Home Cars The Autobahn Cruisers: 20 Coolest German Muscle Cars

The Autobahn Cruisers: 20 Coolest German Muscle Cars

Vukasin Herbez July 19, 2018

In the modern automotive world, the German car industry holds a special place. It is one of the biggest national car industries in the world. Also, Germany is an extremely influential and competitive place when it comes to cars. Some of the world’s best luxury and sports car companies are there. And German engineering has a special meaning.

In fact, Germany invented the car as we know it today. In 1886, Karl Benz patented the first horseless carriage with an internal combustion engine. So, the German influence in the car industry and automotive history is immense. Although the number of important models is quite big, most car fans love German performance machines and muscle cars.

Instead of high-priced exotics and expensive supercars, this list will concentrate on the common, ordinary cars that drivers could buy new or used. These models are still reasonable propositions for enthusiasts with a need for speed. Unfortunately, some older models have experienced recent spikes in prices, keeping them out of reach of the average buyer.

Some of these cars are current and newer models, while others are classics. However, all of them have powerful engines, lively performances and are unmistakably German. These cars are quality engineered cars combining the best of both worlds: performance and dependability. These cars show that German manufacturers understand the “big power in small package” mantra.

  1. Volkswagen Golf R

If you thought the Golf GTI is the most powerful Volkswagen hot hatch, think again. The Golf R is a top of the line Golf with a powerful four-cylinder turbocharged engine and all-wheel drive. It delivers a brutal performance for a family hatchback. The R version is the derivate of the mighty R32 Golfs from the early 2000’s featuring 3.2-liter naturally aspirated V6 engines.

However, the latest versions feature a smaller yet more powerful 2.0-liter turbo four that delivers almost 292 HP. The performance is quite brutal for what is basically a family compact. Accelerating from 0 to 60 mph takes 4.5 seconds and top speeds reach 155 mph.

Although this is a hot hatch and they usually offer flamboyant designs, scoops and spoilers, the Golf R is restrained. This makes it perfect for people who want performance and compact dimensions without the attention. The Golf R can sneak up on those drivers of expensive sports cars and frustrate them at the traffic lights.

  1. BMW 2002 Turbo

The 2002 Turbo is the epitome of a German muscle car, despite being 45 years old. This is not a sports car, although it could outrun a Porsche 911 when they released it. It is not a GT model, although it has four seats and a decent trunk. It is pure muscle car they designed and built around the “biggest engine in the lightest body” mantra.

In the early 70’s, BMW found success with their 02 Neue Klasse series of models. The 02s were quick, nimble and light coupes. They established the brand among performance lovers and racing fans all over the world. But BMW wanted more. They wanted to present the ultimate 02 model by incorporating a signature design with the latest in high-performance technology – turbocharging.

So, in 1973, BMW introduced the 2002 Turbo as the crazy, naughty cousin of the rest of BMW lineup. The car featured a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine with 170 HP. They revised the suspension and brakes, too. Along with unique design details, there was only one color choice, but an interesting graphics package.

On the front bumper, they wrote the word, “Turbo” backwards so other drivers would recognize the model in their rearview mirrors. Despite relatively small power numbers, the 2002 Turbo was a blast to drive, thanks to its lightweight body. The car met universal praise from fans and the car press. But, the oil crisis of the early 70’s killed the model after they made just 1,672 of them.

  1. Audi TT

They presented the new generation Audi TT in 2016. It immediately established itself as one of the most advanced, dynamic four-cylinder sports cars on the market. Ever since they introduced the first TT, this compact sports coupe has redefined the “tiny package – big fun” theory. The 2018 model for the U.S. market comes with Audi’s signature TFSI technology. This means that it packs 2.0-liters of displacement, advanced turbocharger and delivers 220 HP to all four wheels.

This four-cylinder engine is common in the VW-Audi range. It can produce from 200 to over 300 HP, depending on the engine tune. It is a lightweight, advanced unit which is also efficient. The performance of the new TT is also amazing because 0 to 60 mph takes just 5.7 seconds. However, they had to electronically limit the maximum speed to 130 mph. The rumour is that the TT equipped with this engine will top 150 mph without the electronic limiter.

  1. Mercedes 500E

Back in the early 90’s, Mercedes produced a successful but docile W124 E-Class. The elegant sedan was famous for its comfort and refinement rather than performance and speed. The team of crazy German engineers was soon to change that, though. So, in 1991, they presented the mighty 500E model. It was a high-performance version of their main sedan with a different drivetrain, suspension, brakes and engine.

In fact, the 500E was so demanding for production that Mercedes asked Porsche to do the assembly of this car. The main feature of the 500E was the 5.0-liter V8 engine that produced 326 HP. Although not impressive number by today’s standards, it was a crazy figure for the early 90’s, especially in a formal sedan. The 500 E could accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in just six seconds, which was almost as fast as a Ferrari 348.

The best thing was the design because the 500 E looked identical to the regular W124 sedan. If you looked carefully, you could notice bigger wheel arches and brakes, but nothing else revealed there was a monster under the hood. Mercedes offered a badge delete as a no cost option for its customers. And, if you chose a black or silver color, you got a stealth sedan that ate Corvettes for breakfast. Interestingly, you can pick up one of those German muscle sedans for around $20,000 in decent condition.

  1. Audi RS2

Despite the looks of the early 90’s Audi station wagons, the RS2 Avant is a serious performance machine that could destroy almost anything. And not only in a boulevard drag race but on a race track, as well. Under the dull, unassuming body lies some serious rally technology with exceptional performance.

The RS2 was the first in a long line of Audi performance station wagons that brought consumers supercars with long roofs like the RS6. However, the RS2 is where it all started. Audi engineers took their famous inline five-cylinder turbo engine with 2.2-liters and 315 HP and put it in the most uninspiring body style they could find – the station wagon.

They also added Quattro all-wheel drive magic and manual transmission. Finally, they sent it all to Porsche for a precision final assembly. The result was the RS2, with 4.8 second acceleration times to go from 0 to 60 mph. It had divine road holding in its early 90’s form. Unfortunately, production was limited, so if you see one of those cars, you know you will get left in the dust.

  1. Mercedes E55 AMG

In the early 90’s, AMG stopped being just another Mercedes tuner. They became a part of a company that included access to Mercedes engineering facilities and expanding their lineup. For all German car fans, this was fantastic news since it signaled there would be more AMG models in future. And they were right.

But in late 90’s, they introduced the first widely popular and massively produced AMG model as the definition of a German muscle sedan: the Mercedes E55 AMG. The W201 generation of the venerable Mercedes E Class caused some controversy when it was released. This was due to a strange front end with four round headlights, but the buyers soon accepted it.

In 1998, AMG released their ultimate version in the form of the E55 AMG. From the outside, the E55 AMG looked like any other E Class with just minimal changes. However, underneath the body, there was a 5.4-liter supercharged beast just waiting to perform.

With 349 HP and 391 lb-ft of torque, E55 AMG could accelerate from 0 to 60 in just 5.4 seconds, which was late 90’s Porsche Turbo territory. AMG built over 12,000 examples, so they are relatively plentiful today. You can pick up decent example for around $10,000, which is a steal.

  1. BMW M3 E46

Every BMW M3 since the first one in the late 80’s, until their modern models have been the prime example of a German muscle car. However, the first generation of M3 is expensive now and with 215 HP, it’s not that fast. The second E36 M3 had only 240 HP for the North American market, so it was disappointing. So the E46 M3 is the best if you are looking for a classic, fast and dependable, yet still relatively modern German muscle car.

In October 2000, they introduced the E46 M3. It featured a new engine, drivetrain and components. Most car fans regard it as one of the finest BMW M cars and the perfect driving machine. All M cars are a blast to drive, but the E46 M3 was a big improvement over the E36 M3 from the 90’s. It was also one of the last analog sports cars you can buy.

It came with a 343 HP straight six-cylinder engine, nearly ideal weight distribution and a six-speed manual transmission. With its respectable performance, the E46 M3 soon won the hearts of car enthusiasts all over the world. It was a sales success and is still one of the best second-hand performance cars to buy today.

  1. Porsche 944 Turbo

The 911 is and was the quintessential Porsche, but in it couldn’t singlehandedly support the brand, so Porsche introduced the 924. It was their first model with a front water-cooled four-cylinder engine. The 924 was an entry level sports car, but back in 1983, Porsche presented the 944. It proved to be an important model for the brand.

Porsche designed the 944 using the concept of the 924, but they made some updates, like a transaxle system and its superb suspension and steering. One of the main features of the new car was a 2.5-liter four cylinder producing 170 HP at first. That’s an unimpressive number today, but it was potent by mid-80’s standards.

The most interesting version was the 944 Turbo. It had a 2.5-liter turbocharged engine that put out 250 HP. Due to its light weight, transmission and aerodynamics, the 944 Turbo was a fast car. The 0 to 60 mph took only 5.9 seconds and it could top 162 mph. Even today, this little Porsche can outrun some modern sports cars.

  1. Audi Sport Quattro

The Audi Quattro Sport was born on the rally tracks, but they sold it as a road going model to homologate it for racing. Back in the early 80’s, Audi was just an upgraded Volkswagen without much to offer. The Audi motorsport department proposed entering rally championships with their innovative all-wheel drive model, the Quattro. Suddenly, Audi had a championship winning car.

They were also on the forefront of two new technologies – all-wheel drive and turbocharging. This resulted in the rising interest in Audi as we know it today. The Quattro Sport featured a 2.1-liter straight five-cylinder engine with a turbocharger and 306 HP in street trim. It had a short wheelbase, light body panels, short ratio gearbox and 306 horses ready to jump at any moment.

The road going Quattro Sport could accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in just 4.8 seconds. This made it one of quickest cars of its era. It also demonstrated how capable the Quattro all-wheel drive system could be.

  1. BMW M2

The current M3 and M4 models were up in terms of power, performance and price, so BMW decided to introduce an affordable, but still fast two-door coupe. The 2015 M2 is one of the best driver’s cars on the planet. With a combination of BMW driving dynamics, German quality and M Power heritage, it is the modern equivalent of the legendary 2002 Turbo and a pure German muscle car.

To create the M2, BMW used the compact platform of the 2 Series models with their precision driving and sharp handling. They added a performance-tuned suspension, wider track and bigger brakes. But, the best addition of all was the 365 HP 3.0-liter turbocharged straight-six engine.

As you can expect, the M2 is an Autobahn missile of the highest order with 4.1 second 0 to 60 mph times and top speeds of 168 mph. Also, as a nod to classic performance cars, the new M2 is also available as a six-speed manual. This is the version you should get if you are a true German sports car enthusiast.

  1. Volkswagen Passat W8

Volkswagen is a company that doesn’t usually experiment and introduce overly advanced models with unique features. They are famous for middle of the road cars with regular engines and decent driving characteristics. That is why their introduction of the Passat W8 in 2001 surprised everybody in the car industry.

They restyled the current B5 generation of the mid-size sedan and introduced a special edition with top of the line technology. It had an advanced 4.0-liter W8 gasoline engine and a four-motion all-wheel-drive system. Customers got a selection of manual and automatic transmissions. Also, this top of the line model had all luxury features and creature comforts as standard.

The result was a perfect sleeper/German muscle/performance car in an unassuming Passat body. The compact, yet powerful W8 engine delivered 270 HP and 270 lb-ft of torque. This was enough to propel the somewhat heavy Passat to just over six second 0 to 60 mph times. Volkswagen ceased production in 2004. If you want a W8, you should pick up one today while the prices are still affordable.

  1. Audi S4 B7

To compete with the C Class AMG and BMW M3, Audi introduced the S4. It is a compact four-door executive sedan or wagon with powerful engines and the Quattro all-wheel drive system. Audi presented the first generation in late 90’s. To consumers, it seemed like an attempt to catch up with Mercedes and BMW.

But, by the time they introduced the third generation S4 in 2005. This car grew to be an interesting one, independent from the rest of its German counterparts. They presented the B7 generation in 2005. It immediately became one of the hottest four-door cars in the world.

From the outside, Audi gave the S4 a stealth look with a few minor details to show its true nature. On the inside, it had a perfectly designed interior of the finest leather and loads of options, creating one of the best driver’s habitats in the industry. But all of that is secondary to the engine and drivetrain.

Hiding in the front is a 4.2-liter V8 engine with 344 HP and 302 lb-ft of torque that sends power to all four wheels through an intelligent AWD system. Buyers could choose between manual or automatic transmission. But regardless of the transmission choice, the acceleration times are well below the five-second mark.

With its understated looks, blend of power and control and a quality interior, the Audi S4 B7 is for people looking for German muscle car in a stealth package. Audi produced them between 2005 and 2008, and you can find some decent examples of this model for around $10,000.

  1. Volkswagen Corrado VR6

Today, the Volkswagen Corrado is a forgotten model, but in early 90’s, it was the fastest Volkswagen drivers could buy. They conceived it to be the replacement for the popular Sirocco coupe. However, Volkswagen wanted the Corrado to be like the Porsche 944 in styling and performance, rather than just another sporty looking Golf derivate.

Volkswagen gave the Corrado an updated, aggressive-looking exterior design. They also included a revised front-wheel drive platform, suspension and brakes, and a powerful VR6 engine. The VR6 was high-revving 2.9-liter V6 engine mounted to close ratio five-speed manual. It delivered 190 HP, which was a high number for the early 90’s when Corrado was available in America.

The VR6 could accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 6.9 seconds which made this little coupe one of the best driving cars of the period. Today, those cars are relatively affordable, so for around $5,000, you can find a decent example.

  1. BMW M5 E39

BMW built the M5 from 1998 to 2003. Car fans consider it to be one of the best performance sedans of all times, as well as the best M5 model. It was the prime example of German muscle cars. BMW had a tradition of building high powered and extremely fast sedans since the mid-80’s when they introduced the first M5.

But in late 1998, the E39 M5 amped the whole Autobahn cruiser-muscle sedan concept to a whole new level. The M Power department took the already competent E39 platform and re-engineered it into a pure sports car chassis with space for five people and their luggage. The heart of the car was a glorious S62 4.9-liter V8 engine with 400 HP. It sent its power to the rear wheels through the only choice at the time, which was a six-speed manual.

  1. Porsche 928

The 928 is one of the best Porsche road cars despite the fact it was and it still is a controversial model. Compared to the well-known Porsche 911, the 928 had a water-cooled V8 engine in the front and a different design, technology and appearance. The 928 was a Gran Turismo coupe with a powerful V8 engine in the front.

It came with a transaxle gearbox and the ideal weight distribution, as well as an intelligent suspension and a space-age design. In contrast to the 911, which still had some VW Beetle cues, the 928 looked like it came from another planet. Although the early 928s delivered below 300 HP, the car was fast. With the 928, drivers can experience effortless cruising in comfort, speed and luxury.

  1. Opel Omega

American car fans will recognize this car as the short-lived Cadillac Catera. But in Europe, this was the Opel Omega. In the late ’90s, Opel decided to attack BMW and Mercedes with a V8 version. The V8 version had a Corvette 5.7-liter engine with 350 HP on tap so it looked like Opel would finally catch its competitors on the Autobahn.

Despite the great performance, engines from GM and a positive reception from car fans, Opel decided to pull the plug at the last minute and canceled the Omega V8 project. So they build only 12 pre-production cars that somehow found their way to a dozen lucky customers.

  1. Mercedes C63 AMG

One of the best modern-day German muscle cars is the C63 AMG. With its compact dimensions, almost stealth look and brutal performance with over 450 HP sent to the rear wheels, this car is the definition of a muscle car.

The heart of C63 is AMG’s glorious 6.2-liter V8 engine, which sounds as good as it goes. With 451 HP and a fast-shifting automatic transmission, this car can achieve 60 mph in less than four seconds. Interestingly, C63 also comes in station wagon and coupe form.

  1. Opel Omega Lotus

Based on the standard late ’80s Opel Omega, this was a Lotus-tuned special edition model. They equipped it with a 3.6-liter turbocharged engine producing massive 377 horsepower. It came with a six-speed manual gearbox straight from the Corvette ZR-1.

From the outside, the Lotus Omega looked standard with just a few badges and rear spoiler to reveal its true nature. The performance was outstanding with 0 to 60 mph times of 5.2 seconds and a top speed of over 170 mph. Even today, this 28-year old car can outrun many modern performance models.

  1. Opel Diplomat V8 Coupe

The Diplomat was Opel`s luxury model. While the base versions got 2.8-liter six-cylinder, the top of the line Diplomat Coupe got Chevrolet`s 327 V8 engine. The overall design was reminiscent of Chevrolet`s mid-size and full-size models of the moment.

And with the standard Powerglide automatic transmission, you could easily mistake the Diplomat V8 Coupe for a U.S. model. However, Opel was an economy car manufacturer and the Diplomat Coupe V8 was expensive. So, they only produced 347 of them.

  1. Bitter SC

They built the Bitter SC on an Opel Diplomat sedan base. It was an elegant Gran Turismo coupe with a bespoke interior and styling. It also came with the powerful Chevrolet 327 V8 in the front. Frua designed the body in Italy. So, when they first introduced the Bitter SC at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 1969, it received positive reactions from potential buyers.

They unveiled the production version in 1973. However, despite getting many orders, the oil crisis and recession limited production. They built the last Bitter CD in 1979 after making just 395 of them.

These are the autobahn cruisers and the 20 coolest German muscle cars they ever built. Did you find your favorite? If so, you should move fast before they become even rarer and more expensive.

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