Today, when you look around the streets and highways, chances are that you can pick out more than a few Audis driving around. The German built cars, easily identifiable thanks to the trademark logo of four interlocked circles, appear to be getting more popular with consumers with each passing year. Audis are so appealing to drivers because of what they offer. The German cars are stylish and well designed, feature all-wheel drive (AWD) and often have a range of luxuries and features sought after by drivers. As well as being one of the ‘Big Three’ of German automakers, Audi has been and continues to be involved in various racing ventures – all of which help to keep the company innovative and promote the brand to a global audience.
It almost wasn’t this way, however. Auto Union, the forerunner of Audi, nearly didn’t survive the damage and turmoil caused by the Second World War. Dated and low powered designs saw the company struggle until Volkswagen purchased a majority stake in 1964, a move which eventually led to the resurrection of Audi. In the 1980s, Audi shook up the motorsport world with the introduction of AWD into the World Rally Championship in the form of the Sport Quattro. After re-establishing itself as a true competitor in sport, the company targeted the likes of Mercedes and BMW in the 1990s by developing more high-end cars. Since then, the company has branched out to produce a wide range of vehicles which include everything from SUVs and wagons to high-performance sedans and sports cars.
The following list looks at the higher-end performers of the Audi lineup. There are no concept cars or prototypes included here – these are all cars that were produced in number and (theoretically) available for sale to people like you and me. Additionally, breakdown is by overall model type so as to add variation and prevent you from having to read through a list dominated by several Audi R8 variants. Ahead you’ll find a blend of sporty two-seaters, wagons and sedans which all provide evidence as to why this German manufacturer is so popular with car enthusiasts today.
10 2008 Audi RS4 – 4.4 sec.
In the world of performance tuning, it seems like every automaker has a performance branch or ‘garage.’ For instance, BMW has its M branch and Mercedes has AMG. In terms of Audi, there is Quattro GmbH. This subsidiary of Audi takes the conventional A-series cars and adds a host of technological and performance enhancements. From the A4 series, Quattro GmbH developed the RS4 – the top tier of the A4’s development. Where the A4’s largest engine option was a 252 hp 3.2L V6, the RS4 came powered with a 414 hp 4.2L V8. This helped shave around two seconds off the 0-60 time posted by the A4.
9 2015 Audi RS3 Sportback – 4.1 sec.
Another product of the Quattro GmbH development garage, the RS3 takes Audi’s A3 vehicle and cranks up the power and performance. It also gets the title ‘Sportsback’ which is Audi’s way of not scaring away people with the out-of-fashion ‘hatchback’ terminology. The car’s 2.5L turbocharged motor is a bit of a nod to the Audi rally cars of 30 years ago – and the sound is probably the closest among the Audi lineup as well. With 362 hp and 343 lbs-ft of torque, the engine can propel this sporty little car to 60 mph in the same time as a Ferrari 575M Maranello – not bad for hatchback.
8 2013 Audi RS5 – 3.9 sec.
What happens when you take an A5/S5 and pack in more power and performance parts? You end up with the high-end RS5. While performance in expensive luxury cars often means the use of a turbocharger or two, the RS5 is different. Under the hood is a 4.2L naturally-aspirated V8 which produces 444 hp and 317 lbs-ft of torque. Don’t be fooled though. The engine in this Audi is not the same as the one found in the company’s R8 supercar. The RS5’s motor is a much newer development which is based on Lamborghini’s V10 - and it actually produces more power than the V8 powered R8.
7 2013 Audi A8 (L) 4.0T – 3.8 sec.
In terms of the Audi A8, the saying ‘more is better’ really is true. Audi engineers must have taken this to heart when they basically took the engine specifications for their 2.0L powered A8 and doubled it. Instead of a single 211 hp turbocharged 2.0L four-banger, this Audi has an eight-cylinder, 4.0L twin-turbo motor which puts out 420 hp. In addition to doubling everything under the hood, this A8’s performance is doubly impressive as 0-60 times are slashed from high-7 seconds for the 2.0L variant to just 3.8 seconds for the 4.0T. At an opening price of around $88,000, this Audi may not have all the features and impressive stats of the higher-end S8, but it is around $20,000 cheaper for sub-4 second acceleration.
6 2014 Audi RS6 Avant – 3.7 sec.
From the popular Audi A6 came the sportier S6. From the S6 Avant came the even higher performance RS6 Avant – the fastest wagon on this list. The RS6 Avant is powered by a 4.0L twin-turbocharged V8 which produces over 550 hp and nearly 520 lbs-ft of torque. Thanks to the AWD system and electronic stabilization control, that power is firmly put to the ground and helps this grocery-getter manage a 0-60 time of 3.7 seconds. To put that in perspective, those are times put down by the likes of the Aston Martin V12 Vantage and Dodge Viper SRT-10.
5 2013 Audi S8 – 3.6 sec.
This four-door luxury sedan looks like something a VIP would drive. Its full size also hides the fact from unknowing onlookers that the S8 is a bit of a sleeper. The S8 is derived from the A8, a car that’s been around since 1994. The first generation looked like a cross between a high-end Lincoln and a VW Passat. Since then, like with all Audis, the design transformation has been most noticeable. This particular S8 gets its impressive 0-60 time from its 4.0L twin-turbocharged V8 which produced 520 hp and 480 lbs-ft of torque. It’s the same engine that can be found in Audi’s S6 and S7 lineup as well as the Bentley Continental GT.
4 2012 Audi TT RS – 3.5 sec.
Around since 1998, you can think of the two-door TT as the little brother to the much larger and more powerful R8- which we’ll get to, don’t worry. The first generation of this little car looked a lot like a VW Beetle which had gone to the gym, lost a few pounds and toned up. Since then, the design has evolved and taken on some of the lines of the bigger R8. The TT comes with a variety of engines, including inline four and five cylinder units and Volkswagen’s long-serving VR6 engine. In its TT RS trim, the car is powered by a turbocharged 2.5L inline five cylinder engine which puts out 360 hp in North American spec. This gives the car a 0-60 time similar to that of a Porsche 911 turbo.
3 2014 Audi RS7 – 3.4 sec.
In 2010, Audi released a very sleek looking, four-door “sportback.” Known as the A7, it sported the variety of engine choices, AWD and styling you’d expect from the German automaker. Never one to sit idly by, the designers at Audi decided to create enhanced performance variants of the A7. The top performer of this evolution is currently the 2014 RS7. Powered by a 4.0L twin-turbocharged V8, the RS7 can get from 0-60 in an impressive 3.4 seconds. It also comes with a long list of options, driver controls and assists and trims to make it stand out from the rest of the 7 lineup.
2 2011 Audi R8 LMS GT3 – 3.1 sec.
To be honest, if we hadn’t limited this list by model then most of the entries here would be some variant of Audi’s successful R8. The R8 is a two-door coupe that features either a V8 or V10 engine mated to an AWD system which is all packed together on a Lamborghini Gallardo derived platform. It’s an impressive looking and performing car which has found its way into the garages of numerous movie and sports celebrities over the past several years. The pinnacle of performance among the Audi R8s is surely the LMS GT3 variant which can be found racing around the world wherever endurance races take place. Powered by a 5.2L V10 putting out well over 500 hp, this particular Audi can get to 60 mph from a stop in just 3.1 seconds. That’s even more impressive when you learn that the LMS GT3 only uses RWD thanks to race rules.
1 1985 Audi Sport Quattro S1 – 3.0 sec.
In the early 1980s, Audi caused a revolution in motorsport with the introduction of the Quattro. The World Rally Championship (WRC) had previously been the domain of the RWD car. Audi decided to put a heavy and complex AWD system in their car and the rest is history. The Quattro not only left its mark in motorsport but also affected the consumer market. Today, the vast selection of vehicles that come equipped with AWD systems have their origin with this boxy early 1980s racer. In non-race trim, the Sport Quattro was no slouch and could get to 60mph in 4.7 seconds. The WRC S1 variant was the pinnacle of performance and can get up to that speed in an astounding 3.0 seconds thanks to its 2.1L turbocharged inline five cylinder engine.