Audi can trace its roots back to the early 20th century. In the 1930s, it joined with three other German automakers to form Auto Union, where it was dominant in European racing until it disappeared in the chaos of World War II. In 1965, Volkswagen bought the brand’s rights from Mercedes-Benz and relaunched Audi in the modern era. We’re sure Mercedes has been regretting it, at least a little, ever since.
VW quickly turned Audi into its luxury brand, and it worked out pretty well. Audi wasn’t exactly known for speed until the 1980s, when it perfected all-wheel drive, launched its Quattro line, and forever changed the definition of performance cars. Although Ingolstadt’s finest don’t have as long a history of performance cars as, say, BMW, they’ve more than made up for it over the past few decades.
1984 Audi Sport Quattro | Audi
Here’s a look at 15 of the fastest models the company has ever produced, using zero to 60 times as a metric. Because most Audis are electronically limited to 155 miles per hour top speeds, this seemed like the best means to measure. Unsurprisingly, most of these were built in the past decade. And like many other superlative lists, there are a few vehicles that have been excluded: concept vehicles, one-offs, or rare birds where official specifications weren’t available. So, without further ado, here are the fastest cars to ever wear the four-rings badge.
15. 1984 Sport Quattro
In many ways, the Sport Quattro made Audi what it is today. As such it deserves a place on any list of superlatives. But it’s really here because it was an ultra-limited (just 200 made), barely street-legal rally machine.With a turbocharged 2.1-liter inline-five powering all four wheels, the Sport Quattro made 306 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. That might not sound like much today, but the Sport Quattro’s carbon-kevlar construction kept weight down to about 2,600 pounds.
Add to it cutting-edge tech, such as anti-lock brakes and Audi’s first-generation Quattro system, and the Sport Quattro became one of the most legendary performance cars of the 1980s. Zero to 60 comes in a still impressive 4.8 seconds.
14. 2014 RS4 Avant Nogaro
Who doesn’t love fast station wagons? The European market RS4 Nogaro burst onto the scene in 2014 as a special edition model celebrating the 20th anniversary of the RS2 Avant, Audi’s original hot rod wagon.
Sporting the ’90s-era wagon’s trademark color, the RS4 Avant could hit a top speed of 174 miles per hour and accelerate to 60 miles per hour in just 4.7 seconds. That was thanks to its 450 horsepower V8 engine and 7-speed dual-clutch transmission. And like all great performance Audis, it sent that power to all four wheels.
13. 2017 S7
We still don’t love four-door “coupes,” but in our book the Audi A7 gets a pass for being so darn pretty. And in hotter S7 spec, it’s seriously quick, too. Like most Audis, top speed is electronically limited to 155 miles per hour. But thanks to its 4.0-liter V8 sending 450 horses and 406 pound-feet of torque to all four wheels, zero to 60 comes in an impressive 4.5 seconds. That’s not bad for a 4,500-pound luxury sedan.
12. 2017 S6
The S6 is a little smaller than the S7, and that makes just enough of a difference when it comes to acceleration. With the same 4.0-liter V8 putting out the same horsepower to all four wheels, the 4,300-pound sedan makes the zero to 60 jump in 4.4 seconds.
11. 2013 RS5 Cabriolet
Few luxury brands do compact convertibles better than Audi, and briefly we were able to buy one that could keep up with the red-hot S5. The RS5 Cabriolet had a 450-horsepower, 4.0-liter V8 at its disposal, which allowed it to hit 174 miles per hour and make the zero to 60 sprint in just 4.3 seconds. Talk about getting the wind in your hair.
10. 2011 R8 Spyder V8
It’s better known for its Lamborghini Gallardo-derived V10 (more on that later). But from 2007 to 2014, the R8, Audi’s now-iconic supercar, was available with a plenty potent 4.2-liter V8. And for just two years, you could get the 430 horse, 317 pound-feet in a drop-top. Despite being a few hundred pounds heavier than the coupe, the Spyder V8 topped out at 186 miles per hour and made the zero to 60 sprint in just 4.6 seconds.
9. R8 V8
It’s a well-known fact that you lose a lot of rigidity when you take the roof off a car, so most convertibles need extra (read: heavy) support to strengthen the chassis. That’s why both the V8-powered R8s had the same powertrain and put up near-identical numbers, but when it came to acceleration, the hardtop had the Spyder beat. The R8 V8 hit a terminal speed of 188 miles per hour and made the zero to 60 sprint in 4.2 seconds.
8. R8 Spyder V10
Those extra few pounds and structural bracing go out the window once Audi brings that aforementioned Lamborghini-derived V10 into play. The 5.2-liter V10 makes 525 horsepower, and it improves acceleration from zero to 60 to 4 seconds, a full 0.6 seconds faster than the V8 drop-top. Top speed is 194 miles per hour. We wonder how many people have topped out with the top down.
7. 2014 RS6 Avant
Haven’t had your fill of station wagons that double as supercars? Good. In 2012, Audi took the wraps off the (sadly, European market only) RS6 Avant. Audi borrowed a 4.0-liter V8 from Volkswagen Auto Group stablemate Bentley and dropped it into this midsize wagon. The result was a 190 mile per hour people mover that sent 560 ponies to all four wheels. With zero to 60 coming in 3.9 seconds, we doubt drivers had to worry about cries of “Are we there yet?” coming from the back seat.
6. 2017 S8 Plus
The A8 is Audi’s flagship luxury sedan. But while competitors BMW and Mercedes-Benz have V12s to top their sedan lines, Audi makes due with a V8 — a 4.0-liter, 605-horsepower, 517 pound-feet of torque V8, that is. With all that power on tap, the massive S8 Plus can match the TT RS in the zero to 60 sprint at just 3.7 seconds. But it stops at an electronically limited 155 mile per hour. Of course, in the S8, all occupants are hitting those speeds in world-class comfort.
5. 2014 RS7
If you thought the S7 was fast for a big sedan, prepare to be blown away. When it arrived in 2014, the RS7’s twin-turbo 4.0-liter V8 cranks out an astonishing 553 horses and 516 pound-feet of torque. The electronic limiter was thrown to the wind, and the RS7 could reach speeds up to 189 miles per hour. Zero to 60 came in a bonkers 3.7 seconds.
4. 2017 RS7
Before you run off to search for used RS7s, you should probably take a look at the 2017 model. Power from the 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 has jumped to an even 560 horses, and zero to 60 now comes in 3.6 seconds. That’s shockingly quick for a sedan.
3. 2017 TT RS
The Audi TT has always been a polarizing car, but any questions about the red-hot RS’ performance go right out the window. Powered by a 2.5-liter inline-five (a nice throwback to the earliest Quattro models), the TT RS sends 400 horsepower and 354 pound-feet of torque to all four wheels. With a suspension set up for performance, a top speed of 174 is possible, and zero to 60 comes in just 3.6 seconds. And starting at about $60,000, it’s something of a bargain, too.
2. 2017 R8 V10
Put the V10 in the R8 Spyder, and it blows the doors off the old V8-powered coupe. Put the same 540 horses and 398 pound-feet of torque in the coupe, and you have one of the fastest cars in the world. The base R8 V10 has a top speed of 199 miles per hour and can rocket from zero to 60 in just 3.5 seconds.
1. 2016 R8 V10 Plus
Of course, we are talking about supercars here, and at this level, heroes are measured in tenths of seconds. The fastest street-legal Audi ever built is the bonkers R8 V10 Plus, and it ranks as a hero in just about anybody’s book. With that V10 worked to crank out 610 horses and 413 pound-feet of torque, top speed in European spec jumps to 205 miles per hour, and zero to 60 comes in an insane 2.7 seconds.