Audi’s history dates back to the 19th century when it was first founded by August Horch. However, it was in 1932 that it became Audi Union AG, the ‘brand of four rings’ that we know today. The logo’s interlocking rings represent the four founding companies: Audi, DKW, Horch, and Wanderer, and in 1985, the name was shortened to Audi AG.
This year, Audi, as it is more commonly known, celebrates its 90th year. What better way to reminisce about the brand’s rich history than by looking through its current catalogue and picking out models that have been in production for more than 25 years (some are even older than 50).
The Audi A6 is the successor of a well-loved historical model, the legendary Audi 100, which was first introduced in 1968. The Audi 100 was the first to have a five-cylinder injection engine and was the brand’s foray into the competitive upscale mid-sized car market segment. It was well-received and quickly became a bestseller, going through four generations before it was retired in 1997. Through the years, it was offered in various styles: two- and four-door sedans, and a five-door Avant.
One of the Audi 100’s notable generations was the third, introduced in 1982, which, in its time, achieved an impressive low drag coefficient of just cd 0.30 helping it clinch the title of cd world champion in the sedan category. Continuing its impressive history is the fourth generation in 1990, which was the first Audi to have the newly-designed V6 engine.
Following the Audi 100’s last generation, it was restyled and launched as the Audi A6 in 1994. The Audi A6 lived up to its predecessor, winning various awards for design, performance, and safety, including World Car of the Year in 2005, and more recently, Top Safety Pick+ 2019, the highest award bestowed by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety for the Audi A6’s Matrix LED and HD Matrix LED headlights. The Audi A6 is currently in its fifth generation.
When it comes to high-performance station wagons, the Audi RS 6 Avant is the one to beat. Spanning a successful four generations over two decades, the Audi RS 6 had the brand’s latest and most advanced technology at launch, excelling so much it brought home the title at the 1999 24 Hour of Le Mans endurance race. The Audi RS 6 continued its reign in the prestigious race by winning it again in 2000, 2001, and 2002 — giving Audi a total of 13 Le Mans wins, making the brand the second-most successful team of all time in Le Mans. While it was briefly offered in Sedan variety during its first two generations, later iterations only came in the Avant version. Its latest version once again rewrote its own history for being the first car to be supported by a 48-volt mild hybrid system, to improve efficiency even further.
When we talk about the Audi A4, which launched in 1994, we also have to pay homage to its predecessor, the Audi 80. The Audi 80 was designed to be a “modern, but not trendy” family car when it first launched in 1972. The initial two-door model allowed the brand to establish the new compact sedan market segment, and the Audi 80 quickly became known for its unusually light weight, sporty handling and low consumption, earning it Car of the Year in 1973. The success of the model spawned four generations until production ended in 1995.
While consumers had to bid farewell to the much-loved model, they didn’t have to wait long because the Audi A4, the successor to the Audi 80, was shortly introduced to the market to the same warm reception from consumers.
The Audi A4 was initially available as a sedan with the Audi quattro four-wheel drive technology. The Avant version was introduced in 1995, followed by the Cabriolet convertible in 2002 (which was discontinued in 2009). These days, the Audi A4 is in its fifth generation. The latest iteration launched in 2020 has a refreshed sportier look, boasts top-notch technology and an exhilarating drive.
The Audi A8 may only be 28 years old but it shares the same roots with its predecessor, the ground-breaking Audi V8. Debuting in 1988, the Audi V8 was the first Audi to use the V8 engine and the first model to combine the Audi quattro technology with an automatic transmission. The full-size luxury sedan was also the model that brought the company into the premium segment for the first time.
In the car racing segment, the competition model of the Audi V8 won consecutive German Touring Car Championships (DTM) driver’s titles in 1990 and 1991, earning Audi a place in history as the first company to win back-to-back DTM titles.
The Audi V8 was replaced by the Audi A8 in 1994. It is currently in its fourth generation, with the latest Audi A8 and Audi S8 making waves in Singapore after launching in August 2022. Like its predecessor, the Audi A8 has some pioneering traits — it is the first mass market car with an aluminium chassis, a design patented as the Audi Aluminium Space Frame. The Audi A8 range has racked up accolades as well, bringing home Wheels magazine’s Car of the Year 2018 in Dubai and World Luxury Car of 2018 in the World Car Awards — the ninth time that Audi has won Top Car award.
The Audi A3 may the ‘youngest’ in this list but what it lacks in years, it more than makes up for in terms of being an all-rounded crowd favourite. The Audi A3 was a newly developed compact car for the brand when it was released in 1996. Its success led to numerous new variants introduced through the years: a three-door sedan at launch, a five-door Sportback in 1999, and a Cabriolet convertible in 2008.
In the first few years since it entered the market, it picked up a slew of awards including Golden Steering Wheel and Auto Trophy awards, and won the most points for the best safety standard in the 1998 Euro NCAP Safety Test. It the last decade, it also picked up World Car of the Year in 2014.
These days, the world’s first premium compact car is enjoying its fourth generation and showing no signs of slowing down. While it has grown slightly from its debut generation, the extra space means more headroom and elbow room. It is also more powerful under the hood — it’s the first in its class to have the 1.5-litre TFSI engine with 48-volt mild hybrid technology.
When it comes to the test of time, Audi has proven itself to be brand that continues to show progress and resilience, holding its ground in pioneering new design and technology in the luxury automobile space. Guided by its slogan “Vorsprung durch Technik”, first coined in 1971, the brand continues to stand for progress through technology. With its rich legacy and strong foundation, the brand is looking into the future and putting sustainability at its core, evident from its push for electrification and digitisation with the introduction of the Audi e-tron range and various concept cars that may well find their place on the roads in the near future.