What is the Audi Quattro and why is it special?

What is the Audi Quattro, and why is it so special?

In 2021, the term “quattro” is pervasive across the entire Audi lineup as it refers to their four-wheel-drive technology. In the 1980s, Quattro and specifically ‘Sport Quattro’ was associated with a formidable adversary for teams competing in legendary Group B auto racing. It was only later that the term made its way into the Audi lexicon.  Fast forward thirty years, and the entire brand builds upon the groundwork, first laid by the Audi Quattro.

Audi Quattro Show Car 13

What is Audi quattro?

Nowadays, ‘quattro’ is a sub-brand of Audi to indicate the all-wheel-drive technologies used on specific vehicles in its lineup. In a quattro system, the engine and transmission are situated longitudinally with torque distributed through a mechanical center differential, which distributes the torque between the front and rear axles. In a quattro system, torque is permanently active.

What is the Audi Quattro?

The Audi Quattro and quattro system, while related, are entirely different. Also called the ‘Ur-Quattro’, the Quattro was a two-door road and rally car produced between 1980 and 1991.  Over its 11-year production run, 11,452 units were produced globally.

The Quattro came about due to recent rule changes that allowed the use of four-wheel-drive in competition racing. In its initial run, the Quattro was so successful that all subsequent Audi production vehicles, equipped with four-wheel-drive technology, were badged with ‘quattro’ name. Note that the correct term for their four-wheel-drive technology is with a lower-case ‘q’.

Audi Quattro cutaway 18

What is Audi’s history with 4WD systems?

Audi is part of the Volkswagen Group, the largest automobile manufacturer in the World.  Audi’s parent company, Volkswagen, has been developing four-wheel-drive systems since the Second World War in vehicles produced for the German Army.

In the 1970s, VW designed the Volkswagen Iltis, a 4WD vehicle for the German military. When chassis engineer Jorg Besinger learned that the VW Iltis had a 4WD system that could outperform most cars in the snow, he had the idea of modifying the technology for use in high-performance applications. Its first application was in the Audi 80 variant developed in cooperation with Walter Treser, Director of Pre-Development at Audi.

Audi Quattro Interior 20

What car is the Audi Quattro similar to?

The Audi Quattro shared the platform and many parts with the coupe version of the Audi 80. The most apparent difference between the two was flared wheel arches, an independent front and rear suspension system, a turbocharged engine, and Audi’s four-wheel-drive system. In 1984, Audi offered the quattro four-wheel-drive system as an option on the coupe.

What engine powered the Audi Quattro?

The early Quattro was offered with a longitudinally-mounted inline 5-cylinder, 10-valve, single overhead cam engine with a turbocharger and intercooler. It produced 197 horsepower and 210 lb-ft of torque, sufficient to propel the 2,900-pound vehicle from 0 to 62 miles per hour in 7.1 seconds, accelerating through to 137 MPH.

Audi Quattro E2 engine bay 19

What is the Audi Quattro’s racing pedigree?

Initially built to take advantage of rule changes in motorsport racing, the Quattro was the basis of the racecar that competed very effectively in forthcoming Group B events. In response to the new rules for Group B racing, Audi produced two evolutions of the Quattro, the A1, and A2.

What was Group B?

Most motorsports fans the World over know Group B racing as it fostered some of the most powerful, fasted, and most sophisticated rally cars ever built.

Introduced in 1982, Group B was regulated by the Federation Internationale de l’automobile (FIA) and ran for four short years before it was terminated. Its demise was brought about because of a series of major accidents, some of them fatal. Excessive speed and a lack of crowd control were the cause of many of the casualties.

Group B requirements were minimal in that there were few if any restrictions on design, technology, and the number of cars required for homologation-200. Weight was kept to a minimum, exotic high-tech materials were permitted, and there was no limitation on boost. As a result, Group B was wild.

Prior to Group B, the power output of winning rally cars was 250 hp. In 5 short years, the power output in rally-winning cars doubled to more than 500 horsepower.

Audi Quattro MMouton 16

What were the racing versions of the Competition Quattro?

The racing versions of the Quattro appeared in 1980, around the same time as the production version. The two evolutions were based mainly on the bodyshell of the roadgoing versions.

The A2 Evolution was powered by an inline 5-cylinder SOHC turbocharged engine producing 300 horsepower. Also significant was that in 1981, An Audi Quattro would win a world championship rally piloted by a woman, legendary rally icon Michelle Mouton.

Over the next three years, Audi would replace the A1 with the A2 Evolution in response to changes to Group B rules. The A2 was powered by a higher output inline 5-cylinder turbocharged engine producing 350 horsepower. Throughout the remainder of its career, versions of the A1 and A2 Evolution would win several world rallies.

Audi Quattro 02 Rally

What is the Audi Sport Quattro S1?

Audi developed the Sport Quattro S1 that was sold as a production vehicle in limited numbers to satisfy Group B Homologation requirements.

In competition form, the Sport Quattro S1 featured a body shell made of carbon-kevlar. It had wider wheel arches, wider wheels, a steeper windshield rake, and a wheelbase that was 12.6 inches shorter than the Quattro competition rally car.

The Sport Quattro S1 was powered by a DOHC, turbocharged 5-cylinder engine producing 302 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque at 3,700 rpm. In competition guise, the Quattro S1 produced 444 horsepower. A total of 224 Quattro S1s were built.

Audi Quattro Sport 06

Was there an Audi Sport Quattro S1 E2?

In 1985, the E1 was replaced by the Quattro S1 E2 that featured an updated engine producing 473 horsepower. In addition to an upgraded engine, the S2 featured aggressive aerodynamics that increased downforce at speed. Because of the reduced weight, the S1 E2 could accelerate from a standstill to 62 miles per hour in 3.1 seconds.

Audi Quattro Sport Prototype

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