If you had told an Audi enthusiast in the late ’90s that their favorite four-ringed brand would be developing a mid-engine supercar that could crest 200 mph, they’d probably look at you funny. The reason for that is that back in those days, Audi wasn’t in the supercar business and never really even got close to attempting it. Instead, Audi was the maker of sedans and wagons, albeit very fast sedans and wagons.
However, in the year 2000, Audi developed a supercar concept that would literally astound fans even today — the Audi Rosemeyer Concept.
Underneath its wonderfully strange and beautiful design, which is part steampunk and part art-deco, lied the beating heart of an 8.0 liter V16 engine that produced 700 hp and 561 lb-ft of torque. According to Audi, the Rosemeyer was capable of over 217 mph, making it the fastest car the Volkswagen Group had ever developed at the time. We can see where VW Boss Ferdinand Piech came up with the idea for the Bugatti Veyron.
While the design of the Audi Rosemeyer is strange, it’s oddly beautiful as well. It combines the styling of 1930’s Auto Union race cars with some steampunk and art-deco styling that really blends in a polarizing way. You might love it or you might hate it but, either way, you can’t stop looking at it. That 1930’s throwback styling continues on the inside, where the huge four-spoke steering wheel harkens back to the days of ’30s and ’40s race cars and the seats give off a sort of steampunk vibe. Oh and check that open-gate six-speed manual. Delicious.
You can tell by looking at this Rosemeyer concept that it was the inspiration for a few future VW Group products. Its engine certainly inspired Piech, head of VW Group at the time, to create the Bugatti Veyron which itself houses an 8.0 liter V16 engine, albeit with four turbochargers attached to it. Also, the styling of the Rosemeyer, and its open-gate manual shifter, seems to have inspired some of the design of the Audi R8.
So while Audi never had any intentions of selling the Rosemeyer or even getting it close to production-ready, it served its purpose as a design concept. It inspired future vehicles for both Audi and the entire VW Group, so in that sense the Audi Rosemeyer was a success and one of the most interesting concepts to ever wear four rings.