Audi’s celebrating what it sees to be a rather momentous occasion – 33 years after the iconic quattro (the lower-case ‘q’ is their own) roared onto the scene with a bassy five-cylinder warble and tore up the performance car rulebook, the 5,000,000th quattro all-wheel drive Audi has rolled off the production line.
To help the German firm mark this event for them, we’ve gone ahead and compiled a ‘Greatest Hits’ list of what we reckon are the greatest all-wheel drive road-going Audis to date.
The Audi quattro (or ‘Ur-quattro’, as it seems to be mostly referred to by car enthusiasts nowadays) really is one of those cars where its influence simply cannot be argued with. There is a reason why the quattro has lived on in petrolhead lore: it pretty much redefined what a performance car could be.
With a combination of an (at the time) ground breaking all-wheel drive system and the now-iconic bellowing turbocharged five-cylinder engine, the quattro instantly became the ultimate point-to-point speed machine on the planet in the early 1980s, whether it was on the public road or the rally stages of Sweden and Monte Carlo.
Never before have the worlds of rallying and road cars been so comprehensively redefined by one car, and it’s very likely we’ll never see anything quite as game-changing as the quattro was again.
Though it perhaps wasn’t quite as radical enough to join the quattro in the pantheon of revolutionary road cars, the Audi R8 had all the hallmarks of being an automotive milestone. Even as the launch of its replacement looms ever nearer, the first ever mid-engined Audi road car still has what it takes to remain one of the top supercars on sale today.
With a blend of 4.2 V8 or 5.2 V10 punch, the poise and balance to worry a Porsche 911 and the thumbs up from Tony Stark via product placement in the Iron Man films, the R8 immediately became a motoring sensation, and easily one of the stand-out supercars of the last thirteen years.
The only big downside about the R8 that we can think of is that, with the current car being as fresh as a daisy despite being six years old, Audi’s gonna have to pull something pretty special out of the bag for the R8’s eventual successor!
Audi RS4 (B7)
Over the years, the BMW M3 in its various guises has won pretty much every group test and head-to-head it’s ever participated in. However, in 2006, the Beemer very nearly lost out to what many seem to believe is the best non-R8 Audi performance car to date: the second-gen ‘B7’ RS4.
The RS4 seems to have that strange allure and status that very few are bestowed with. Maybe it’s because of the naturally aspirated, 414hp, rev-hungry 4.2 V8, or perhaps because customers could turn the RS4 into a Q-car and shroud said engine in an estate ‘Avant’ bodyshell.
Maybe it’s because tidy examples with low(ish) mileage readouts can be attained nowadays for Ford Focus ST money.
Or possibly it’s because potential B7 RS4 owners want to buy one, so they can turn it into a replica of Brazilian-American pop artist Romero Britto’s striking Audi Art Car in the picture above.
Yeah, that might be why…
Audi A6 Allroad
Whilst headline grabbers such as the RS6 Avant will (and have) be the car in the range that everyone will be talking about, there are lesser models in the A6 Avant pecking order that, if the Cool Wall were still a recurring feature on Top Gear, would be firmly in the Sub-Zero section.
Models such as the one above, the rugged Audi A6 Allroad. Currently in its third generation (the first A6 Allroad subtly burst onto the scene in 1999), the off-road honed estate does exactly the same job as a regular A6 estate, except it’s not held back by a muddy trail and, with its bits of additional black trim, has, in our opinion, the cooler visual allure.
A fairly steep asking price and not-exactly class leading running costs mean the current car will most likely remain that rarest of things: an Audi variant that’ll be a pretty uncommon site on the public road.
Whilst it’s not the Audi model we’d instantly recommend on objective grounds, you do get the thumbs up from us if you’ve decided to not follow the crowd and plump for an A6 Allroad.
The aforementioned quattro might be the most well-known all-wheel drive Audi of the 1980s, but it’s not the only car in the firm’s model range in that decade to be fitted with that drivetrain. Indeed, Audi was very quick to shoehorn it into a variety of cars, with the most well-known non-quattro example being the V8.
And no prizes for guessing what type of engine lay under the car’s bonnet…
As far as heritage value goes, the V8 is actually quite an important one for the brand’s history. Not only was it the first Audi to come with a V8 engine, but it was also the first Audi to bring together an automatic gearbox and the quattro all-wheel drive system.
Oh, and it was also a hugely dominant player in the DTM German touring car championship, until the all-wheel drive system that made it so competitive was outlawed from the sport.
A quattro-equipped Audi that proved to be an unstoppable force in motorsport? Now where have I heard that before…