Best Looking Audi Road Cars Ever?

While it’s sure to cause endless discussion and debate, making a list of the best Audi road cars ever isn’t exactly breaking news. Even still, it’s entertaining. So, when Jalopnik editors decided to weigh in on their picks, they peaked our interest. Their list? Well… it’s at times very specific, at times very non-specific, and oddly narrowed down to 16 cars.

Let’s start with what they chose. They didn’t seem to go in any particular order. But here’s a slide show of their pics and a summary of their list. You can find their reasoning HERE.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

  • TT (Mk1, type 8N)
  • A1 quattro (PQ25)
  • RS 5 Coupé (B8.5, type 8T)
  • A4 Avant (B6, type 8E)
  • RS 4 Sedan (B7, type 8E)
  • R8 (Mk1, type 42)
  • RS 7 Sportback (C7, type 4G)
  • RS 6 Avant (C8, type 4K)
  • RS Q8 (type 4M)
  • A2 (type 8Z)
  • S8 (D4, type 4H)
  • A6 (C5, type 4B)
  • RS 3 (type 8V)
  • S8 (D5, type 4N)
  • quattro (B2, type 85, a.k.a. “ur quattro”)
  • S2 Coupé (B3, type 8B)

It’s an impressive list, that qualifies as nerdy when the author is stating preference for an early Mk1 TT without the spoiler, or calling out the original limited edition A1 quattro versus the later more pedestrian all-wheel drive version also named quattro. We believe they’re a bit heavy (and misplaced) on S8 too.

So let’s take a stab at our own. We’ll do our best to keep it to 16 also, knowing that we’re going to leave a lot of cars on the cutting room floor… cars we might even choose if you asked us the same question tomorrow. Nevertheless, here’s our take roughly in chronological order. Toggle through the slide show to see pics of each.

Audi 100 Coupé S (C1, type F105)

The modern era Audi brand as we know it began here. With Audi set to be relaunched, Audi’s then director of design Hartmut Warkuss penned a fastback coupe based on the C1 100 LS intended to inspire passion. We tend to gravitate towards the earlier pre-facelift examples with more shark-like overhanging grille. Though four-cylinder and front-wheel drive, these cars weren’t especially fast, but in 1969 they put Audi back on the map as a builder of beautiful automobiles.

Audi quattro (B2, type 85)

Former Audi designer Peter Birtwhistle told us in a podcast that Audi chose to go with box flares rather than arch flares for cost-cutting reasons. Whatever the case, the decision to go the box flare route on a boxy coupe inspired by the 1973 Italdesign Audi Asso di Picche concept made for iconic design for a car that would reset the paradigm in rally. We tend to lean towards the later cars with their aero headlights for a cleaner look, and this rare 20-valve version (besides more powerful engine) also featured a unique center console that extended through to the rear seat.

Audi 200 20V Avant (C3, type 44)

The C3-generation of Audi 100/200 looked like a spaceship with its flush fitting windows and aerodynamic shape when it arrived in the very boxy 80s. In Avant version, it featured a unique rolling rear window design with spoiler that bisected the glass for an extra sporting look. We gravitate to the later 200 20-valve not just because it was the most powerful, but because it looked just a bit more muscular with subtle fender flares and BBS mesh wheels.

Worth noting, picking this car edged the C4 “ur” S4 or S6 Avant off of the list. The latter would be a natural, but as Avants go the C3’s rear end design has a more exotic feel to it. So, we went with the C3 then, UFO brakes be damned. This is a design competition after all.

Audi S2 Sedan (B4, type 8C)

Jalopnik went for the S2 Coupé. More predictable for Audi enthusiasts would be the Avant or even the more aggressive RS2 Avant. Each are solidly handsome cars, especially with the 6-spoke Avus wheels seen later in production. Still, it’s the sedan that gets our pick here. Audi built precious few of the sedans, making them very rare. In our opinion, the S2 spec is more handsome than the RS2 in its understatement, and the subtle 4-door sedan only augments the subtle sleeper nature of this era S-car.

Audi S8 (D2, type 4D)

How Jalopnik had two S8s on their list and neither were the original (or even the V10!) is a mystery to us. In the end, we lean towards the original. It’s got the incredible looks of the original polished aluminum ASF concept car, with the same Avus design wheels taken from the Avus concept. That it starred in an incredible car chase in Ronin doesn’t hurt either. Even after all of that though, the first-generation A8 on which the S8 is based marks such a substantial change for Audi that we simply had to include it.

P.S. this was the first and only S8 sold with a manual from the factory… alas, only in Europe.

Audi TT (Mk1, type 8N)

Back in December on a visit to Southern California, we swung through Meyers Manx’s new Orange County design studio for a visit with Freeman Thomas, designer of the first-generation Audi TT you see here. While visiting him, he showed us his personal TT Coupe. It’s an Aviator Grey 225 hp example with S line bodywork like the one you see here – beefier front chin spoiler, side gills for ventilation, slightly augmented rear spoiler and fatter cross-hatching on the grille. Audi only put that on 3.2 S line examples or the European TT quattro Sport… and also that 225 hp example built especially for Freeman. So, we’re going to stick with the designer on this design icon, though we’d perhaps opt for a different color such as Papaya Orange (seen above) or Goodwood Green that were also offered late in production.

Audi RS 4 Avant (B5, type 8D)

There has to be a B5 on this list. Right?!?! Jalopnik didn’t think so, but we do. And while the B5 S4 in Nogaro Blue is iconic given how much it changed the landscape and also Audi’s street crew, it’s the B5 RS 4 Avant that we will defer too. It was with the B5 RS 4 that Audi thumbed its nose at Porsche, turned away from the obvious success of the RS2 and said “we’ve got this… thanks”. That’s about the same time Audi was heading to Le Mans to take on the Porsche 911 GT1 with its R8R too.

Back to the B5 RS 4, factory Recaro wing backs and incredible color offerings such as Nogaro Blue, Imola Yellow, Avus Silver and Goodwood Green looked particularly special on this car. This first-ever RS 4 very quickly became another “it car” station wagon in its own right, and it’s easy to see why.

Audi A4 ultrasport (B6, type 8E)

We’re skipping the B7 RS 4 for this. That may be seen as heresy, but we’d argue the B6 design is more pure to the initial Bauhaus look Audi sought when as it headed into the 2000s. The B7 with its more squared off trunk was more expected, whereas in period the B6 was nearly as spaceship-like as the first-generation TT. And, if you’re going to go B6, then B6 ultrasport (US market terminology for S line in that application) is the coolest of the mix… maybe even cooler than the S4 as it retained the upward arching bumper lines. We’re also going with the sedan, because its rounded trunkline was more mold-breaking also.

Audi RS 6 Avant (C5, type 4B)

There’s a lot to unpack with the C5 RS 6. It’s the first-ever RS 6 offering, meaning expansion of the RS lineup under the four rings. Like the B6 A4, the C5 was also featured spacey Bauhaus design that was just so distinctive in period. The car made use of the larger aluminum arch flared fenders from the 4.2, but featured a fascia that was more sporting… though subtle and tame by modern standards. It looks particularly mean in Avant form.

Audi R8 GT (Mk1, type 42)

While we agree with Jalopnik that the first-generation R8 was the best R8 with its highly unique side blades, we’ll go one further and single out the GT. That car got unique wheels, anodized brake finish, matte carbon trim, unique rearview mirror design, trunk spoiler rand gurney flaps on the front bumper. There was no question this was something special, and a real rival to the likes of the Porsche 911. We’d probably opt for a period correct launch color like Samoa Orange, but alas had no photos at our disposal of that configuration for your reference here.

GTs like this got critiqued for their single clutch S tronic only transmission configuration, but again… this is a design evaluation and there are now shops who will specialize in converting a car to manual for you should you require it.

Audi RS 5 Coupé (B8, type 8T)

You can thank the RS 5 for there being no B7 RS 4 or C8 RS 6 on this list. Why? It caters to those other cars’ strengths in a more alluring body. We’re going here for the pre-facelift early B8 that the USA never got in RS trim. The more squared off lights and LED array seem to be more defining of that era. It is probably the best-looking specimen of the return of box flares design (B8 RS 4 and C8 RS 6 being the others), and it’s all in the more tossable B-chassis packaging.

Audi TT RS Coupé (Mk2, type 8J)

If you’re going to add another TT to the list, the Mk2 TT RS seems to fit the bill. It’s a little bit more brutal than the other Mk2 TT offerings, but given Audi had softened the design of the TT for Mk2, the brutality of the RS is welcome. Mk2 also featured cool design cues like the TT perforated logos in the seating leather and Recaro shell seats that were both an option for Europe. We’ll skip from mentioning the 5-cylinder turbo and manual transmission, because it totally didn’t help sway our decision… totally.

Audi S3 Sedan (MQB, type 8Y)

Why just an S3 rather than an RS 3? In some cases, we prefer the original design over the more egregious refinements of the RS. That’s the case of the 8Y S3. In the 8Y generation, the S3 seems to follow the three bears porridge rule and cut the “just right” line straight down the middle between the A3 and RS 3?

Why not the Sportback? You could make a strong case for it, but it’s not sold here and in Audi parlance we appreciate the car that does its best to harken the magic of the B5 S4 era more than the car that seems to harken cars like the Lancia Delta Integrale.

Audi RS Q8 (type 4M)

We knew we liked the Q8 when we first saw that ur quattro inspired C-pillar and muscular form on the original concept car. In RS Q8 configuration, the shape only gets better thanks to an aggressive front fascia and thick carbon fiber surround of the Audi Singleframe grille. The Sport quattro-inspired three-segment horizontal venting over the singleframe is a cool nod as well. The RS Q8 is the only crossover Q offering on our best-looking list, and we believe our reasoning is more than token acknowledgement of the SUV segment.

Audi RS e-tron GT (J1, type 4J)

However we may want to debate the whole EV versus ICE question, one universal truth is that the Audi e-tron GT and its RS e-tron GT derivative are something beautiful to behold. This era of design takes a new approach to the box flare / 90 IMSA GTO widebody and elegantly applies them to one of the most coupe-like sedans on record. We also like the seemingly RS 3 LMS front arch flare vent (just behind the front wheel) that seems to have begun here and now carries into other more recent design such as the current RS 3 and RS 6 GT.

Also worth mentioning in just how good the RS e-tron GT looks is how it can make even a boring wheel design look good. The wheels offered on the car all seem to have aerodynamics in mind, making concave shaping or wide openings we tend to expect on aggressive wheel design something we don’t tend to see on the GT. Even still, it looks great.

Audi RS 6 Avant performance (C8, type 4K)

You knew this one was coming, right? With the R8 now retired, it seems the most loved and lusted-after car in the Audi lineup must be the RS 6 Avant. We’ll go one further and take it in more recent “performance” trim. Why? The original launch wheels are a bit busy on an already busy design, while the just-launched GT with all its stripes seems a bit at odds with the nature of a wagon. The performance gets most of the power upgrades and pairs that all with a simpler wheel design that really augments the RS 6’s form. And that form… it’s worth noting, is impressive. Audi turned to the RS 7 for front fascia, wider flares and larger wheel arches than other A6s, meaning those 22-inch alloy wheels help give the car a design drawing in real life sort of vibe. It remains a favorite of so many for a reason.