The 10 Coolest Front-Wheel-Drive Cars Ever
NSU Ro 80
Felix Wankel’s wonderous rotary engine was supposed to be the Killer App that would vault Germany’s NSU to car biz stardom; instead, the pistonless (and torqueless) noisemaker was proving to be a costly (in more ways than one) distraction for the company, which was dwarfed by Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz and, before long, BMW. Yet instead of cutting its losses and putting all its eggs in the reciprocating engine basket, the company aimed skyward with the persnickety powerplant, installing a new 995cc two-rotor unit in a sleek Claus Luthe penned mid-size sedan called the Ro 80.
The Ro 80 delivered the better part of 113 horsepower to the front tires via a 3-speed manual transmission with a vacuum-actuated clutch operated by a button atop the shift knob. It was the DS of the ‘60s. It was The Future. It was…a complete catastrophe. Problems with apex seals and other subsystems of the engine served up a shipload of negative publicity which, combined with millions of marks paid out in warranty costs, drove NSU into the arms of VW, which combined it with the remnants of Auto Union to form the modern incarnation of Audi. In our estimation, that makes the Ro 80 cool in a Bruce Willis in Armageddon kind of way.