Quattro and Audi have become synonymous over the past four decades – but what is it, and why is it such an important aspect of Audi performance and off-road vehicles?
The name was born with the iconic Audi Quattro, launched in 1980 and which remained on sale until 1991. It earned legendary status by dominating the World Rally Championships throughout the early and mid-1980s, and is well-known as DCI Gene Hunt’s car in the BBC series Ashes to Ashes.
The Quattro name comes from the Italian for the word ‘four’, and signals four-wheel drive. It was the first mass-produced Audi to mate permanent four-wheel drive with a turbocharged engine.
Compared to modern cars, the Quattro was produced in tiny numbers – just over 11,000 were manufactured before it was replaced by the Audi Coupe. Today, just a few hundred of these cherished motors still on British roads as of 2017.
quattro four-wheel drive
The Quattro name has been applied to all subsequent all-wheel-drive Audis. It’s now fitted to at least one version of every Audi in the range – from the potent S1 pocket-rocket, to the capacious Q7 SUV.
Developed over the years through Audi motorsport engineering, it performs different functions in different models, always with the aim of providing additional grip. For sportier Audis, this means more grip and predictable handling; for off-road models, the ability to go further into the rough stuff.
Different cars, different systems
No two Audi Quattro models are made the same, so fitting the same system to every Quattro model would be wrong. That’s why there are four different versions applied to different Audis.
Models with a hydraulic multi-plate clutch have the engine mounted transversely across the chassis. This system sends most (or all) power towards the front wheels in normal driving conditions, but constantly analyses traction and sending up to 100% of the power to the rear wheels when needed.
Audi cars with a self-locking centre differential split torque 50:50 between the front and rear axles, but constantly analyse road conditions and can send up to 100% of power towards either axle. Some models, such as the RS range, have a rear wheel bias, sending the majority of the power to the back for a sportier driving experience.
The Audi R8 has its own configuration, as it – unlike other Audis – is mid-engined. Under everyday driving conditions the majority of the power is sent to the rear wheels, but depending on the situation and weather, 100% of the torque can be distributed to either axle.
The latest innovation is Quattro on-demand. It can switch between all-wheel drive and front-wheel drive in a fraction of a second, depending on driving conditions and your driving style. It’s been engineered to help reduce CO2 emissions and fuel consumption, while still providing all the benefits of Quattro.
Test drive a quattro model at Inchcape Audi.
The team at your nearest Inchcape Audi showroom can arrange a test drive of your chosen Quattro model and explain which system comes fitted. We have outlets at locations in Bolton, Cheshire Oaks, Crawley, Hyde, Macclesfield, Maidstone, Stockport, Swindon, Tetbury (Cotswolds) and Tunbridge Wells.