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Rob Griffin

The best and worst German cars

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Thanks to car industry giants such as Mercedes, Audi and BMW, Germany has produced many iconic cars. But not all of them have been successful, writes motoring journalist Rob Griffin.

Best and worst German cars

This is especially true of those that came out of the old East Germany before the Berlin Wall came down.

So, from daily workhorses to exhilarating powerhouses, here are some of the best and worst German cars ever made.

The best German cars ever made - Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG

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For a combination of performance and styling you’d be hard pressed to beat the phenomenal Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG.

This two-seater supercar, which will set you back around £170,000, has been developed by Mercedes’ in-house performance arm, AMG.

Even Top Gear’s famously critical Jeremy Clarkson branded it a "superb car".

His only complaint related to the gullwing doors, which he suggested would have you marked down by everyone as a "massive show-off".

Well, you can always buy a roadster version, which solves that problem.

The best German cars ever made - Porsche 911

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It might be hard to believe but the Porsche 911 has been part of sportscar royalty for half a century.

Since the original appeared in 1963 there have been more than 820,000 made in various incarnations, not to mention the racing and rallying versions.

Built as the anointed successor to the 356, the 911 has become an iconic name that conjures up the very essence of style, luxury and performance.

A new one will set you back between £70,000 and £100,000, depending on the specification.

The best German cars ever made - Volkswagen Golf MKII

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Okay, it might be difficult to put a humble VW alongside a Porsche and Mercedes but the fact is this car is arguably more important than either of them.

The Volkswagen MKII Golf, which arrived in the early 1980s, helped Germany become the car capital of the world, according to Giles Chapman, author of The Worst Cars Ever Sold.

"It set the benchmark for what’s good in a medium family hatchback," he says.

"It’s a fantastic car and an enormous seller that galvanized everything that was great about the MK 1 Golf, making it modern and excellent."

The worst German cars ever made – Trabant

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Truly hideous. The Trabant may have enjoyed something approaching cult status but the only reason this monstrosity flourished was the fact nothing else was available.

It even had a body made out of compressed cotton waste pressed into shape with resin.

"It’s the world’s worst people car, chugging along and chucking out black smoke," says Chapman.

"It was an atrocious machine and only flourished because of the Iron Curtain. When the Berlin Wall came down there was no place for it in the modern world."

The worst German cars ever made – Wartburg Knight

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The Wartburg Knight is another Eastern European "masterpiece".

This medium-sized family car was manufactured from the late 1960s to the late 1980s and was phenomenally cheap – which endeared it to those desperate to get behind the wheel of a brand new car.

Unsurprisingly, given its rather basic nature, it looked boxy and ugly.

The build quality was poor, the handling was pretty woeful and the fuel consumption wasn’t great.

That said, buying a decent condition one today would still cost you a few thousand pounds.

The worst German cars ever made – Mercedes A-Class 

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It all started going wrong for this baby Merc when footage emerged of it rolling during the so-called elk test.

This is a procedure designed to see how well a vehicle can evade a suddenly appearing obstacle in its path.

The truth is it never really recovered, says Giles Chapman.

"As well as suffering an image problem from the elk test, Mercedes had taken out a lot of metal and bulk in order to make this compact city car.

"This meant it ended up having some quality problems," he adds.

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