Audi’s first true rival to BMW and Mercedes is 23 years old and soon to be a bona fide 25-year old classic — find one that runs for not a lot of money, and then see how long you can keep that up for a lot of money…

It won’t be no Horch winning Pebble Beach, sure, but there are remnants of Auto Union still around that have plenty of classic car potential. The first-generation Audi A8 is one of them we reckon.

At the Barcelona global launch of the Audi A8 wheels chatted to Amar Vaya, the all-new model’s designer, and when I asked him about the new styling language he instantly brought up the original A8 of 1994. Hard to believe it was 23 years ago, but that car still looks timeless. Well, by definition of the word it will always look timeless, but here’s why the 1994 A8 could be a smart buy for the future.

In the early Nineties Audi didn’t have nearly the same image perception of BMW and Mercedes. While its rivals were seen as the epitome of German luxury and the benchmark Audi was still little more than a fancy Volkswagen. The luxury saloon world wasn’t nearly the same as today — consumers had two choices at the top of the segment, BMW or Mercedes. The A8 was the first time Audi managed to compete with substance. The rest is history.

The original A8 introduced Audi to the luxury minded buyers and settled in quite cosily into that role. It was one of the first all-aluminium production saloons and Audi hyped the fact with at the 1993 Frankfurt motor show with a concept model in bare aluminium without a drop of paint on the car. It was also the world’s first car with front and rear side airbags and an ABS system coupled to four-wheel drive on a production model, and you could get the top-spec model with a 4.2-litre V8 (the same one that went on to gain fame in the first-generation Audi R8 supercar) all packaged in an elegant, minimalist, and confident design. 

If you can find one that’s survived without electrical gremlins and with not sky-high mileage you’ll do better than us, but considering these cars had such catastrophic depreciation right out the showroom it could be worth the search because it means the very best examples cost south of Dh30,000. Of course, nobody said anything about the common transmission replacement that costs more than the car...