Audi’s Quattro is probably the most famous all-wheel drive system in the world. It’s probably the only all-wheel drive system to be synonymous with a brand. Audi has spent decades turning the Quattro badge into its own brand and that’s even the name of Audi’s performance division, Quattro GmbH. So it’s big news when Audi creates a new version of Quattro.
We live in an age where efficiency is more valued than anything else, so Audi has developed a new version of Quattro to help add efficiency to vehicles that could use it. This new system is called Quattro Ultra, which coincides with Audi’s Ultra model variants that are geared more toward efficiency. This Quattro Ultra system will help get models equipped with it slightly better mpg by being front-wheel drive under most normal circumstances, but switching to all-wheel drive when needed.
All-wheel drive is significantly less efficient than front or rear-wheel drive, as it adds more friction on the drivetrain, giving the car drivetrain loss which makes it less efficient. It even saps a small amount of power from the engine. So what Quattro Ultra does is monitor when the car is driving under very normal circumstances and when it is, Quattro Ultra decouples the driveshaft at the back of the transmission that drives the rear wheels. Once all-wheel drive is required, the driveshaft recouples and it again becomes the same great Quattro system we all know and love. This decoupling allows the car to be as efficient as possible when it can but also be as grippy as possible when it needs to be. So, in theory, it’s the best of both worlds.
To make it even better, Audi wanted to make sure that the recoupling of the rear wheels wasn’t reactionary, as that wouldn’t be as smooth or successful. If the rear wheels only kicked in when it realized they were needed, there would be a gap, albeit a millisecond gap but a gap nonetheless, where the all-wheel drive was needed but not there. So Audi has programmed the system to be proactive and engage when it thinks it might be needed in the coming .5 seconds. It does this by monitoring many different parameters of grip ever 10 milliseconds. In the future, the car will even use the navigation system and weather readings to monitor what lies ahead to be proactive with the all-wheel drive’s engagement.
This Quattro all-wheel drive system was co-developed with Magna and has been in development for five years, as Audi was waiting until it was perfect before putting it into production. Quattro Ultra will first debut on the upcoming Audi Allroad, but will eventually make its way to all MLB-based Audis. However, because the Quattro Ultra system does not work with Audi’s rear sports differential, it won’t be offered on high-performance models. Plus, it’s not as if an Audi with a twin-turbocharged 4.0 liter V8 will really benefit by this system anyway. The Quattro Ultra system will be available with both manual and automatic transmissions and will be available at no extra cost.
This could help bring down Audi’s overall mpg rating, as it will take a mpg or two off of nearly every model. Car and Driver recently tested the setup and said that it works seamlessly without any indication as to whether or not the rear wheels are engaged. So Audi’s new Quattro Ultra will allow Audi customers to have all of the benefits of all-wheel drive, without a lot of the efficiency-sapping negatives.