Horch was founded in 1904 as a luxury car manufacturer in Germany, by one August Horch. It manufactured only luxury cars and was the first to put eight-cylinder engines into mass production in 1923. The brand was independent only through 1932, at which time it merged with Audi, Wanderer, and DKW to form the Auto Union. Shortly thereafter, Horch became the vehicle of choice for Nazi forces in Germany. The company was effectively closed by the conclusion of WWII, as post-war Germans had no money for large eight-cylinder Horch automobiles.
There was a singular Fifties Horch model, the P240 of 1955 through 1958. The small sedan was produced by VEB Sachsenring, the East German manufacturer better known for the decidedly non-luxurious Trabant. Sachsenring became an auto manufacturer after WWII, located in Saxony right where Horch cars were produced. At the time the region was a part of Soviet-occupied Germany. Horch factories turned out the P240 until Horch and Audi were legally reconsolidated 1958. VEB Sachsenring became HQM Sachsenring and continued to produce the P240 for a few more years under its own brand.
Later as a dormant marque, the Horch name fell into the possession of Daimler-Benz. In 1964 Auto Union was purchased by Volkswagen AG, and since it was the only name available Audi returned as the company’s luxury offering. Horch remained separated from its Auto Union brethren until the middle of the Eighties when Daimler handed over rights to Audi. In return, Audi signed a waiver stating it would not call any of its race cars Silver Arrow.
Fast forward to the present day, and Audi has no competition for that most luxurious of Mercedes-Benz trims, Maybach. Audi plans to fix that with the introduction of the new 2022 A8 L Horch at the Guangzhou Auto Show on November 19th. As the grantor of the Horch name to Audi, I’m sure the irony is not lost on Mercedes here. The new high-lux A8 coincides with a 2022 facelift, and is available only on the long-wheelbase A8 L. L adds five inches to the standard sedan’s rear passenger area, as it has done for many years.
Notable features of the Horch not found on the standard A8 L include (most importantly) prominent Horch badging on the body. A unique set of 20-inch wheels also wears the Horch logo and calls back to the “full” alloy look of the A8 W12 of two decades ago. All the new badging is set off by a unique grille design, standard LED lamps and OLED tail lamps, and a special shade of green reserved solely for the Horch.
Inside are the finest materials Audi has available, with more Horch badges scattered here and there, and diamond pattern perforation across the high-quality hides. Said seating comes with a standard eight-way massage at the front, and two luxurious thrones in the rear. Also standard is the most expensive Bang & Olufsen 3-D stereo system.
At this time the Horch is limited in its scope to the Chinese market, where long-wheelbase sedans are still seen as a status symbol. But China is a market that applies a heavy tax to any engines over three liters in displacement. Accordingly, Audi has restrained its engine offering: The Horch uses a turbocharged 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 and adds a 48-volt mild hybrid system to the party for a total of 340 horsepower.
If all goes well for the Horch, Audi is open to an offering in the European market. While some sources indicate such a car outside China might offer a W12 engine, there is not presently an engine of 12 cylinders on offer in the A8; Audi ended its W12 production in 2017. Given the EU is consistently more unfriendly to displacement and carbon dioxides by the day, don’t hold your breath on the return of a W12. Meantime, enjoy some forbidden Germanic fruit.
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