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Does Germany make the best cars?

By raccars Published

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The premium sector has been dominated by German brands for decades. Do they make the best cars?

For a long time now Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz have formed their own 'premium mainstream' automotive sector. There have always been other premium brands including Jaguar, Bentley and Lexus, for example, but none managing the combination of quality and sales volume achieved by the Germans. Not only that, but Germany also has Volkswagen, admittedly somewhat diminished in public eyes recently but still one of the all-time mainstream automotive greats. And of course there is Porsche.

The big three are now being pursued by the likes of Jaguar, Volvo and Infiniti, which are working on positioning themselves in the premium mainstream bracket, but at the moment the Germans still dominate that particular niche, and here's why.

The best cars from Germany

BMW M3

The M3 wasn't the first BMW to get the 'M' treatment, but the original E30 M of the 1980s was unique at the time in combining the sensible practicality of a saloon with hardcore racing performance. The M3 went on to be made in coupe and convertible formats and remains available as a saloon, although last year the coupe and convertible versions began to wear the M4 badge. In addition to commercial success, the M3 has had a stellar racing career, with an even greater motorsport title haul than the Porsche 911.

Volkswagen Golf

The Mk1 Golf in 1974 changed the hatchback landscape, while VW went on to create the hot hatch a couple of years later with the Golf Gti. Over seven generations the Golf has always mixed affordability with a high quality finish and practicality with performance. The Golf is a constant presence in the UK's best seller lists and is the second best-selling passenger car in the world - ever - after the Toyota Corolla.

Porsche 911

Probably the world's favourite sports car and one of its oldest, having remained continuously in production since 1963. The original, air cooled 911 barely changed in 34 years of production until Porsche introduced a water cooled engine and new body shape in 1998. The 911 has won countless awards, a huge array of motorsport titles and remains an ambition for many a petrol head.

Audi Quattro

The number of production cars which have inspired a TV series catchphrase is limited, but the Audi Quattro is the stuff legends are made of. It dominated rally racing in the Eighties and proved that high performance and four wheel drive are not mutually exclusive, while Audi still uses the word 'quattro' (with a lower case 'q') to refer to its trademarked four wheel drive system. The Quattro was available from 1980-1991 but Audi has introduced a couple of interesting Quattro concepts over the last few years. The industry and the public would love to be able to 'fire up the Quattro!' again.

Volkswagen Beetle

The VW Beetle had a dramatic social and cultural impact in the last century. Originally developed by Ferdinand Porsche upon the Nazi leader's orders, Hitler's rear engined, economical 'People's Car' was designed for Germany's new road network and became one of the world's longest running and most popular cars. It was a triumph of engineering at the time and, as with its sibling the VW camper van, it came to embody surf culture and the hippie movement, gaining cult status and an extraordinary international fan movement.

Mercedes-Benz 300SL

Is it a car or a work of art? The race car-based 300SL coupe boasted distinctive gullwing doors and the first fuel injected production engine, which also made it the fastest production car in the world upon its release in 1954. However it's probably more famous now for its gorgeous, elegant design than its performance and is eminently collectable.

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