Ranking the 10 Best Audi Sport Models of All Time
Horch simply translated his family name into Latin, and Audi established itself as a permanent fixture at the International Austrian Alpine Rally. In 1932 Audi merged with Horch, Wanderer and DKW to form Auto Union. The resulting company gave us car enthusiasts absolutely crazy racing cars with supercharged V16 and V12 engines in the 1930s.
After the Second World War, the German car manufacturer didn’t offer too many sporty machines. The 100 Coupé and 100 Coupé S are two fine examples, but Audi didn’t really get sporty until the 1980s with the introduction of the Quattro and the founding of quattro GmbH.
Renamed Audi Sport GmbH at the end of 2016, the high-performance arm from Neckarsulm has given us a multitude of iconic machines over the years. It was exceptionally hard to pick 10 for this ranking, which starts with a vehicle that many people don’t know was developed by the mad professors at Audi Sport.
10. Audi Q7 V12 TDI quattro
The Q7 V12 is arguably the leftmost production car of the 10 we selected for this feature TDI quattro also happens to pack the biggest engine of the bunch. It’s also the most torquey, as you’d expect from a 5.9-liter turbocharged diesel V12. The sticker on the tailgate says 6.0, but it actually displaces 5,934 cubic centimetres.
Loosely inspired by the diesel engine technology proven in endurance racing by the R10 TDI race car, the twin-turbo mill was originally rated at 500 hp (493 hp) and a mammoth torque of 1,000 Nm (738 lb-ft). For comparison, the 48V-assisted V8 turbodiesel in the SQ7 TDI is good for up to 435 hp (429 hp) and 900 Nm (664 lb-ft) of stock.
According to Audi, which had to redesign the chassis and brakes of the Q7 for this engine, the world’s only production car with a V12 diesel needs just under 5.5 seconds from a standstill to 100 km/h. Audi intended to federalize the V12 engine SUV in the United States of America, but in the face of the global financial crisis of 2008 this plan was summarily scrapped.
9. Audi TT RS
Instead of the RS 3, the TT RS was the first modern compact Audi model to have a five-cylinder turbo. The EA855 (and subsequent EA855 evo) is a nod to the amazing-sounding powerplant of the RS 2 Avant, which we’ll discuss later, and is unique in this segment.
After the introduction of the RS 2 Avant, the subsequent racing models were produced in Neckarsulm. Not the TT RS, because it broke that tradition to streamline production. Originally available with a manual gearbox, the TT RS continues to be manufactured in Györ, Hungary, alongside smaller TTs.
Despite being one of the most iconic designs in the automaker’s lineup (the original is so pretty to this day), the TT as we know it is sadly being phased out. An electric vehicle in the same price range should serve as a replacement, although the successor could be more of a crossover than a coupé.
8. Audi RS3
The RS 3 further popularized the five-cylinder turbo of the TT RS along with the RS Q3. The five-door hatchback was preceded by the 1999 S3, a three-door model that’s pretty impressive by modern standards. With a displacement of 1.8 liters, the turbo engine produces 225 hp (225 hp) and 280 Nm (207 lb-ft).
The RS 3 originally started with five doors, a body style that Audi likes to call Sportback. The four-door sedan was to follow suit, and to the surprise of US car enthusiasts, the RS 3 was – and still is – offered in the more elegant body style in this country.
At $60,900 excluding freight for the 2023 model year, the RS 3 isn’t particularly cheap for a compact. However, with the RS Q3 not available in the US, the RS 3 remains the only five-cylinder offering in the compact segment.
7. Audi RS4 B7
The successor to the RS 2 Avant, the RS 4 Avant, released in 1999 for the 2020 model year, featured a twin-turbo 2.7-litre V6. Designed in collaboration with Cosworth and Porsche, the B5 was replaced in 2006 by the B7, with – you know – a free-breathing V8 powerplant that revs to 8,000 rpm and cuts the throttle off at 8,250 rpm.
This engine, which is very similar to the 4.2-liter V8 found in the first-generation R8 supercar, was mated exclusively to a Getrag-supplied manual transmission. The B7 generation RS 4 also introduced a new variant of the durable Torsen center differential, which has a standard setting of 40 percent front and 60 percent rear.
The Audi Sport model, which is wider than the A4 on which it is based, was crowned the 2007 World Performance Car. Top Gear named it the most surprising car of the year in 2005, although the E90 V8-powered BMW M3 consistently won comparisons against the B7.
6. Audi RS6 C6
Initially offered with V8 forced drive, currently also with V8 forced drive, the RS 6 left everyone speechless at the IAA in Frankfurt in September 2007. Based on the C6-generation A6, the second-generation RS 6 packs a 5.0-liter Lamborghini V10.
Or is it Audi heritage, considering Audi was responsible for Lamborghini back then? This chicken-or-egg dilemma doesn’t matter if you remember that the first example of the Gallardo was delivered in 2003 as opposed to 2008 for Audi Sport’s mid-size model.
Closely related to the Gallardo engine, the odd-firing V10 differs greatly from the powerplant in the baby Lambo by providing 23psi of boost pressure from a pair of turbochargers. Audi Sport could not advocate for a manual gearbox as the only gearbox available came with ZF’s 6HP.
5. Audi R8 V8
When it premiered in 2006 at the Paris Motor Show, the R8 featured a B7 RS 4-based V8 rated at 420 hp (414 hp) and 430 Nm (317 lb-ft) at 98-octane premium unleaded. Not obvious to some at the time, Audi Sport – then still known as quattro GmbH – used the Lamborghini Gallardo as the basis for the R8.
The press release raves about incorporating the DNA of a Le Mans-winning racer into the R8, and the German manufacturer also drew a parallel with the midship layout of the 1930s Auto Union Type C. Unveiled by the LeMans Quattro concept at the 2003 Frankfurt Motor Show, the original R8 was the work of Italian designer Walter de Silva, the man who also gave us the 2005-2012 SEAT Leon, Alfa Romeo 147 and Lamborghini Miura concept presented in 2006.
The R8 also mimicked the Gallardo in terms of gearbox choices, starting with the Graziano-supplied six-speed manual. The Italian outfit, currently owned by Dana, was also responsible for the automated manual, advertised as either E-Gear or R tronic.
4. Audi R8 V10
The base V8 would be phased out in favor of the Gallardo’s V10, and the automated manual would make way for another Graziano-supplied gearbox. The DL800 combined with this sonorous V10 is a match made in heaven. The R8 entered its second generation at the 2015 Geneva Motor Show.
Sharper, crisper and more expensive than its predecessor, the second-generation Huracan twin hasn’t and won’t come with a manual. There will never be one ex works, as the assembly line will unfortunately come to a standstill at the end of 2023.
Similar to the TT, an electric successor is (allegedly) in the works. However, this will be a long-running issue, because the Volkswagen Group does not yet have the right platform for this application. The all-electric successor, codenamed Rnext, could be built around the upcoming SSP (Scalable Systems Platform) sports platform.
3. Audi RS e-tron GT
The e-tron GT is not the first electric vehicle from the Four Rings Ingolstadt, but it is the first electric vehicle to receive the RennSport cure. Audi didn’t have the freedom it might want when designing this companion, having to borrow Porsche’s J1 architecture.
It wasn’t a bad choice though. In addition to the twin-engine powertrains, the J1 also rocks an 800-volt electrical system, and those 800 volts make a world of difference. The 800V electrical system not only requires thinner wiring, but also allows for faster charging, less heat, and smoother acceleration performance.
As the blueprint for Audi Sport’s next-generation electric vehicles, the RS e-tron GT has another trick up its sleeve inherited from Porsche. The rear axle is fitted with a two-speed gearbox designed for better acceleration in the first and greater efficiency and speeds in the second. The sprint from zero to 97 km/h takes 3.1 seconds, while the top speed is limited to 250 km/h according to the manufacturer.
2. Audi RS 2 Avant
The RS 2 Avant is often referred to as quattro GmbH’s first production car, but that’s not 100 percent correct. But more on that later, because the RS 2 Avant is the model that shaped the course of quattro GmbH more than any other sporty Audi, with the exception of the RS e-tron GT due to the inevitable switch to zero-emission powertrains.
The first racing and first high-performance Avant was built at Porsche in Zuffenhausen for a little over a year. Based on the Audi 80, which would be followed by the A4 and A5, the five-pot turbo RS 2 Avant was expected to sell 2,200 units. 2,891 would eventually be assembled, with 180 listed in RHD.
Audi would not use the RS moniker again until the B5 RS 4 ran between May 2000 and September 2001. Only 6,030 units were produced, of which around 500 were completed as right-hand drive.
1. Audi S2
The successor to the Quattro and predecessor of the RS 2 Avant is – drum roll please – an angular coupé designed and constructed by quattro GmbH. The S2 launched the S series, which sits between the A and RS series. The S2, which was produced in Neckarsulm between 1991 and 1995, was offered in a total of three body variants.
The three-door liftback coupe is – hands down – the must-have. It comes closest to the Quattro and the Sport Quattro before it, automotive icons that made a name for themselves in the World Rally Championship.
A five-door station wagon and four-door sedan were introduced later in the production run of the S2. The S2 started with 220 hp (217 hp) from a 2.2-liter turbocharged five-cylinder. It retired with 230 hp (227 hp) on tap, Audi claimed 5.8 seconds to 100 kilometers per hour (62 mph). What about the top speed? Do that 250 kilometers per hour (155 miles per hour).