This Was My Afternoon Stroll Through Audi’s Ingolstadt Home
Photography by Andrew Maness
Following an unplanned, but absolutely necessary, second night spent in Munich, I awoke to grey skies and the sound of gentle, but steady rain. Until that morning, the weather had been nothing other than perfect for my run through Switzerland, Italy, Austria and Germany, so I was hardly annoyed by the precipitation. In fact, it was quite the opposite..
Nature had gone ahead and helped my colleague, Raz Krog, and I make a decision on what to do with one of our remaining two days in Germany. We had planned to return to a high alpine region to shoot more photos of the Cadillac ATS-V we’d picked up the week before in Frankfurt, then swing back through Stuttgart to drop by the Mercedes-Benz Museum, but with the far southerly region soaked, and being in no particular hurry to get to Stuttgart, there was no reason not to shoot up to Ingolstadt and check out the Audi Museum.
Having read some reviews of the museum, neither of us expected much, after all, when it comes to the “Big Drei” Audi is the odd man out. Mercedes-Benz and BMW are larger companies with more history and more pedigree. Well, that’s what each of their respective fanboys will tell you, anyway.
Both myself and Raz agreed that even though Audi may not have made as many contributions to the advancement of automobile technology as Mercedes-Benz, or have as many iconic silhouettes as BMW, it’s done alright for itself, especially since they were on the brink of collapsing under the weight of the Audi 5000 fiasco.
Since then, Audi has had its fair share of issues, first generation TT wheels going AWOL, timing chains tearing apart engine blocks, air-suspensions losing their will to live, but through it all, the fanbase has remained. Having owned a B7(2007) S4 Avant, out of warranty, I can tell you from firsthand experience that while every drive is an adventure that could end in financial ruin, its ownership experience is worth it.
Audi has a dedicated fan base, one that I found to be eclectic and welcoming, much like the campus in Ingolstadt. The pointing and gasping started before we even got in the museum, and most of it was directed at cars. I don’t know what they’re putting in the water in Ingolstadt, but from what I saw it’s the same stuff they’re using at SWISS Airlines.
Anyhow, about the museum and the hardware within. The building sits across an expansive courtyard from Audi HQ, which is an impressive piece of architecture itself, but not nearly as pretty as the circular glass and steel structure that is home to vehicles from Audi, as well as the other brands that formed Auto Union during the Great Depression, Horch, Wanderer, and DKW. If you didn’t know where the four rings came from, now you do!
Much to our pleasure, the museum features a top down approach, so you start your journey on the third floor among the earliest, and most luxurious vehicles to feature the Horch and Audi name, as well as DKW and Wanderer motorcycles, the existence of which I was unaware of prior to our visit. The vehicles on the top floor run from 1899 to 1945, and for the most part were all new to me, with the exception of the stunning V16 Auto Union Silver Arrow GP cars that I’ve been fascinated with since I was a kid.
On the second floor you’re among cars from 1946-2000, mostly Audis that are more recognizable, such as a rare first run short-wheelbase Quattro, and one of the 24 Hours Le Mans winning E-Tron cars. The motorsports section of the museum was without question my favorite section, especially since soft natural light was spilling in the large windows while we wandered that area.
However, it was interesting to see many of the DKW vehicles that essentially rebuilt the brand following WWII, including the DKW delivery van, and a variety of DKW motorcycles. It’s worth noting that it was Daimler-Benz that funded the resurrection of the brand after the war, but sold 50% of the business to Volkswagen in 1964, and eventually turned over the remaining 50 in 1966. This meant VW had a brand new factory in Ingolstadt, with extra capacity to build additional Beetles, and the rights to the new engine design that had been funded by Daimler-Benz.
Volkswagen quickly dumped the DKW name because consumers related it to the old two-stroke models and resurrected the Audi name for use with the new four stroke models. This floor has a number of both DKW cars from the early ’60s, and Audi cars from the late ’60s and early ’70s.
Down on the first floor we found a special exhibit running called “Dynamic Sculptures” that celebrated coupe designs from 1930 to present day. This exhibit wraps up September 16th 2016, so chances are it’ll be nearly over by the time you read this, bummer. Of the twelve cars exhibited, the most interesting were the DKW Monza and DKW 100 SP, which looks like a baby T-Bird.
Having had our fill of complicated history, we exited through the gift shop, and headed straight to the cafeteria. The lunch we had at Audi was one of the best meals of our entire trip. I’m talking top-notch schnitzel and potato salad here, people. Really, really good stuff. It’s probably because this is where employees eat as well, but the choose your own adventure situation at Audi was far better than the “stylish” cafés at Porsche, BMW and Mercedes-Benz.
Oddly enough, I think that about sums up what makes Audi such an alluring marquee, it does things differently, and while it might not be the most luxurious choice, it gets the job done with equal efficiency, and in a more enjoyable manner. If you’re making an automotive pilgrimage to Germany, don’t skip a trip up to Ingolstadt.