The Audi Quattro

A 140 m.p.h., 4WD supercar 

A sensational permanent-four-wheel-drive, 200 b.h.p., turbocharged, five-cylinder Audi, offering 140 m.p.h., 0-60 m.p.h. in seven seconds, 25 m.p.g. overall, superb comfort for 4/5 people, incredible traction on or off the road and a new standard of roadholding, had its debut at the Geneva Motor Show last month. Called the Quattro, it is probably the most significant new road car of the decade and as a competition car will spearhead Audi's attack on the 1981 World Rally Championship.

The first 4WD high-performance car since the Jensen FF, it differs radically from the Jensen in having its drive torque split 50/50 instead of 33 front, 67 rear. Audi claim that this almost completely compensates for changes in weight distribution, both when the car is laden and under the dynamic effects of driving off and accelerating. A claimed 30 per cent. reduction in tyre wear results from less scrub than on a two-wheel-drive car, while a 3 per cent. power loss through the transmission is said to be more than offset by a reduction in rolling resistance of the four. driven wheels.

The Quattro is a brilliant marriage of existing parts from the Audi 80, 100, 200 and even 50 (alias VW Polo). An extra 30 b.h.p. (200 b.h.p. at 5,500 r.p.m.) has been persuaded from the 200 5T's 2.2-litre, in-line, 5-cylinder turbocharged engine by adding an intercooler, fully-electronic ignition and a larger bore exhaust. The majority of the five-speed gearbox, clutch housing and front differential parts are from the 100/200. Mounted on the rear of the gearbox in a compact package is the Quattro's secret of success: a lockable, inter-axle differential, a modified Polo assembly. A tubular output shaft from the gearbox drives the centre differential, from which the front differential is driven by a thin shaft running within the tubular shaft. 

A conventional propeller shaft with constant velocity joints at each end and a carden-type universal joint in the middle links the centre differential to the lockable rear differential, developed from the Iltis 4WD cross-country vehicle.

Further ingenuity is shown in the all-independent, McPherson strut suspension, which is virtually interchangeable, front to rear. The front units (from the Audi 80) are turned through 180 degrees for the rear. In the rear axle application, transverse links replace the track rods. 

Driveshafts too are off-the-shelf, with two pairs of different length used in diagonally opposite locations. Brakes are hydraulically powered, for insufficient manifold depression is available to operate a vacuum servo. A central hydraulic pump operates the brakes and the asymmetric, power-assisted rack and pinion steering. The 280 mm. ventilated front discs and solid 245 mm. rear discs are from the 200.

The Quattro's chunky, wedge-shaped body, designed by expatriate Englishman Martin Smith, features wide wheel arches to cover 205/60 VR15 tyres, mounted on 6J alloy wheels. Bumper bars at both ends are of impact-resistant plastic and four, rectangular halogen headlights are fitted. Aerodynamics are assisted by a deep, wrap-around air-dam at the front and a wing on the boot lid. The boot itself is large, at 390 litres, houses a narrow-section, emergency spare wheel, and has a lid extended conveniently to bumper level. A 20 gallon fuel tank lies above the axle.

The interior trim is to a very high standard, the velour-covered seats exceptionally comfortable, the driver's incorporating height adjustment and the well-instrumented facia sensibly laid out. The adjustable, four-spoke steering wheel and stubby gearlever are leather trimmed. T-handles either side of the central handbrake operate the differential locks via Bowden cables, two green lights on the facia indicating their engagement. That this is a full four-seater I was able to prove for myself, the rear passengers on a test drive near Geneva including Audi Competitions Manager Jurgen Stockmar and large-framed Motor photographer Maurice Rowe. 

The Quattro will go on sale in Germany within the next few weeks for 49,990 DM, about £12,000. No firm decision has been made on sales in the UK, though it is unlikely, for practical reasons, that a right hand drive version will be offered. — C.R. 

Driving impressions appear on page 506.