Audi Quattro

The Audi Quattro is often referred to as the `Ur-Quattro’ (German for ‘Original Quattro’) to avoid confusion with subsequent four-wheel drive Audis. Designed in the late 1970s, the Quattro really stood out from the crowd at the Geneva Motor show in March 1980. It was the first car to combine 4WD with a turbocharged engine — a giant leap forward in automotive design. Under the watchful eye of Dr Ferdinand Piech (eldest grandson of Ferdinand Porsche) Audi’s engineers developed the lightweight Quattro 4WD system that would bring instant success in the World Rally Championship, as well as start an international craze for high performance, all-drive road cars.

The power in 4WD cars was split between the front and the rear of the car by a weighty transfer gear behind the gearbox which locked the front and rear drive shafts so that they shared torque from the engine. This was only practical in large off-road vehicles —the extra weight made it unviable in a road car. Audi invented an ingenious system: a hollow gearbox output shaft connected to a central differential contained an inner drive shaft to return power to the front axle, while a prop shaft running off the same centre diff transferred its share of torque to the rear axle. This compact, lightweight system gave permanent all-wheel drive. Audi had achieved the impossible — created a 4WD sports car. And with its muscular features and flared wheel arches, the Quattro wasn’t just one for the science geeks either.

The Ur-Quattro gave Audi a whole new image, transforming it from a company known for being dependable but dull to one of the most exciting marques in the car industry. The Quattro 4WD system has become a standard option for most Audi models and the `Ur-Quattro’ is a collector’s item.




1980 (until 1991)


2,144 cc Straight Five


Top speed of 120 mph (193 km/h); 0-60mph (97 km/h) in 8.8 secs


In 1981, Michele Mouton became the first female ever to win a world championship rally. She was piloting an Audi Quattro.


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