Visiting the Audi Forum in Ingolstadt - How did the four rings originate?

The Volkswagen group has various brands under its wing with different brand images.

Lamborghinis are for those who like to be loud, Porsche is for the driving enthusiast, Volkswagen is a little more conservative, and Audi makes serious looking cars that aren’t too shouty. There’s Seat and Skoda too which are basically rebadged VWs.

The Audi Museum, or Audi Forum is located in Ingolstadt. It’s north of Munich and driving takes a bit over an hour. Entrance fee was really cheap (was it 1 or 3 euros?) and parking is free, should you purchase the museum ticket.

Unlike Porsche, Audi actually doesn’t mind showing you the robots that they use in the body shop. It was great to watch the robots at work and see what materials were used to build these cars.

One little thing I do remember is the fact that copper is used to put the roof in place.

Compared to the other German automaker museums, Audi’s display area was probably the smallest, meaning the cars were closer to each other.

Let’s have a look at the pictures I managed to take while I was there…

The 4 rings explained

Some time ago, there was an Audi ad with 4 key rings that ended up making the Audi logo, saying that it combined the distinctive qualities of premium car brands like Mercedes, BMW, Volvo, and Alfa Romeo.

Well, that was fake news. The four rings represent Audi, Wanderer, Horch, and DKW.

They were called Auto Union at first. Volkswagen later acquired Auto Union and NSU Motorenwerke and the Audi name prevailed above all else.

The concept cars that defined Audi design generations

The main attraction at the Audi Museum is this giant rotating display so you just wait at one spot and see the cars come pass you. It’s like that sushi bar thing, but vertical.

There are several cars on it but the ones that caught my attention the most were the concept cars. Not because they were bizarre, but because their distinctive designs defined different eras of Audi cars.

The Audi Avus is a strange-looking car with a strange polished-aluminium finish. Unveiled in 1991, the Avus was bulbous and barely had straight lines.

The curves were toned down in Audi production cars and the grill remained in-line with the headlights. The Avus defined Audi cars looked in the 90s.

The early 2000s was an experimental period for a lot of people and companies. We jest felt the need to revolutionise or have a paradigm shift. Proton created some weird stuff like Arena, Juara & Gen 2; Subaru gave us the “Bug eye” Impreza, and Pontiac created the Aztek.

In the 2003, Audi unveiled several concept cars with the main focus being the Audi Nuovolari. Flanking the Nuovolari at that time was the Audi Lemans concept (Audi R8) and Audi Pikes Peak concept (Audi Q7).

The main design change was that the grill now stretched all the way down to the bumper.

Audi’s weird car in the early 2000s was the Audi A2, but other than that, the car designs striked a good balance between aesthetics and utility. What helped to cement early-2000s Audi design in the hearts of young enthusiasts would probably be the Will Smith movie, “I Robot”.

2010 was when Audi unveiled the Quattro concept. Fang-like vents can be seen on the front bumper and that design cue found its way onto cars like the Audi RS6. Things started to get angrier in the front and the entire body looked sharper.

Did they want to hint at sharper driving dynamics? I have no idea.

2015 saw the Audi Prologue with squinty headlights. Like its predecessors, it defined a new generation of Audi cars, but the “Prologue” was not on display at the museum.

The wild race cars

Although on the premium side, Audi cars are quite subtle. Yes, the “S” versions are come in bright colours, but most cars born in the Audi factory are either white, silver, or black. The type of people who buy Audis like those colours.

2015 saw the Audi Prologue with squinty headlights. Like its predecessors, it defined a new generation of Audi cars, but the “Prologue” was not on display at the museum. 

There’s actually a writing on one of the walls at the museum that says Audi doesn’t do motorsports anymore. Anyway, these racing cars are astonishing to look at.

The wide bodies and massive wings give tremendous presence and the impression of abundant downforce.

There’s the Audi 90 Quattro IMSA-GTO and Audi Sport Quattro S1. The former makes 720 hp at 7,500 rpm from a turbocharged 2.2-litre 5-cylinder engine and competed in the American IMSA series (GTO class).

The Audi Sport Quattro S1 with its crazy aero bits is obviously meant for hill climbs. With 598 hp (at 8,000 rpm) and 590 Nm (at 5,500 rpm) at its disposal, the Sport Quattro S1 won the Pikes Peak Hill Climb many times. Driven by Walter Röhrl, the car and the driver were the first to break the 11-minute barrier

The Icons

On display at the Audi museum are the S2, Sport Quattro, and Quattro.

The S2 was the first car in the “S” series. The engine is a 2.2-litre 5-cylinder turbo.

The Sport Quattro was made of carbon and glass-fibre reinforced plastic, with carbon fibre/Kevlar composites. Only 214 were made.

The Quattro was the first passenger car with permanent AWD.

The electric one

Nearby the museum is a showroom. Here we had the chance to see the Audi e-tron 55 Quattro. In the parking area of the complex is a 350kW DC charger by the Volkswagen group.

Appreciating the current Audis

Leaving the complex, there were some Audi cars that we don’t see in Malaysia. The RSQ8 is actually a sleek-looking SUV. Nice side profile and the car looks very subtle in dark colours.

If there’s one Audi I have to choose as my favourite right now, I would be the RS6 - Good presence, feels premium, looks subtle enough, and packs some serious power.

More parts of this Series:

Part 1: Driving 2,177 km in a Mercedes Vito Tourer

Part 2: Autostadt and driving a Volkswagen e-Golf

Part 3: Automotive history at the Mercedes-Benz Museum

Part 4: Racing heritage at the Porsche Museum

Part 5: Entering a Tesla showroom for the first time

Part 6: Audi Forum Ingolstadt

Part 7: The weird & wonderful at the Munich Transport Museum

Part 8: BMW Museum

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