This year, the Audi Quattro turns 40, having been born in 1980. It’s crazy to think that 40 years ago, Audi changed the game forever, bringing a compact all-wheel drive system to a high-performance road-going car. Back in 1980, four-wheel drive was for trucks and agricultural equipment, not road cars and especially not luxurious ones. However, Audi did it anyway and what was born from that risk was a legend, one that would not only change the Audi brand forever but the entire industry.
It’s almost difficult to name sports cars that are rear-wheel drive today, with all-wheel drive being the primary drivetrain. The Audi Quattro is to thank (or blame, depending on who you ask). In this excellent video from Piston Heads, we get to see why the Ur Quattro is so special.
The car in this video is a 1981 model with the original 2.1 liter turbocharged 10-valve five-cylinder engine, making about 200 hp and 210 lb-ft of torque. Those aren’t even hot-hatch numbers by today’s standards but they were quite good in 1981. What’s even more impressive is the fact that it isn’t a laggy thing. PH’s Dan Prosser actually seems to like its throttle response, with only a touch of turbo-lag under 3,000 rpm. That’s really impressive for a car from 40 years ago.
It also drives beautifully, with a supple suspension and great steering. Sure, the steering is light and a bit numb (seems as if it’s always been the Audi way) but it’s accurate and it flows nicely. It’s slow by modern standards but that’s to be expected from a 40 year old car. But Prosser seems to really enjoy driving it down some twisty roads.
We couldn’t talk about the Audi Quattro without mentioning the all-wheel drive system. Audi revolutionized all-wheel drive in performance cars by using a central locking Torsen (Torque-Sensing) differential, along with a rear locking differential. Not only does it have exceptional grip through corners but its locking diffs meant you’d never get stuck in a snow storm.
The Audi Quattro was a revolutionary car and one that still holds up as a great driver’s car 40 years later. It’s also so fascinating to see the brand’s heritage is still intact, as you can see the strong influence on many of Audi’s modern performance cars in the original Quattro. This is a great video by PH, give it a watch.