The 4-wheel drive Audi Quattro was launched in March 1980. Loosely based on the Audi 80, it was a 2-door coupe, and ground breaking- the first attempt to sell a 4-wheel drive car since the Jensen FF. Originally available in left-hand drive only, three engine types were used, and the models are now known accordingly as the WR Quattro, the MB Quattro and the RR or ‘20v’ Quattro. In addition, the Audi Quattro Sport was offered between 1983 and 1985.
Shorter, lighter and faster than the Quattro, only 224 cars were made of which only a tiny number were imported into the UK. The car cost £14,500 when introduced in the UK in 1981 and £32,995 by the end of the production run. The car is sometimes referred to as the Ur-Quattro (Ur meaning ‘original’ in German.)
In design terms, the Audi Quattro was extremely innovative. Continuous 4-wheel drive was funneled into a modified front-wheel drive unit, with a 5-speed transaxle and a central lockable differential, and from there to the rear via a prop-shaft to another differential which was chassis-mounted. Independent front and rear suspension, and large flared arches housed 205/60 x 15 tyres.
Power was more than adequate. WR Quattros were fitted with a longitudinal in-line 2144cc five-cylinder 10-valve overhead cam (ohc) turbo-charged engine producing 200bhp at 5500rpm with a top speed of 138mph. 0-60mph came up in 6.5 seconds and the standing 1/4 mile was covered in 14.6 seconds.
In 1987 the MB Audi Quattro came with a larger 2226cc twin-cam, 10 valve engine, which in 1989 was increased to 20-valve for the RR unit. With it, 141mph was possible and 60mph in 6.3 seconds and 14.5 seconds for the standing 1/4 mile.
The Quattro Sport (introduced in 1984) was fitted with a 4-valve per cylinder 2135cc 5-cylinder turbocharged engine. With 306bhp at 6700rpm, 60mph came up in 4.8 seconds, and the standing 1/4 mile in 13.5 seconds.
The Ur-Quattro has a significant competition history, with 23 major rallies won between 1981 and 1985 and two World Rally Championship (WRC) wins in 1982 and 1984. Driven by WRC legends such as Michele Mouton, Hannu Mikkola, Stig Blomqvist, and Walter Rohrl, the Audi Quattro is now considered one of the greatest rally cars of all time.
The Audi Quattro is a drivable car to own. It has sharp handling, a lightness that modern cars just don't have, a stunning soundtrack, remarkable traction and addictive acceleration as the turbo kicks in. Engine rebuilds are costly once the inclined bores wear but can run to 150,000 miles. Later cars have a water cooled turbo which is more robust than earlier variants. Exhaust manifolds can crack and are difficult to source. Cambelt changes at 45,000 miles are essential. The transmission is generally robust, but pay careful attention to all aspects of the suspension as these cars tend to have been thrown around. Body panels are durable as they were galvanised. Having said this, sills, wheel arches and bottoms of doors rust. Look at the wings which should be a good fit; poor repairs can promote rust.
On the negative side of ownership, early Ur-Quattros suffer from turbo-lag and heavy front-bias braking but anti-lock braking (ABS) solved this (fitted from 1981). Until recently, spares availability was poor but the increase in interest in the car has led to more parts being remanufactured.
The Audi Quattro has seen a significant resurgence in interest in recent years, especially Quattro Sport and competition cars. Cars with a fully documented history and low mileage are most appreciated, and achieve the best values as a result.
Period alternatives include the Alfa Romeo GTV8, the Ford Capri 2.8i, the VW Corrado and the Porsche 944. Alternative Audis include the Audi 80, the Audi 90 and the Audi 100.