Later today, I’m going to take you on a tour of my favorite Audi on sale today — so I thought it’d be fitting if I showed you the five best Audi models ever sold in North America. Or, at least, my take on the five best Audi models ever sold in North America. Debate it all you want, but this is Doug’s version of the five finest Audi models we’ve ever gotten.
Audi A4 (1996-2001)
After decades of weirdly-styled cars with confusing names and questionable reliability, Audi finally demonstrated it could compete with real luxury brands like BMW and Mercedes-Benz with the 1996 A4. It was beautiful, high-quality and constantly being tweaked to tailor it to American market tastes, with revised powertrains throughout its life-cycle and various interior and exterior updates. This was the car that first showed Audi was serious — and the high-performance "S4" model was pretty cool, too. Find an Audi A4 for sale
Audi Quattro (1980s)
Although "Quattro" has now become the name of Audi’s all-wheel drive system, used on all of its models, it was originally the name of one single vehicle, which was sold in the United States throughout the 1980s. The original Audi Quattro wasn’t exactly fast by modern standards, but it’s got a very cool 1980s look and some unique characteristics — like all-wheel drive, which wasn’t at all common back then — that set it apart from sports cars of its era. Plus, this was a cool Audi from before Audi was cool — and it’s clear to just about everyone that nice examples of the 1980s Quattro will be worth big money someday. Find an Audi Quattro for sale
Original Audi R8
While the current Audi R8 is still a gorgeous car with incredible performance, early examples are probably the most impressive — in part because they were reasonably priced (the R8 started from just $111,000 back in 2008), and in part because they totally changed public perception of Audi. While everyone knew Audi was an up-and-coming luxury brand by 2008, nobody knew they could make such a dramatic sports car — until they did. The Audi R8 remains the best "halo car" ever made — and early examples ushered in a completely new era for the brand. Find an Audi R8 for sale
The current Audi RS3 is a brilliant car — a vehicle that’s not "too much" in terms of power or size, but rather just right. While other European automakers slug it out to see who can cram the most horsepower under the hoods of their midsize models (the RS6/7, the M5 and the AMG E63), the RS3 is the antidote: a car with a reasonable 400 horsepower that won’t get you arrested every time you put down your foot. It’s cool, it’s handsome and the sizing is great. I love it — and I’m glad they’ve finally brought it to the United States. Find an Audi RS3 for sale
Audi RS6 (2003)
Although Audi has sold many high-performance "RS" models in Europe — from the RS2 in the early 1990s all the way through a smattering of RS vehicles today — North America missed out on virtually all of them until the last few years (and we still don’t get the RS4 or RS6). The only "RS" model we got until recently was the 2003 RS6, which was quite a vehicle: With a whopping 450 hp, it was one of the fastest and most powerful sedans in history when it debuted. North America didn’t get a wagon, and Audi only sold the RS6 here for one model year — but it was a glorious year and a glorious car. Find an Audi RS6 for sale
Doug DeMuro is an automotive journalist who has written for many online and magazine publications. He once owned a Nissan Cube and a Ferrari 360 Modena. At the same time.
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