The 12 most iconic German cars of all time

Germany has a deserved reputation for building some of the world’s best automobiles. From sports cars that have broken the mould to ‘every man’ models that have captured the public’s hearts, Deutschland has delivered some real standouts over the decades.

Keep reading to find out more about the most iconic German cars of all time…

Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing

  • Produced from: 1954 to 1963
  • Class: Sports car
  • Defining feature: Retro innovation at its best

Offering the first-ever production fuel injection engine, and capable of achieving a faster top speed than any other car at the time, the 30SL Gullwing caused quite a stir when it was first introduced at the 1954 New York Auto Show. With its distinctive doors, it’s now considered one of the most collectible Mercedes-Benz models ever.

Mercedes Gullwing - silver with red interior

BMW 1 Series

  • Launched in: 2004
  • Class: Subcompact executive car
  • Defining feature: Luxury at a lower price point

Currently in its second generation, the 1 Series remains a popular entry-level option to the BMW range. Though more affordable than any other BMW, this rear-wheel-drive executive car still delivers the luxurious interior, driving performance and high spec finish that the brand has become famous for.

bmw 1 series - white

Audi R8

  • Launched in: 2006
  • Class: Sports car
  • Defining feature: Brawn and beauty, perfectly combined

The design and build of this incredibly stylish two-seater are based on the most successful Le Mans racing car of all time. Available as a coupé or an open-top Spyder, the Audi R8 is a true supercar that offers blistering performance, sharp handling and a distinctive, angular look.

Audi R8 with red paint on racetrack

Mercedes-Benz C-Class

  • Launched in: 1993
  • Class: Compact executive car
  • Defining feature: Delivers the whole package

Named Compact Executive Car of the Year at the 2018 Auto Express New Car Awards, the Mercedes-Benz C-Class offers a winning combination of sector-leading comfort, great equipment, and affordable running costs. More than 15 years after its launch, it remains one of the leading lights of its class.

mercedes c-class in silver

Porsche 356

  • Produced from: 1950 to 1965
  • Class: Sports car
  • Defining feature: A true classic

The 356 was Porsche’s first production automobile, and just 50 cars were created during the first run. The tiny but powerful two-seater went on to sell 76,313 units and is now a collectors’ favourite that will usually fetch somewhere between $20,000 and $100,000 at auction.

Red Porsche 356

Audi A3

  • Launched in: 1996
  • Class: Subcompact executive car
  • Defining feature: Offers a flexible, stylish package

Audi have sold over half a million A3s in the UK alone. This premium hatch is fuel-efficient and classy-feeling, and buyers can choose from a huge range of engines to suit their needs, from the free-to-tax plug-in hybrid e-tron through to the 2.5-litre five-cylinder RS3.

Audi A3 - white

VW Golf

  • Launched in: 1974
  • Class: Compact car
  • Defining feature: Europe’s favourite

OK, it might not be the most exciting car on our list, but we couldn’t not include it given that the VW Golf is Europe’s best-selling car and the second best-selling model in the world overall (the Toyota Corolla just pips it to the post). This multi-award winner hatchback is practical, refined and enduringly popular.

VW Golf

BMW 3 Series

  • Launched in: 1975
  • Class: Compact executive car
  • Defining feature: Well-established but still feels fresh

Over 40 years old and still going strong, BMW’s best-selling model offers buyers a huge range of engines to choose from, and excellent build quality. The diesel models in particular are refined and powerful, and the 3 Series has also earned a reputation as the best handling car in its class.

bmw 3 series, silver

Porsche 911

  • Launched in: 1963
  • Class: Sports car
  • Defining feature: One of the best-handling sports cars in the world

The Porsche 911  is one of the oldest sports coupé nameplates still in production. Its staying power is undoubtedly down to outstanding handling and an absolutely iconic design, and it’s still winning plaudits today – the Porsche 911 GT3 was named Performance Car of the Year in the Auto Express New Car Awards 2018.

Porsche 911 Carrera 4S with blurred foreground

BMW 328

  • Produced from: 1936 to 1940
  • Class: Sports car
  • Defining feature: A pre-war rarity

After the Second World War, the manufacturing plant in Eisenach where the 328 had been built found itself in the Soviet occupation zone, which meant production had to cease – but this legendary car hasn’t been forgotten. Only 464 were produced, and its perhaps the 328’s sheer scarcity that’s cemented its infamy.

BMW 328

VW Beetle

  • Produced from: 1938 to 2003
  • Class: Subcompact economy car
  • Defining feature: Still “the people’s car”

How could we not include this total classic in our list? The first iteration of the beloved ‘bug’ was designed to be an affordable, practical vehicle for the masses, and could be bought through a savings scheme. From these humble beginnings, it’s gained cult status thanks to its distinctive styling that is now recognised the world over.

Check out our homage to this iconic car – the ‘Barista Beetle’ (a concept design inspired by the question “What if Volkswagen made a coffee machine?”)

Mercedes E-Class

  • Launched in: 1953
  • Class: Executive car
  • Defining feature: Popular with executives, police and taxi drivers

Historically, the E-Class is Mercedes-Benz’ best-selling model – and it’s little wonder given that it was named Executive Car of the Year by Auto Express in 2016, and UK Car of the Year in 2017. Offering smooth steering, a powerful engine and a stylish, spacious cabin, the E-Class also boasts a reassuringly high safety rating and strong environmental credentials.

Mercedes E-Class

If you’re a fan of German cars and looking to upgrade your own vehicle, we have recently launched the JCT600 Premium Collection – a selection of the very best used cars. View the cars currently in the collection here.

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