What’s In A Name? From Ford To Koenigsegg, Here’s The RS Brigade

Automakers apply a wide variety of letter combinations to designate their performance models, such as AMG, ST, STI, QV… The list is long, but there’s one designation that keeps popping up again: RS.

Last we checked, there were no fewer than nine manufacturers using those letters on their fastest products. Yet, even among those bearing the handle, they don’t all play in the same league. As it happens, they don’t even stand for the same thing in all of them.

What they all share in common, though, is a penchant for performance. So, with few exceptions, if you see an RS badge on the back of a car, it means business. So we’ve assembled an array of them for you below, running the gamut from hot hatches to supercars.

Porsche

Arguably the most commonly associated with the letters RS is Porsche. In Stuttgart, they stand for Rennsport (“renn” being German for “racing”) and they only adorn the most hardcore machinery to roll out of Zuffenhausen. Porsche currently uses the Rennsport designation on the 911 GT3 RS, but it’s applied the letters to other versions of the 911 in the past. Given the name’s origin, it should come as no surprise that it’s also been used on various racing machinery, from the 718-based RS60 to the RS Spyder that Zuffenhausen campaigned in the LMP2 class before stepping back up to LMP1.

Audi

Audi’s Quattro GmbH similarly slaps the letters RS on its performance cars, distinguishing them from the less extreme S models. The designation was previously applied to just one model at a time; these days Quattro offers a full range of performance models as diverse as the TT RS coupe, RS Q3 crossover, RS5 Cabriolet and RS7 Sportback. These days they find themselves under the same umbrella, but Audi and Porsche were once embroiled in a legal dispute over the use of the RS logo. For our part, we’re glad they’re both still using them.

Jaguar

Though it’s phasing it out, Jaguar used it to designate its most extreme performance models: namely the XFR-S sedan and wagon, and the XKR-S coupe and convertible. Both packed the company’s 5.0-liter supercharged V8 engine and were capable of keeping pace with anything Mercedes-AMG and BMW M GmbH had to offer, but they’ve been axed. In their place, Jaguar (along with its sister company Land Rover) has started using the designation SVR on models like the F-Type and Range Rover Sport. And soon we can expect similar versions of the XE and new XF as well.

Skoda

Although it’s slapped with an extra V in the UK, Skoda uses the RS designation on its performance models as well. These days that comes down to the Octavia RS (or vRS), but it previously included the Fabia RS hot hatch as well. Think of them as the Czech equivalent of Volkswagen’s GTI, only a bit lower-key, lower-priced and more diverse: the Octavia RS is currently available as a sedan or wagon, with front- or all-wheel drive, in two states of tune, – and even a diesel.

Renault

Here’s one non-German automaker that can legitimately lay claim to the RS name as much as Porsche. The Renault Sport division makes some of the finest hot hatches around, including the Clio and Mégane. It even did a Twingo RS a few years ago, but softened it up a bit in the form of the new Twingo GT.

Ford

In Ford parlance, RS stands for Rallye Sport. That tells you a bit about where the term stemmed from for the Blue Oval and the type of vehicles it is associated with. Today it adorns the Focus RS, the new benchmark for hot hatches with its 350 horsepower, advanced all-wheel drive system and party-trick Drift Mode. Other performance models from Ford use other names, though, like ST, GT350 or just plain old Sport.

Nissan

We know what you’re thinking: Nissan calls its performance models Nismo. And you’re right. But what did it do when it wanted to make an even more potent version of the Juke Nismo? It called it the Juke Nismo RS, of course. Whether it does the same with other performance models remains to be seen, but the idea of a Nissan GT-R Nismo RS has a nice ring to it.

Chevrolet

There’s any number of performance designations in the Bowtie portfolio, from Z06 and ZR1 to SS, it’s easy to overlook this one. Yet, there’s an RS package available for the base Camaro LT and a mildly warmed-over Sonic RS. With just 138 horsepower on offer, it’s hardly the most compelling model to wear the letters. But at pocket-change over $20,000, it’s by far the cheapest.

Koenigsegg

You didn’t think we’d end such an extraordinary list of performance machinery with something as mild as the Sonic RS, did you? Feast your eyes, instead on the Koenigsegg Agera RS. Combining the best of the Agera R and Agera S, the RS boasts a massive 1,160 horsepower, will rocket to 60 in under three seconds, and top out at over 270 miles per hour. It is by far the most exclusive and expensive of the lot, but it’ll blow the doors off pretty much anything else on the road.

  • Tumbi Mtika

    This article didn’t come fast enough.

  • Neil Garratt

    I think Ford actually used RS first in 1968 followed by Porsche in 1972.

    As an 80’s child in the UK RS will always be a Ford badge to me. RS2000, RS Cosworth etc.

    • TheHake

      I agree. Just as GTi will always be a Golf, even though Peugeot made some awesome GTi’s as well. Btw, the Ford RS200 in one of my all-time favorite cars.

      • Mr_Fanta_Pants

        Volkswagen is GTI and Peugeot is GTi.

        • TheHake

          Golf has only beet GTI since the 4th gen. Before that it was GTi.

    • AM

      I believe the first Porsches to use RS were the race cars like the ’50s 718 RSK, followed by the RS60 of 1960. Ford started using RS in 1968 for the German Taunus, this was followed by the Escort, and Capri. Chevrolet started using RS on the ’67 Camaro. FORD of Europe was the most consistent in using the “RS” badge.

      PS: Honda also uses RS for its sporty trim in some markets.

  • Kash

    I wonder which is used more, “GT” or “RS”

    • TheHake

      I’m pretty sure GT is used MUCH more than RS.
      That said, GTRS sounds fast…

  • donald seymour

    You didn’t explain all the meanings of RS. So, I assume for the most part RS stands for “racing sport.”

    • TheHake

      Or “relatively sporty” in the case of the Sonic.

      • MK

        Really Slow

    • T_Cake

      Rally Sport in the Camaro line.

  • For Jaguar, it’s XKR-S, not entirely RS.. what do i know …

    • TheHake

      It’s an XK anyways, with RS added. Audi’s are also RS3/RS4/RS6…

  • Germain Alilio

    Honda also uses RS on some models. RS in Honda’s case means ‘Road Sailing’

  • metzh

    Hey, where is honda?

  • T_Cake

    And where is the Camaro RS? That plate has been around forever.