This edition of Audi Through the Decades is the easiest one yet. Being the ’80s, there’s really only one possible answer for which of Audi’s models is best. It’s the Audi Ur Quattro.
Back in the late ’70s, four-wheel drive on a road car was essentially unheard of, for good reason. Having a full-time four-wheel drive system in a car — not a truck — was heavy, complicated, difficult to package and expensive. But when Audi saw what its parent company Volkswagen was doing with an off-road military vehicle, the Iltis, it took notice.
Rather than using the bulky all-wheel drive systems of the past, VW and Audi pioneered a system that used a center-locking differential that could lock the torque-split between the axles.
With this new all-wheel drive system, Audi saw immense potential for rally racing. So it entered the Audi Quattro into the World Rally Championship and homologated a road car version of it. That road car went on to be known as the Audi Ur Quattro (“Ur” meaning “original” in German) and the rest is history.
Powered by a fire-breathing 2.1 liter turbocharged five-cylinder, a five-speed manual and all-wheel drive, the Ur Quattro was unstoppable in any sort of slippery condition. Even in the dry, it could carry speed and put power down through corners that two-wheel drive cars simply couldn’t. It forced other manufacturers to look into all-wheel drive for their road cars and now 90-percent of cars on the road have all-wheel drive at least as an option. The Audi Ur Quattro changed the game.
The Ur Quattro is sort of the bisecting line of Audi’s history; there’s Audi pre-Quattro and post-Quattro, as it really did change the brand forever and cement it as a performance car manufacturer. Prior to the Ur Quattro, Audi was known as just a plucky German brand that made slightly nicer Volkswagens. After the Quattro, though, the world took Audi seriously as a manufacturer of sports cars. Fast forward forty years later and Audi is one of the world leaders in performance cars and has had an incredibly successful motorsport career.
There isn’t a more important car for the Audi brand in its history, which is why it has to be the best Audi of the ’80s.