warning (!) telling you there is low brake pressure. This is often caused by the brake pressure accumulator but can also be due to a leaking hydraulic pump, a leaking rack or faulty servo. All these items are expensive to replace with new parts.

The same warning (!) also applies to low brake fluid level and low hydraulic fluid

Heated electric mirrors - elements in the glass can fail. They operate via the heated rear screen switch

Outside temperature display - if not fully lit, this is often a faulty bulb but can also be the display unit itself. The bulb is not available from Audi but a similar item can be sourced elsewhere.
Gearbox - 5sp and early 6sp have been known to fail. Listen for noisy teeth or bearing whining when pulling away / accelerating in 1st and synchromesh in 2nd and 3rd.

Brakes - the brakes can get stressed in a car with this performance and often the brakes are upgraded at the front with Porsche calipers. This is not a problem but bear in mind the need to declare this modification to an insurance company. Check for vibration when braking - the discs may need replaced.

Handbrake - A poor handbrake is a general Audi problem not restricted to S2s. It can be caused by siezed cables or siezed calipers.

General Parts are expensive new from Audi but there is an extensive backup from other sources for both new and second hand parts.

Don't let any of the above put you off. They are fantastic cars and are generally very reliable.