Audi is a rather old company. With roots dated back to the turn of the 20th century, the four-ringed brand has made some incredibly innovative cars throughout its long history. Admittedly, Audi wasn’t always Audi. In fact, if was four different automakers that joined together to create Audi, thus the four rings. However, we’re going to consider cars made by Horch and DKW as part of Audi’s history, being that those two brands are two of the four brands that created the company we know as Audi today.
5: 1938 Auto Union Type D – Unfortunately, this car has the bad reputation of being commissioned by Adolf Hitler. However, that doesn’t take away from how good of a car it actually was. Basically an open-wheeled race car, the Type D was powered by a 550 hp V12, which was simply insane for 1938. It also had a more sophisticated suspension than any other car in its class at the time, being both more comfortable and stable. If you can find one, you’d better hope you have Bill Gates-level pockets because the last one to sell at auction fetched a whopping $8 million.
4. 1992 Audi RS2 Avant – Probably the least well-known Audi RS model, the RS2 Avant was actually the first car to wear the RS badge. Packing a 2.2 liter turbocharged five-cylinder engine, the RS2 Avant made 311 hp and paired that engine with a six-speed manual gearbox. It was capable of 0-60 mph in 4.8 seconds, which is seven-tenths faster than a Ferrari F355 of the time. It was also comfortable, practical and (relatively) affordable. While it suffered from turbo lag, it was still an incredible car for its time and set us up for the amazing Audi RS cars we have today.
3. Audi R8 – The current second-generation Audi R8 is possibly the finest iteration of the “Everyday Supercar”, the supercar you can drive both on the track and to get groceries. Its 610 hp 5.2 liter V10 sounds glorious and it can get the R8 from 0-60 mph in just 2.9 seconds with launch control. It can also top 200 mph. But it was the first-generation R8 that was probably more impressive for its time. While it only debuted with a 4.2 liter 420 hp V8, it was one of the best V8s the world had ever seen. Capable of revving past 8,000 rpm and making an unbelievably good noise, the first-gen Audi R8 was so good it was driven by Iron Man himself. It also launched Audi into the supercar game and has cemented the brand as a serious contender to Ferrari and McLaren.
2. Audi A4 – While the Audi A4 may not have the performance or prestige of the other models on this list, such as the RS2 and R8, it’s actually Audi’s most important model. Debuting in the mid-’90s, the A4 was Audi’s answer to the dominant BMW 3 Series. The 3 Series was so good when it came out in the late ’70s, that it created its own segment. That sport sedan segment became the most popular segment in the premium market. So Audi had to get involved and did so with the A4. When the first B5 generation Audi A4 debuted, it was good but not great. It was a second-place runner up to the E36 BMW 3 Series of the time. However, as new generations came, and new models were introduced (like the S4 and RS4), Audi has been a serious contender in this ever-so-popular segment. While cars like the Audi R8 make the brand popular on television, it was really the Audi A4 that is Audi’s bread and butter.
1. UR Audi Quattro – The UR (German prefix for ‘original’) Audi Quattro is without question the best and most important car in Audi’s history. Before the Quattro, Audi was pretty much just making badge-engineered Volkswagen’s trying to stay alive. When the Quattro debuted in the mid-’80s, the four-ringed brand shocked the world. Developed for rally racing, the Quattro was a fire-spitting monster that dominated the rally stage, making its other competitors look foolish. It’s still considered by many to be the best rally car of all time. But more importantly than that, the Audi Quattro gave Audi its niche, its leg up over the other premium German brands — all-wheel drive. While BMW and Mercedes-Benz both already had all-wheel drive technology, Audi had its now-famous Quattro all-wheel drive. Using a Torsen-differential, Audi’s Quattro system was far superior to any other competitor’s. Ever since, the name ‘Quattro’ has been synonymous with Audi and its incredible all-weather performance. Hell, the brand’s performance division is named after it; Quattro GmbH. So while all of those other cars on the list are fantastic Audis that helped shape the brand, none did it better than the Quattro.