Are you a fan of German executive motors? If so, here are our suggestions for the best Audi project cars to buy for your next build.
One of the ‘big three’ German luxury car brands, Audi has produced some brilliant models over the years. From executive sedans, to serious sports cars and even off-roaders, there are plenty of different meanings to the Audi name. Plus, although some people see them as mere ‘fancy Volkswagens’, I don’t necessarily consider that a bad thing. After all, the VW tuning scene is one of the hottest on the planet, so if you can tap into some of the tuning tips and tricks from there, you’re onto a winner.
Besides, Audi does have some entirely unique engines, models, and platforms in its roster that could outshine anything with a VW badge on the front if you dare to extract their full potential. So, from the entry-level builds, to high-end exotica, we’ve got every aspect of the Audi world covered. Here are the best Audi project cars that you can buy in 2024.
Best Audi project cars
Audi TT – cheap coupe, nailed-on future classic
The first-generation Audi TT raised eyebrows when it was launched at the turn of the Century. Its bubbly silhouette was unlike anything that Audi produced either before or since. Turn the clock forward by two and a half decades, and it’s a design that often gets spoken about as a future classic – if it’s not one already. So, naturally, a car with such a distinct style is ripe for the modifying and tuning scene.
If you have the option, the one you want to go for is the 225hp BAM engine model, as this has more grunt than the lesser-spec’d 1.8-liter four-pots and Quattro all-wheel drive, but will be less costly to run (and buy in the first place) compared to the 3.2 V6 models. Though, if you’re willing to spend more on your project car, the six-cylinder option certainly has some appeal. As for which direction to take with a Mk1 TT, its natural styling lends itself well to a clean showcar build, though they’re also popular entry-level track/touge cars. To learn more about the Mk1, read our Audi TT buyer’s guide.
Audi RS 3 – hot hatch genes, with AWD and five cylinders
The Type 8V-generation Audi RS 3 is one of the most popular tuner cars of today, boasting aggressive looks, Quattro all-wheel drive, and a charismatic five-cylinder engine that cranks out 362hp (or 394hp if you get a 2017+ facelift model) as standard. In fact, the newer facelifted generation is best if you want a choice of body style, as in addition to more power, it also heralded the arrival of a sedan variant.
Being part of a modern breed of ‘hyper hatches’, the potent RS 3 is best used as a fast-road build, though you could certainly go down the showcar route too, given its imposing aesthetics. Remaps are incredibly powerful in the RS 3 sphere, which is something to keep in mind. For example, a Stage 1 remap from Revo can elevate the CZGB-engine models from 362hp up to 425hp, whereas facelifted examples can hit up to 490hp from a Stage 1 map. That alone would be enough power for most people, but as you can hopefully see by now, the potential performance of these cars is exceptionally high. Just don’t forget to upgrade the brakes and chassis to cope.
To learn more about the RS 3 8V, have a read of our detailed buyer’s guide for this model.
Audi R8 – The ‘attainable’ supercar
For most of us, the idea of using a supercar as the basis for a project build is something beyond our reach. However, there are also plenty of people in the car tuning community with deep, cavernous pockets. If you’re one of those people, you might be interested to learn that the first generation Audi R8 starts at around $60,000 in the States, or £30,000 in the UK. While still a considerable amount of money to spend on a car, those figures aren’t too dissimilar from what you’d be paying for a brand new family car these days. In that context, perhaps a Mk1 R8 isn’t beyond the realms of possibility after all.
V8 or V10?
Ask any motoring journalist worth their pay cheque, and they’ll tell you that of all the R8 models to exist, the Mk1 is the one to have – particularly the 4.2-liter V8 version. That might seem a little counterintuitive given that 5.2-liter V10 models exist, but those are both notably more expensive and notably compromised in terms of the car’s packaging. The R8 was designed with that original 4.2 V8 in mind, so while the Lamborghini-esque V10 howl might have some appeal, the V8 is the more rewarding of the two powertrains to drive from a handling & dynamics perspective.
It should go without saying that these cars are best suited for fast-road builds, but there is also a surprising amount of aftermarket support available if you do want to add some spice to the way it looks. Just bear in mind – although the retail price might be within your budget, the maintenance costs attached to a supercar like this might not be. So, make sure to do your financial homework before committing to a project like this. Speaking of doing homework, you might want to read our R8 buyer’s guide too.
Audi RS 4 – peak Audi
To this day, if somebody mentions ‘Audi’, the first model that springs to my mind is the B7-generation RS 4. Available as either a sedan, wagon or even a rare cabriolet, the RS 4 encapsulates everything that is good about high-end, sporty Audi models. It’s deeply practical, comes with a ferocious 4.2-liter V8 (in fact, this engine served as the basis for the one in the R8), and Quattro all-wheel drive to help it put those 400+ ponies down onto the road. Aesthetically, it’s subtle but effective. Really, the only criticism you could throw at it is the way it handles. For all their upsides, fast Audi sedans and wagons tend not to quite have the same level of driver feedback as their equivalent BMW M counterparts, and that remains true here. Nonetheless, given everything else this car offers, I could forgive it that.
As for which type of build you should attempt to make, well a tuned B7 RS 4 would make for an excellent four-door grand tourer, though it certainly has the attitude to go along with a more aggressive style of street build if you’d rather. You could even give it the stealthy VIP treatment, perhaps. Though, if VIP cars are your thing, you might first want to scroll down a bit further before choosing the RS 4.
Audi Ur-Quattro – Euro-style retro chic
If you’d rather opt for a more retro project car, the ultimate ’80s Audi is surely the Ur-Quattro, also known as the ‘Quattro B2’. Based on the Audi 80 Coupe of the same period, the Ur-Quattro has a very ‘of its time’ angular silhouette, which makes it an attractive proposition in the context of a modern world filled with soft, jelly-mold shaped cars. Of course, aesthetics are important for any project car, but the mechanics that lie beneath are just as crucial, if not more so. Fortunately, the Ur-Quattro packs a punch too.
The Ur-Quattro came about at a time when Audi was the dominant force in the FIA World Rally Championship. In fact, the German marque had revolutionized the sport – and by proxy, the consumer car industry – with its innovative all-wheel drive system. This was the first Quattro that anyone could buy and drive on the road, so in its day it had quite the reputation for speed – just as its WRC counterpart did on the rally stage. So, why not lean into that a bit? The I5 under the hood makes 197hp, so a few powertrain mods, plus the necessary suspension kit, and you could end up with an epic tarmac rally build.
Audi Q7 or A6 Allroad – the overlander’s choice
Here at Fast Car, we like to try and cater to all types of car enthusiast, including those of you who like to leave tarmac behind and head off-road instead. Now, when it comes to overlanding, the range of Audi models that could do a decent job is surprisingly limited given the whole ‘Quattro’ brand. However, there are a couple of used gems that are worth considering, should you wish to tame the mountains and forests from within a fairly luxurious cabin.
The first option I’ll raise is the Mk1 Q7. Admittedly, this SUV is more at home in suburbia than the Sahara, but that’s not to say that it doesn’t have some useful off-roading equipment onboard. The stock suspension offers an adjustable ride height, and it has a central locking differential. And, of course, all-wheel drive. That said, if you want to do more than just the very basics of off-roading, you’re going to need a proper lift kit for starters. Truth be told, there aren’t many Q7 overland projects out there as there are plenty of other more logical base cars, but if you want to see how it’s done right, check out this example.
An alternative that might be worth considering is the first-gen Audi A6 Allroad. Based on the C5-generation A6 Avant, this car is essentially a jacked-up wagon with mild off-roading ability from the factory. The highlights of its design include a higher base ride height than the regular A6, which can be raised further thanks to adjustable air suspension (much like the Q7). Naturally, it gets Quattro all-wheel drive too, however this time with the rare addition of a low-range mode. So, if you fancy taking to the trail in something that more closely resembles a car than an SUV, this could be the answer. Add in the usual overlanding mods, and the Allroad should be a competent vehicle for tough trails.
Audi A8 – VIP style
If you like to get from A-B as quickly as possible, while reclining in maximum comfort, and looking pretty badass while doing it, you might want to build a VIP car. The concept is simple. Take an executive sedan, enhance the interior, and make the outside look menacing. Of course, if your executive express has a tasty engine under the hood, that’s even better. One of the best options for this style of build is the Audi A8, a real business-class motor, but one which can be had for reasonable prices on the used market. Just don’t buy the cheapest high-milers out there. You’ll regret it, trust me.
The A8 that’s of particular interest to me is the aluminum-bodied D3 4E-generation. Engine choices range from a V6 to W12, and the power gets sent to all four wheels via a six-speed automatic gearbox; perfect for the personality of a car like this. You can even get a long-wheelbase version called the A8L if maximum luxury is your priority. All in all, if you pick a good, well-maintained example, a modified A8 will make you feel untouchable.
Audi A2 – build on a budget
Not got much money, but want to build an interesting project car? The Audi A2 is enjoying a quiet resurgence in popularity, but can still be picked up for pennies. Here’s why you might want one:
To this day, the A2 is one of the most space-efficient cars ever produced. By that, I mean that it has a truly impressive cabin size for its overall footprint. To give you a bit of context, this car is 200mm shorter than a modern Audi A1, but has more room inside it. To achieve that, it all came down to some very clever packaging, however that resulted in a love-it-or-hate-it tall but stubby exterior. No doubt, the A2 was ahead of its time, a bit like the first-gen Audi TT which came out in the same period. But, whereas the TT’s bold looks won it fans, the same wasn’t quite true of the A2. Back when it was launched, people viewed it as an awkward design, and in fact many still do. As such, it was an economic flop, leading Audi to ditch the A2 model concept forever more.
That’s not the end of the story though. See, with time comes reflection, and an increasing number of people are reassessing their perception of the A2, appreciating it for its refreshing spatial intelligence in a world of ever-bloated crossovers and SUVs. Not only that, but the actual aesthetics of its styling have aged well in he eyes of many – the A2 is now regularly tipped as a future classic for its unique appeal. Personally, I agree, I think it’s cute.
Modifying & tuning potential
But what about its credentials as a project car? Well, realistically, you’re never going to be able to chase big power, but considering it weighs less than 900kg as standard, you don’t need to extract too much more grunt from these cars for them to become properly fun, nippy runabouts. The base engines came with a measly 75hp, so if you can stretch your small budget to cover the second-hand retail price of a Sport variant, the triple figures from its 1.6-liter petrol powertrain will be welcome. In fact, if you want to make any engine mods, I’d highly recommend starting with a Sport model if you can. Oh, and if you do plan of having a hoot in one of these, you’ll be glad to know that they come with a traditional five-speed manual gearbox rather than anything horrid like a whiny, monotone CVT.
One thing to bear in mind though is that the aftermarket support for these cars isn’t particularly deep. So, you’ll need to find a group or forum of like-minded A2 enthusiasts to get the best results. Still, if you want a cheap project car with character, this has it in bucketloads.