Audi quattro: 40 years of all-wheel-drive

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It all started in the 80s

You can't think of an Audi without thinking of quattro. The all-wheel-drive system that is a core part of Audi, celebrates its 40th birthday this year and like all things great about Audi - quattro was born on the track.

Audi had only been racing in rally competitions for three years before developing and then dominating, the rally circuit with the quattro all-wheel-drive engine in the 1980s. In its debut year in 1980, Audi driver Hannu Mikkola tore through the circuit to win by a convincing 11 minutes and from then on the quattro began to turn heads.

In fact, it turned David Ingram's (Audi Marketing and Public Relations Manager at Audi UK) head, ‘I remember first reading about the quattro in the motoring press – this 200 horsepower, turbocharged, five-cylinder, four-wheel-drive coupé – and I thought wow, this sounds like something else.'


Racetrack to Road

The quattro didn't just burst onto the race track, it burst onto the roads too. It started with an ambitious launch, which involved the quattro being hoisted 100 feet above Kensington Roof Gardens in London before it made its way to the Geneva Motor Show in 1980.

Its game-changing reveal at the show introduced a means of transmitting power, whilst remaining compact, efficient and lightweight, to the motoring world. The quattro showed how perfectly suited to high-performance, sporty cars and high-volume production it was and as a result, its reveal catapulted the Audi range into the UK. Arguably, quattro is the reason why Audi remains such a popular brand to date.

The original quattro system remained pretty much the same throughout the 80s, with the exception of a Sport quattro in 1984, until the 1990s. Enter the Audi A6 2.5 TDI, the first all-wheel-drive model with a diesel engine came onto the market in 1995 and then the electro-hydraulic quattro technology was introduced in 1999 as part of the Audi TT and A3 models.


2000 and Beyond

Fast forward to 2005, when Audi took a big step in the development of quattro. Audi had finally been able to create a system that distributed all-wheel-drive power at a 40:60 ratio between the front and rear axles, essentially providing almost equally balanced amounts of power throughout the vehicle - which is no mean feat.

This breakthrough contributed to the success of the Audi R8, which was launched in 2007 and subsequently improved even further a year later with the inclusion of a viscous multi-plate clutch and Sport version of the rear axle.

You will now find that any quattro system applies most of these features today. These include wheel-selective torque control, tiptronic automatic transmission which distributes 40% of the torque to the front axle and 60% to the rear (as perfected in 2005) as well as 'ultra technology'. This technology helps to keep your car working more efficiently, distributing power where and when you need it without wasting any power.


Right Here, Right Now

Over the last 40 years, the quattro system has gone from strength to strength, producing almost 11 million Audi cars with quattro drive systems from 1980 to present. You will find that quattro technology is installed as standard in every S and RS model in the Audi range and more recently, the inclusion of electric all-wheel-drive and electric torque vectoring created the e-tron family in 2019.

The name quattro is an Audi icon, representing sportiness, technical expertise safety and road superiority. These sentiments are backed up by our record of four World Rally Championship titles from 1982 to 1984, three victories in the Pikes Peak hill climb from 1985 to 1987, three Le Mans victories and four WEC titles for the Audi R18 e-quattro.

Experience all-wheel-drive today.

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