1. AUDI A4 1994-PRESENT GERMANY
Audi A4, produced by the German Volkswagen subsidiary, is a compact executive car offering great luxury and comfort for the price. Audi had been having serious troubles as a company since the 1980’s. The A4 actually saved the company. Initially available as a sedan or wagon, later production would offer a convertible model. The car not only put Audi back in the black, it created unexpected competition for BMW and Mercedes in the executive car market.
Audi became the first European carmaker to put a hybrid vehicle into series production, the Audi Duo, which was based on the A4 Avant. Audi’s A4 was the first model produced by the Volkswagen Group to feature the new 1.8 litre 20v engine with five valves per cylinder, based on a design for a super touring race car.
2. AUDI QUATTRO 1980–1991 GERMANY
The idea for a high-performance four-wheel-drive car was proposed by JörgBensinger, Audi’s chassis engineer, in 1977. Bensinger discovered that his Volkswagen Iltis could outperform any other vehicle in snow, even those that were more powerful. He began to develop an Audi 80 variant that would be versatile in bad driving conditions. The Quattro was the result, a road rally car with four-wheel drive.
Quattro comes from the Italian word for “four,” and has since been used to refer to Audi’s all-wheel drive systems. The 2 door coupe became the company’s most popular car in the 80’s. The Audi Quattro was also the first rally car to take advantage of then-recent rule changes allowing four-wheel drive cars to compete. It went on to be have great success racing over the next few years. The car also featured independent front and rear suspensions.
3. AUDI R8 2007-2014 GERMANY
The Audi R8, designed, developed, and manufactured by Audi AG’s high performance private subsidiary company, quattro GmbH, is a mid-size, two-seater sports car. The car is based on the Lamborghini Gallardo platform. It features Audi’s patented permanent Quattro All-Wheel Drive system. The car is constructed on an Audi Space Frame, using an aluminium monocoque which is built using space frame principles. The car was first announced as the Audi Le Mans Quattro Concept Car in 2003. Racing models hit the tracks in 2005 and road cars in 2007.Six-time 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Jacky Ickx described the R8 as “the best handling road car today.” Criminals take notice, R8’s are also available in police cars, with bigger engines, sport suspension, sport steering, and a roll bar.
4. BMW 328 1936–1940 GERMANY
The BMW 328 is a sweet classic sport car made by the German manufacturer. Designed by Fritz Fiedler and Peter Szymanowski, the BMW 328 featured a straight-6 OHV engine and a four speed transmission. The BMW 328 went on to win hundreds of races, including winning in its class at Le Mans in 1938. Unfortunately, after the Second World War the plant in Eisenach, Germany where the BMW 328 was produced fell under the control of communist Russia. All automobile production followed state-direction until Germany was unified in 1989. A 328 and BMW technical plans were taken from a bombed out BMW factory by representatives of the Bristol Aeroplane Company and Frazer Nash companies. The first Bristol car, the 400, was heavily based on those plans. Bristol motors were also used in AC cars.
5. BMW 3 SERIES 1975-PRESENT GERMANY
The 3 Series is BMWs most popular selling car of all time. Produced in six different variations with five different body styles, this compact executive car dominated luxury markets, becoming one of the highest selling luxury lines of all time. Sales of 3 Series vehicles make up 30% of all BMW sales. Its first generation, the E21, was released at the peak of the oil crisis. Combining luxury with the gas mileage of a compact car helped to propel the vehicle to instant success. The 3 Series has won so many awards, accolades, and races, it would be too time consuming to list them all here. In 2013 BMW began producing the BMW M3, a high-performance version of the 3 Series.
6. BMW 7 SERIES 1977-PRESENT GERMANY
The 7 Series is BMWs full-sized luxury vehicle. Introduced two years after the 3 Series, in 1977, the 7 Series is BMW’s flagship car. It is only available as a sedan or an extend limousine. The 7 Series replaced BMW’s E3 large sedan. The 7 Series offers a more high performance, additionally modified version in the B7 made by Alpina. Some versions of the Alpina B7 feature a supercharged 4.4L V8 with 493bhp. Initially, however, all Series 7’s had 6 cylinder engines. It wasn’t until 1992 the V8s were introduced. The Series 7 is the standard in luxury. Often features and new technology are introduced to the Series 7 well before they are in smaller models.
7. MERCEDES-BENZ SSK 1927–1932 GERMANY
Though Merecdes-Benz, based in Germany, has made many beautiful cars, none were quite so significant to the automotive world as the SSK, or Super Sport Kurz, which in German meant Super Sport Short. The SSK was a roadster produced by Mercedes-Benz starting in the late 1920’s. It was the last Benz designed by engineer Ferdinand Porsche before he left to found the Porsche Company. The SSK’s supercharged straight 6 kicked out 200-300mhps. The power and performance were outmatched at the time. It’s high performance and competitive success made it one of the most highly regarded cars of the era. The SSK was a nominee for the Car of the Century award, making it the penultimate round.
8. MERCEDES-BENZ 300 SL COUPÉ/GULLWING 1954–1957 GERMANY
The first iteration of the SL-Class grand tourer convertibles, the 300SL, was introduced in 1954 as a two-seater sports car with distinctive gullwing doors. A roadster iteration would become available in 1957. The original was notable not only for its awesome gullwing doors, but for being the first car available to consumers to come with a fuel-injection. It also boasted the world’s top speed at the time. It was competitively successful, winning Le Mans in 1952. Today, the 300 SL with gullwing doors is one of the most collectible Mercedes-Benz cars in existence, valued between $1 to $2.5 million. The Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG is described by Mercedes as a spiritual successor to the 300SL Gullwing.
9. MERCEDES-BENZ 500E 1990-1994 GERMANY
The 500E or E500 is a high performance version of Mercedes-Benz’s E Series. Designed and produced in close cooperation with Porsche, the 500E was a luxury executive car on the outside and a bad ass sports car on the inside. For this distinction, it was branded a “wolf in sheep’s clothes” by the press. The car had to be transported back and forth from Mercedes’s manufacturing plant to Porsche’s during production. The process of producing a 500E took 18 days to complete. Capable of impressing the Board of Directors of the company and doing 0-60mph in under 6 seconds, this car has earned respect in the executive and sports car classes. The diabolical creation was only produced for four short years.
10. MERCEDES BENZ 540K ROADSTER 1936-1940 GERMANY
The 540K was a roadster designed and fabricated by Mercedes-Benz in the 1930’s. The designer, Friedrich Geiger had developed the car out of its predecessor, the Mercedes-Benz 500K, which was itself developed from the SSK. Popularly purchased as a two-seater cabriolet or a four-seater coupé, the Roadster was also available as a stretch limo which came with fully armored! Powered by a straight-8 cylinder aspirated by twin pressurized updraft carburetors, the beast kicked out 115hp naturally. The addition of a Roots supercharger which could be engaged for short periods of time gave it extra kick. This car became a favorite of the Nazi party. Mercedes built 12 custom Roadsters with extended chassis and armor plating. One of these cars was a gift from Adolf Hitler to Ante Pavelić, leader of the Independent State of Croatia.
11. NSU RO 80 1967–1976 GERMANY
The NSU Ro was a technologically advanced sedan manufactured by the NSU firm of West Germany. Its powertrain, a 113 bhp (84 kW; 115 PS), 995 cc twin-rotor Wankel engine driving the front wheels with a semi-automatic transmission, which employed an innovative vacuum system, was regarded as particularly advanced for its time. It also featured four wheel ATE Dunlop disc brakes, the type of brakes which at the time were only featured on sports and luxury vehicles. Unfortunately for the Ro 80, it gained an early reputation for unreliability which it could not shake, despite the fact that its last production year vehicle won the 1968 Car of the Year Award from the European motoring writers. It was a Car of the Century Nominee.
12. PORSCHE 911 1963–PRESENT GERMANY
The 911 (Nine Eleven or in German, the Neunelf) is a high performance, rear-engine, two-door sports car produced by Porsche AG in Germany. The 911 has been heavily modified for rallying, racing, and other types of competitions throughout its lifetime. It is one of the most successful competitive cars ever made. Its design has underwent only minor changes in over five decades of continuous production. Through most of its life the 911 served as Porsche’s flagship car. It is a legend in its own right, which is why it placed fifth on the international Car of the Century poll. While Porsche has and will continue to make many fine automobiles, the 911 is the company’s best known model and an icon for sports cars everywhere.
13. VOLKSWAGEN BEETLE 1946–2003 GERMANY
The Beetle was a two-door, rear-engine economy car manufactured by German automaker Volkswagen from 1938 until 2003. It was Adolf Hitler who first formulated the need for a cheap, simple, functional automobile to mass produced for Germany. Though some were produced in the 1930’s, World War II prevented major production from occurring until 1946. With European economies in tight spots following the war, the Beetle (or Bug as it would be commonly known) quickly became a success, the demand helping to give new life to German manufacturing. Soon the Bugs would become favorites in America, as well, where they would become a favorite of the hippie generation during the 1960’s and 1970’s. The Bug spawned a subculture, people collect, build, restore, and modify Bugs to this day. The newer generations, which have a bubblier exterior, were never as popular. Remarkably efficient and affordable, the Beetle was a Car of the Century nominee.
14. VOLKSWAGEN GOLF 1974–PRESENT GERMANY
Golfs (or Rabbits, as they were sold in the US at times) are a compact car designed and manufactured by the Volkswagen Group. An advancement of the rear-engine, rear-wheel drive Beetle design, the Golf is a front-engine, front-wheel drive compact that has become Volkswagen’s best-selling model of all time. It also has the distinction of being the second best-sellingautomobile ever, with well over 30,000,000 being sold world-wide. Through seven generations of continuous production, the Golf has become a go-to car for anyone looking for style, affordability, and efficiency. Its reliability and popularity helped it to become a Car of the Century nominee. Continuing to lead the charge on fuel efficiency, VW recently began producing electric powered Golfs.
15. VOLKSWAGEN TYPE 2 (MICROBUS) 1950-PRESENT GERMANY
The Type 2, or as it was commonly known, the Microbus, Kombi, or Transporter (depending on the body style), was a panel van introduced in 1950 by Volkswagen. The Type 2 was VW’s second car design, following the Beetle. Often used as a camper, many models featured a unique pop-up bed that raised out from the roof. The versatile and unique van became a favorite road vehicle for travelers. By the 1960’s the hippies in America had practically adopted them as their official vehicle, giving way to the nickname “hippie bus.” Like many VW’s, the Microbus has spawned a subculture which to this day collects and rebuilds classic Type 2s. The Type also shares the distinction of being one of the first forward-control vans, meaning the driver was positioned above the front wheel.