How Audi quattro made its mark

2015 marks the 35th year of Audi’s quattro all-wheel-drive system, as well as the car that first brought it to market. The Audi all-wheel-drive legacy started with the Volkswagen Iltis and Audi chassis engineer Jörg Bensinger in the late 1970s.

In the middle of winter in Finland, Besinger discovered the beauty of all-wheel drive – the Volkswagen Iltis he was testing, an off-road vehicle developed by Audi for military use, was performing better than all other vehicles, even those more powerful, on snow-covered roads.

Ferdinand Piëch, Head of Audi Engineering at the time, authorised the development of an Audi 80 four-wheel drive prototype, which was christened A1 meaning Allrad 1 or ‘all wheel’. Its driveline was built by Hand Nedvidek, who had formerly built F1 gearboxes for Sterling Moss and Jan Manuel Falgio. After creating a completely new four-wheel-drive system, Audi put it to market, choosing to include a digital dashboard and 2.1-litre turbocharged engine.​​

Management backing followed that September, although Piëch’s vision was to create a high-performance coupé that could put Audi on the motorsport map rather than an all-wheel drive family saloon. The vision went ahead and the quattro was built on a dedicated line at Ingolstadt, with every car undergoing extensive static and test-track quality assurance, including a 100mph run.​

With a top speed of 137mph, the first quattro vehicle wasn’t just fast in its time; its statistics remain competitive to this day. Boasting 197bhp, 210lb-ft of torque and 0 – 62mph acceleration in 7.1 seconds, the quattro had enough muscle to dominate much of the motoring world. The quattro’s performance was enhanced by its astonishing roadholding, agility and refinement, making it one of the fastest point-to-point cars on earth.

1984 saw the 349bhp A2 competition version dominate the World Rally Championship in the hands of rally driver Stig Blomqvist. The following year, Michèle Mouton set a new world record as she won the savage Pikes Peak International Hill Climb in the same car, making her the first female driver to win a world championship rally.

Only left-hand drive cars were available in the UK to start with, but right-hand drive became available two years later with popular demand for the quattro, keeping it in production beyond the brand’s planned deletion date, highlighting its impact on the motoring world.

The Audi quattro redefined the Audi brand, taking the world by storm and offering innovation with a stylish edge, along with a serious entrance into the international competition arena. The quattro put all-wheel drive on the map as a real-world option and the world has never looked back.

35 years on, all S and RS models feature Audi’s quattro all-wheel drive as standard and the option is available on the entire Audi model range. For more information or to arrange a test drive in an Audi with quattro all-wheel drive, contact your local Jardine Motors Audi today.

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