The Definitive Guide to 20 Legendary German Cars

German cars have long been celebrated for their perfect mix of performance, innovation, and style. With everything from nostalgic vintage models to state-of-the-art supercars, Germany’s auto industry has produced many iconic cars over the years.

1989 BMW Z1

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The Z1 was a unique roadster that featured vertically retracting doors and high-performance driving dynamics. Its 2.5-liter inline-six engine generated 170 horsepower, offering a spirited driving experience. Its innovative design and limited production run make it a cool and rare piece of BMW’s automotive history.

2009 Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren

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This Anglo-German collaboration resulted in a supercar that merged Formula 1 technology with grand touring comfort. Powered by a supercharged 5.4-liter V8 engine that delivered 617 horsepower, it offered blistering performance. Its long bonnet, gullwing doors, and luxurious interior made it a modern marvel of engineering and design.

1991 Porsche 911 Turbo (964)

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The 964 version of the 911 Turbo introduced numerous technological advancements, including an upgraded 3.3-liter turbocharged flat-six engine with 320 horsepower. Its wide wheel arches, distinctive rear wing, and potent performance make it an iconic 911 variant, encapsulating the spirit and innovation of the Porsche brand.

1972 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia

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With its flowing lines and elegant design, the Karmann Ghia is one of Volkswagen’s most aesthetically pleasing creations. Although not particularly powerful, its 1.6-liter air-cooled engine provided a charming driving experience, emphasizing style and elegance over raw performance, making it a beloved classic.

2002 Audi TT

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The Audi TT, with its Bauhaus-inspired design and compact dimensions, brought a breath of fresh air to the sports car market. Powered by a range of potent engines, including a 1.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, it combined performance with aesthetics. Its innovative design and well-balanced chassis make it a modern classic in the making.

2003 BMW Z8

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Inspired by the classic 507, the Z8 combined retro styling with modern technology. Under the hood, it housed a 4.9-liter V8 engine that delivered 400 horsepower, offering exhilarating performance. Its aluminum chassis and body, combined with a luxurious interior and a distinct exterior design, make it a cherished, modern classic.

1980 Audi Quattro

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The Audi Quattro revolutionized the world of rallying with its introduction of all-wheel-drive, enhancing grip and control on varying surfaces. It offered blistering performance, powered by a turbocharged 2.1-liter inline-five engine that generated 197 horsepower. Its angular design and rallying heritage make it a cool and significant piece of automotive history.

1979 BMW M1

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The BMW M1 was a radical departure for BMW, featuring a mid-engine layout and a striking wedge-shaped design. Powered by a 3.5-liter inline-six engine that delivered 273 horsepower, it offered remarkable performance and handling. Its limited production run and its role as the first BMW “M” car make it a treasured piece of automotive history.

2004 Porsche Carrera GT

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The Carrera GT, born from Porsche’s racing heritage, featured a 5.7-liter V10 engine with a staggering 612 horsepower. With its carbon-fiber monocoque chassis and radical design, it was a technological marvel. Its incredible performance credentials, coupled with its distinct, timeless design, make it one of the most sought-after modern classics.

1961 Volkswagen Beetle

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The Beetle, with its distinctive rounded shape and simple yet functional interior, is an undeniable classic. Introduced during the post-war period, it offered reliable and economical transportation with a rear-mounted 1.2-liter air-cooled engine. Its ubiquity and cultural significance, having been associated with the 60’s counterculture movement, have cemented its place as one of the coolest German cars ever made.

1987 BMW M3 E30

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The 1987 BMW M3 E30 was a revolutionary car in its own right, representing a perfect amalgamation of performance and daily usability. The car was powered by a 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine that generated 192 horsepower, paired with a finely tuned chassis that offered sharp handling and excellent driving dynamics. Its boxy yet aggressive aesthetics have become synonymous with the golden age of touring car racing.

1957 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing

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An epitome of automotive elegance, the 300 SL Gullwing features the iconic upward-opening doors, a first in the automobile industry. Equipped with a 3.0-liter inline-six engine that produced 215 horsepower, the car was also notable for being the fastest production car of its time. Its blend of technological innovation and timeless design makes it a true classic and a collector’s dream.

1973 Porsche 911 Carrera RS

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The 1973 Porsche 911 Carrera RS set the bar high for sports cars around the world. Its distinguishable “ducktail” rear spoiler was not only aesthetically pleasing but also functional, enhancing aerodynamic stability. This car was powered by a 2.7-liter flat-six engine that delivered 210 horsepower, a significant figure for its time. Its lightweight construction and superior handling characteristics made it an exhilarating drive and a track icon.

1984 BMW 635CSi

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The BMW 635CSi, part of the E24 series, made its mark as a luxury sports coupe with a distinct blend of performance and comfort. Equipped with a 3.5-liter inline-six engine, it delivered 215 horsepower, offering a refined yet powerful driving experience. Its sleek, elongated silhouette and shark-nose front end became iconic, epitomizing 1980s BMW design at its best. This model is particularly revered for its balance of sporty dynamics and everyday usability.

1995 Mercedes-Benz E-Class (W124)

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The Mercedes-Benz E-Class W124 is celebrated for its durability and engineering excellence. Introduced in the mid-1980s and continuing through the mid-1990s, this model featured a variety of powerful engines, the most notable being the 3.0-liter inline-six diesel that showcased Mercedes’ mastery of diesel technology. The W124’s design emphasized clean lines and an aerodynamic body, which helped cement its status as a robust and reliable luxury vehicle.

2001 Audi RS4 Avant

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The RS4 Avant combined the practicality of a station wagon with the heart of a sports car. Powered by a 2.7-liter bi-turbo V6 engine, it produced 380 horsepower, allowing it to sprint from 0 to 60 mph in under five seconds. Its aggressive styling, including flared fenders and a sport-tuned suspension, made it stand out. The RS4 Avant is a cult favorite for its blend of utility and extreme performance, making it a unique entry in Audi’s performance lineup.

1986 Porsche 959

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The Porsche 959 was far ahead of its time, featuring innovative technologies such as an all-wheel-drive system and a twin-turbocharged flat-six engine that produced 450 horsepower. Initially built for Group B rallying, the 959 became a symbol of technological advancement, with its aerodynamic body and integrated bumpers. It’s not only a piece of automotive history but also a collector’s dream, known for its incredible capabilities and futuristic design during its era.

2000 BMW Z3 M Coupe

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Often referred to as the “clown shoe” because of its unique shooting brake design, the BMW Z3 M Coupe is a rare and peculiar gem in BMW’s history. Powered by a 3.2-liter inline-six engine, similar to the one used in the contemporary M3, this car delivered exhilarating performance packaged in a distinctive body style. Its handling, driven by a rear-wheel-drive layout and a rigid chassis, is particularly celebrated among enthusiasts.

1993 Volkswagen Corrado VR6

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The Volkswagen Corrado VR6 was noted for its ahead-of-its-time features and the introduction of Volkswagen’s narrow-angle VR6 engine. This compact coupe delivered a top speed of over 140 mph and acceleration from 0 to 60 mph in under seven seconds, thanks to its 2.8-liter VR6 engine, which produced 178 horsepower. Its active rear spoiler, which raised at high speeds, and its sleek design have made it a beloved model among VW aficionados.

2005 Mercedes-Benz SLK 55 AMG

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The SLK 55 AMG redefined the compact luxury roadster segment with its performance and innovation. Under its hood, a 5.5-liter V8 engine roared with 355 horsepower, paired with a sports-tuned chassis and AMG styling. Its retractable hardtop, which transformed it from a sleek coupe to an open roadster in seconds, and its aggressive yet elegant design language, exemplified Mercedes-AMG’s commitment to high performance in a small package.

This article originally appeared on MyCarMakesNoise.

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Author: Dave Johnston

Dave is a hands-on automotive technician with experience in performing service, diagnostics, and repairs on domestic and imported vehicles. He enjoys writing and sharing his knowledge far and wide.

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