Audi has an interesting heritage. It started out as a company founded by August Horch, named Horch, which means “hark” in German. After a name dispute, the company then split into both Horch and Audi, which means “hark” in Latin. In 1932 Audi, Horch, DKW, and Wanderer merged to create Auto Union. The four rings of today’s Audi logo are taken from the Auto Unions logo, with each of the rings standing for one of the manufacturers. Eventually, Volkswagen got its hands on Auto Union and brought back the Audi name. Through the years, there have been some great Audis, Horches, DKWs, Wanderers, and Auto Unions, and we’ve compiled a list of the top 25.
Note: “Ur” is a German prefix meaning “ancestral,” and Audi fans use this to denote the first of a line. The Ur-Quattro was the first Quattro, for example.
Complex Says: When Audi released the R8 road car (as opposed to the R8 Le Mans Racer), most people said, “it’s a badge-engineered Lambo.” The smart ones soon realized their folly. The R8 is a mid-engined supercar that not only goes fast and handles well, but is comfortable and refined enough for daily use. It doesn’t sacrifice performance to achieve this level of usability, though, and that’s what makes it one of the best all-around cars for sale right now.
9. Horch 26/65 PS
Complex Says: This car introduced the six cylinder engine to the world. Today, we are immensely thankful for this nice, middle ground between wussy four pot and thirsty V8.
8. DKW Monza
Complex Says: Believe it or not, this car had a polyester body (reinforced by glass-fiber), and that was a good thing. Its light weight and sound aerodynamics allowed it to set five world records in a single day in 1956.
7. C5 RS6
Complex Says: Not only was the C5 RS6 a sweet 444hp wagon, but it was a dominating force in the North American SPEED World Challenge GT Series from 2002-2004.
6. R8 Le Mans Prototype
Complex Says: The R8 race car is one of the greatest endurance racers of recent years. Due to its easy-to-replace parts and superb performance, the R8 won 63 races out of 79 entered and managed 47 pole positions. It secured wins at 24 Hours of Le Mans five out of seven times, and it won the American Le Mans Series every year from 2000 to 2006.
5. Auto Union D-Type
Complex Says: While the C-Type may have been the most astounding Auto Union silver arrow, the D-Type was easily the best. Although it didn’t have quite as much oomph as its predecessor, it still had a 420hp V12 though and a greatly improved suspension design that meant that people other than Bernd Rosemeyer could drive it. The D-Type also has the dubious distinction of being Hitler’s favorite race car.
Complex Says: The Quattro is Audi’s brand identity. Audi has an image as a sporty company, as a proponent of turbocharging, as a company that makes premium compact cars, and as a leader in AWD technology. The quattro was all of these things crammed into a lightweight, tossable package.
Complex Says: The Audi RS2 was a practical, four doors and a hatch family wagon. This is what made its performance so shocking. This child hauler could do 0-60 in 4.8 seconds, which is faster than a modern-day Maserati Granturismo, and 0-30 in 1.5 seconds, which was faster than a MacLaren F1. Next time you pull up to an aging Audi wagon at a red light, be afraid.
2. Sport Quattro
Complex Says: While the Ur-Quattro may have been the genesis of Audi’s image, the Sport Quattro was the realization of everything it was. The Ur-Quattro was a fun sports car, and the Sport Quattro was a game-breaking rally champion. The 444/306 (race or road spec) horsepower I5 in a carbon-kevlar body rocketed the Sport Quattro to victory in many a race.
1. Sport Quattro S1
Complex Says: The Sport Quattro S1 was the pinnacle of the Quattro. In its final tune, Audi managed to wring 591 horsepower out of the I5 engine. It also drastically reduced turbo lag through the introduction of a recirculating air system that helped the turbos stay spooled when the driver let off the gas. This was one of the most capable, if not the most capable, Group B rally car of all time. Group B was the most powerful rally class of all time, and because of it, the Sport Quattro S1 is the most iconic rally racer in history.