From a homologation special to a cigar lounge on wheels.
Like most illustrious automakers, Audi loves to knock up a special edition. That especially became the case when the brand turned a massive corner in the 1980s with the Audi Quattro to capture the hearts and minds of motorsport enthusiasts. Audi became a powerhouse, and it elevated the brand towards becoming what it is today. Audi's special editions don't only celebrate outright performance, though. Audi is also celebrated for its practicality and luxury-based approach to cars; hence you'll also find a car powered by a small diesel engine here and one with an interior that would embarrass the most exclusive of gentlemen's clubs.
We'll kick off the list with a special edition that flies under the radar. The A4 DTM Edition was built to celebrate Audi's domination of the 2004 Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters (DTM) series, where it took both the driver's and manufacturer's titles for the first time in the same year. It was a modest celebration, but the result was a glorious little sleeper of a car. Only the keenest of eyes will spot the carbon front lip, rear spoiler and diffuser, as well as the red tow hook and larger exhaust tips.
Inside was some Alcantara and carbon-fiber trim, but the real story is the 20-mm drop in ride height, revised spring and damper settings, and cross-drilled rotors. Topping off the car you wouldn't pay much attention to in traffic is a 20 horsepower and 15 lb-ft of torque boost, making a total of 220 hp and 221 lb ft. Production numbers are hard to pin down, but the UK got 250 models, and the US got 500 in total.
Only 50 versions of the Audi R8 Exclusive Selection Edition made it to the US in 2012. Only 20 came with the 430-hp, 4.2-liter V8 behind the cockpit, and the other 30 used the 525-hp, 5.2-liter V10 engine. Each one came with Daytona Gray, 19-inch five-spoke wheels displaying red brake calipers, a carbon-fiber splitter and diffuser, and the taillights pulled from the Audi R8 GT.
Inside, the leather seats were decorated with Crimson Red accents, Alabaster White contrast stitching was used on all the leather, some of the trim pieces were painted white, and more were made from carbon fiber.
Audi unveiled the TT in 1998, and it has been a consistent performer ever since. The 20th Anniversary edition pays homage to the original with interior and exterior touches. The two paint choices are Arrow Gray and Nano Gray, and it came on gloss metal gray 19-inch aluminum wheels.
Inside, the interior is heavy with Mocassin Brown leather, and Audi used bold Panuka contrast stitching to celebrate the concept car's "baseball glove" interior. Only 999 were built for the US market and included a plaque displaying the series number rather than just a number between 1-999.
Professional skier Jon Olsson is a bona fide car enthusiast with dozens of modified cars to his name. One of those is an RS6 Avant prepped to deal with snow and ice and topped off with an arctic dazzle camouflage wrap. The A4 Avant wrapped in the Olsson-designed camo also comes with a roof box, black 19-inch wheels shod with winter tires, sport suspension, Xenon headlights, Audi S-Line exterior trim, and sports seats. It was also only available with Audi's 2.0-liter TDI engine, Quattro all-wheel drive, and in Sweden.
The Audi R8 is a sophisticated supercar. It shares components with the Lamborghini Huracan but is a more restrained, elegant, and accessible beast. It doesn't have to be so restrained, though, and the Green Hell Edition pays tribute to the track where Audi has dominated 24 Hours of Nurburgring five times since 2012. The Green Hell Edition is more than an R8 with green paint and unique aesthetic elements that include transparent racing numbers on the doors and 20-inch matte black wheels with red accents. It can also be painted in Daytona Gray, Ibis White, or Mythos Black, but more importantly, the engine has been tuned to deliver more power than the Performance model. The 5.2-liter naturally aspirated V10 engine now makes 611 hp and will sprint from 0-60 mph in just 3.1 seconds.
The Audi Quattro became a rally sport icon but was also a pivotal point for Audi as a brand. Its all-wheel-drive system was revolutionary, and the road-going Quattro was Audi's idea of a real GT car. Initially, the US market got a version of the turbocharged engine detuned for emissions to just 159 hp. However, Audi also built 224 units of the unrestrained and lunatic fast short-wheelbase Group B homologation special Sport Quattro. It came with a smaller all-aluminum engine with a different turbocharger that made 300 hp. It was 317 mm shorter in wheelbase and came with bespoke fiberglass bodywork and a more upright windscreen to minimize reflections while hurtling through a rally stage in bright sunlight.
Audi's long-wheelbase A8 fitted with a 6.3-liter W12 engine is already an exclusive car. However, Audi made a 50 model run of an even more exclusive version. Audi teamed up with Italian furniture and interior designers Poltrona Frau for the interior, which featured hand-stitched diamond-quilted Cognac-colored leather, Olive Ash wood dashboard, and door-trim inlays, a Nappa leather dashboard covering, and a Cognac Brown Alcantara covered parcel shelf. With 500 hp under the hood, it may have been one of the fastest cigar lounges on earth in 2014.
Audi is wringing every last drop of special juice from the R8 with special editions, and this one from 2016 is our favorite. It was built to brag about Audi's 323 wins in competition by the R8 LMS across two generations since 2009. The 24 units built came with a tricolor paint scheme made up of Suzuka gray for the base color, complemented with mythos black and Misano red highlights as a homage to the R8 LMS. Trim pieces were given a gloss-black carbon fiber finish, and it's fitted with gloss-black 20-inch forged wheels with a 10-spoke Y design. Inside, there's Rotor Gray leather, gloss-black trim, and illuminated sills individually numbered from 1 to 24.
To celebrate the R8 supercar's 10th anniversary, Audi built 222 examples of the Decennium special edition. There are no performance enhancements, but it does feature unique bronze accents and a bespoke interior with copper contrast stitching and 'Decennium' badges. Our favorite feature is the puddle lamps that project the Decennium logo on the ground along with the build number. The name refers to the engine's Audi-branded manifolds, and only 50 made it to the US.
With the Audi Quattro's 40th anniversary came the inevitable special edition. The 40 TT RS 40 Years of Quattro models come in Alpine White with gloss-black trim and throwback decals inspired by Walter Rohrl's Pikes Peak 1987 Sport Quattro S1. A new lightweight aero kit includes a fixed rear wing, spoiler side extensions, and a diffuser. It also features a set of white-painted 20-inch alloy wheels with perforated steel disc brakes red calipers visible behind them.
Inside is plenty of black Alcantara as well as Black Nappa leather RS sport seats and white contrast stitching. The rear seat is removable and can be replaced with a cross strut brace made of carbon-fiber to save 35 lbs in weight. Under the hood is the top-trim 2.5-liter TFSI five-cylinder engine pushing 394 horsepower and 354 lb-ft of torque to all four wheels.
Audi doesn't often do rear-wheel-drive, but enthusiasts wanted a lighter and more hardcore version of the R8 free to go sideways. It arrived in 2018 as a limited edition packing the 5.2-liter V10 engine making the same 540 hp and 398 lb-ft of torque as the all-wheel-drive version. It's 230-pounds lighter than the Quattro-drivetrain-powered original and comes with chassis tuning changes that include 10-percent stiffer anti-roll bars and an extra half-degree of negative camber in the rear. Only 999 versions were originally built, with 230 coming to the US.
The rear-wheel-drive format was popular enough for Audi to announce it as a standard part of the R8 lineup in Europe, and now the US for 2021.