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A guide to Audi Quattro and its 25 years of Journey

Quattro at the century mark Published: 27th May 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

A guide to Audi Quattro and its 25 years of Journey
A guide to Audi Quattro and its 25 years of Journey
A guide to Audi Quattro and its 25 years of Journey Classy cabin refined but let down by old style ‘coachman like’ tweed trim on early cars
A guide to Audi Quattro and its 25 years of Journey All wheel drive grip showed its superiority in rallying and was class of the field
A guide to Audi Quattro and its 25 years of Journey Lusty five-cylinder unit is robust, top end and turbocharger less so
A guide to Audi Quattro and its 25 years of Journey Diff locks – learn how to use them properly
A guide to Audi Quattro and its 25 years of Journey AWD quattro transmission spread across Audi ranges but they are not the real thing…
A guide to Audi Quattro and its 25 years of Journey Nice subtle styling and decal work was hallmark of the quattro
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We celebrate the car that gripped the world

Think quattro – an evocative word even now, an incredible 25 years after its debut; it’s huge flared arches, rally forest stages; Mikkola and Mouton, Blomqvist and Röhrl and drainpipe- sized exhausts belching great gouts of flame at astounded spectators. On the road, it regularly received rave reviews from the motoring press and became the epitome of the ‘practical supercar’.

The reason why

Up to 1979, Audi was in the wilderness where only enthusiasts had heard of it and even they referred to it as ‘Ordi’. Unlike its German rivals, (VW, BMW, Mercedes, Porsche) which were known variously as sporty, high quality and luxury brands, Audi produced cars for old men who wanted a bit of comfort and reliability. Time for something drastic and the PR boys reckoned that motorsport success was the way to go. After much deliberation, they decided that the battlefield should be rallying and the weapon of choice, a 4WD, turbocharged version of the company’s two-door coupe. Laughter within the ranks of ‘those who know’ echoed long and loud because everyone knew that rally cars had normally aspirated engines driving the rear wheels. Driving all four wheels would add unnecessary weight, making the cars impossible to service quickly, and the complexity of turbocharging didn’t bear thinking about. History shows that the humour of the situation quickly evaporated, as rally and championship victories stacked up. The quattro won the manufacturer’s World RallyChampionship in 1982 and 1984, and driver’s titles in 1983 and 1984 for Mikkola and Blomqvist respectively. An important fact not revealed by the bald statistics is that in 1982, Michelle Mouton became the first woman to win a world rally and got within a breakdown of winning the driver’s championship! The car single-handedly re-wrote rally history to the point where winning demanded a quattro copy; turbocharging and four-wheel drive were subsequentlyused by Lancia, Peugeot, Subaru, Mitsubishi etc.Most importantly, the rally successes brought the marque to the public’s attention and created a much better brand image. Better still, the quattro road car became an icon, whilst at the same time the quattro principle was being spread across the whole range.

Why 4wd?

The quattro – a lower case ‘q’ remember – put its power through all its wheels, resulting in improvedhandling, greater stability, better traction and, therefore, greater safety. This was no surprise to anyone, but until the quattro, the only way of achieving all-wheel drive was to use a Land Rover style system of extra gearboxes and propshafts, adding massively to the weight and complexity, reducing performance and increasing mpg. Audi’s hollowtube design reduced both to such an extent that 4WD road, race and rally cars were eminently feasible.

A sporting chance

As the rallying opposition squared up to the quattro (largely using space-framed specials!), Audi decided to make the quattro more wieldy in tight turns by shortening the car, hacking out 320mm from just behind the driver’s seat. It was shown at the 1983 Frankfurt Motor Show, first rallied the following year and scored its only win at San Remo in 1985. However, it was taken to the fearsome Pikes Peak event in America in 1985, 1986 and 1987, winning on each occasion in the hands of Michele Mouton, Bobby Unser and Walter Röhrl respectively. To homologate it for competition, 214 road cars were made, though not all were sold to the public. The engine was a 20v, 5-cylinder unit producing 306bhp (over 600bhp for rallying) and it was available in LHD only, with a high specification which included full leather trim and Recaro seats. It cost £51,000 new and a good one will cost around that today - if you can find it and if you can afford the spares; the composite bonnet alone costs over £11,000 and that’s before you paint it!

Quattro Quarnry

Do not just go out and buy an Audi quattro – unless you are very lucky, or very knowledgeable, you will buy a money pit. First off, join a club for its technical expertise and secondly, do lots of research: you need to decide the model/engine you want and, of course, how that fits in with what you can afford. Thirdly, no matter how much you think you know, it’s wise to get an inspection of your proposed purchase by an expert (some are listed here or talk to the club). Many quattro parts are shared with ‘lesser’ models and it’s tempting to think that this makes it cheap to own and run. But remember, there’s a whole heap of parts that are quattro-only which means that Audi can attach prices that look like part numbers! There is no such thing as a cheap quattro…

Bodywork & Interior

The quattro’s reputation for holding the road led many to believe they were invincible, inevitably resulting in some quite impressive shunts. Check absolutely everywhere for signs of accident damage. Take special care with regard to engine/chassis numbers and heritage, to make sure you’re not buying a standard coupe with a fibreglass identity problem. Build quality was high though pre-’85 cars (when partial galvanising was introduced) can suffer rust in the usual places of lower doors, boot well, lower-wheel arches, windscreen surrounds etc. Be warned new wings are £600 a pair, bumpers £270, front grille/airdam £750.Some parts are common with the more prolific Audi coupe, notably the doors, some glass, headlamps etc., so scrapyard replacement is possible. Inside, there are more Coupe connections, seats, various trim and switchgear being interchangeable. A digital dash will cost around £1000, if you can find one – some faults can be repaired, but regard problems with extreme caution.

Under the Bonnet

The engine looks like any old fivecylinder Audi, but it’s not; there are lots of quattro-specific parts which means expense with a crank costing more than a grand, for example, or a multi-way water hose at over £70. Turbochargers run fast and hot and cost £4-£500 at time plus fitting. MB and RR engined turbos were water cooled and you’d typically expect them to last around 125,000 miles – the earlier WR engine turbos will be getting weary at around half that. A rebuilt short (bottom) engine costs around £3200. The exhaust manifold is legend for cracking and you’ll hear the giveaway ticking noise at cold startup. Cost is from £400 but of course, the studs can shear like any other car and can easily take it up to a £1000 touch. Oil filters (there are two) MUST be the real thing, as they include one-way valves to keep some oil up the top of the engine to reduce cold-start wear. Cheapo aftermarket stuff should sound warning bells. Current thinking is that synthetic oil is best. Regular changes (preferably at 5000 mile intervals)
make for longevity that other supercars can only dream of. The five-cylinder Audi bottom end has a well-deserved reputation for racking up huge trouble-free mileages, but cylinder head troubles are fairly common – a complete head will cost around £500 plus fitting. The white puffs of smoke that you’d normally associate with leaking valve seals (and which it still could be) are also indicative of turbo trouble, but if it is the seals then the head has to be overhauled. The quattro is fussy about its plugs so expect to pay between £30- £60 per set (five don’t forget) depending on the model.


Suspension is fairly conventional and dampers/springs/struts are available in either standard or uprated guise. However, the car has to sit square which means using complex infra-red equipment to prevent ‘crabbing’ and weird handling problems. VR-rated tyres are expensive - around £150 a corner - so checkcarefully. Uneven wear suggests four-wheel alignment required, as above and should be done by an expert. Under the car is a plethora of rubber bushes for suspension and sub-frames, and all take a real hammering from the prodigious engine torque. When worn, the car will feel sloppy and loose. Replacement can cost £500 plus, depending on who does the work, how many you replace and whether or not you opt for polybush uprates. Worn anti-roll bar bushes and shot dampers are not uncommon.


The brakes were good and got better over the years. As usual, check that the car stops quickly without pulling to left or right. Replacement and upgraded discs/pads are available at many sources. ABS was fitted to almost all quattros; the dash light should come on with the ignition and then extinguish. Failure suggests ECU trouble (and lots of cash), though gunged-up wheel sensors are a possible cause.


The gearbox is incredibly tough with problems being rare. More importantly, they’re usually easy to spot; all quattros have a slightly notchy selection, but the gears shouldn’tgraunch, and jumping out of any gear means big bills ahead. Check that the differential locks engage correctly and remember notto use them on tarmac roads. You may need to reverse a short distance to select or de-select. Clutches can take a pounding, but at well under £200 are not wallet busting.


There are lots of quattro tweaks around, some better than others. Again, an expert will weed out the wheat from the chaff – and remember, anything non-standard needs to be mentioned to your insurers.

For the converted

There are various conversions on the market. Respected quattro specialists, Dialynx, can transform a standard quattro into a Sport quattro replica. The car is shortened by removing 320mm between the ‘B’ and ‘C’ pillars, in the same manner as the original. It costs around £10,000 which sounds steep, but a good example of the real thing - only a handful made and LHD only - can cost between £35 - £50,000.



The quattro was in an almost constant state of change, with bits being added, removed or uprated all the time. Because it was hand-built by a specialist team, it meant that any developments were relatively easy to put into production. As such, this list is simply a few of the major differences model-to-model. Remember that, like many car makers, Audi’s model year ran from September to September.


Though shown at the 1980 Geneva motor show (creating the same sort of stir as the E-Type Jaguar almost 30 years earlier), it was 1981 before it arrived in the UK. Then in LHD form only, the initial price was £14,500. The engine was based on the Audi 200 turbo unit, with Bosch K-Jetronic injection and a KKK turbocharger, but the addition of an intercooler boosted the power to 200bhp. The engine was denoted as the ‘WR’. Driver goodies included central locking, electric windows, front foglamps, electric mirrors and rear wash-wipe. Relatively narrow Ronal 6J x 15” wheels were shod with 205/60HR15 tyres. Two differential locks were operated by twin lever cables. Quoted performance was 0-60mph in 7.1 seconds with a top speed of 138mph. The quattro was truly unique, being the only production car to have permanent 4WD not designed for off-road use. (It wasn’t the first, of course, that honour going to the 1966 Interceptor-based Jensen FF.)


Single-piece Cibié headlamps were fitted (rather than the twin lamps of the original) and there were rear suspension revisions for better handling. The differential locks were upgraded to a single-knob (vacuum operated from the end of the year) and the rear axle geometry was slightly modified so that toe-in variations under all road conditions were even smaller; the upshot being that handling, straight-line stability and resistance to crosswinds were all improved. Because of this, the rear stabiliser bar was deleted and the front stabiliser bar was mounted on special links for better insulation against vibration.


Bosch ABS anti-lock braking was standard and RHD pattern windscreen wipers were fitted. The Ronals became 8” with 215/50 VR15 tyres (with slighter wider arches to suit) and the suspension was lowered by 20mm. Updated switchgear was joined by a digital dash with the universallyloathed synthesised voice warning system. The gear ratios were revised, though there was still a large gap ‘twixt 2nd and 3rd.


The big news was under the bonnet, where the capacity was increased to 2226cc and labelled the ‘MB’. The compression ratio rose from 7.0:1 to 8.6:1 and a smaller, water-cooled turbocharger was installed for increased reliability and reduced turbo lag. Power and torque remained at 200 bhp and 210 lb ft, though both arrived lower down the rev range, improving driveability. Top speed was the same, but the 0-60 time improved to 6.7 secs. To help control all this speed, twin-pot brake callipers were introduced. The digital dash remained, but the voice was ditched and the mileage counters, previously analogue, came into the digital decade. A tilt-only sunroof was fitted. The drive was also changed, a Torsen (TORque-SENsing) central differential being fitted to the 4WD system. This normally split the torque 50/50 between the front and rear axles, but could vary up to 25/75 or 75/25 if grip was reduced at either end. As a nod in the direction of weight saving, the boot lid was made of fibreglass.


The 20 valve cars were introduced for the 1990 model year with considerable engine changes. The twin cam unit used the aluminium cylinder head from the Sport quattro which, along with some clever Motronic electronics and an increase in compression ratio to 9.1:1, raised the power to 220 bhp at 5,900 rpm. More impressive was the torque - a handy 229 lb ft of torque at just 1950 rpm. Top speed was up to 142 mph and the 0-60 time was cut to a staggering 5.9 seconds. The increased torque improved in-gear acceleration and with less gear changing, fuel economy was also better. With the 20v came the first changes to the quattro’s shell - bumps in the floor to accommodate the bulk of the three-way regulated catalytic exhaust system. Inside, the seats had the quattro nomenclature written into the luxurious Jacquard satin trim. Electric seat heating and a superb steering wheel, badged Audi but made by Personal, were standard. The price was £35,523, more than twice its original cost just 10 years earlier but more importantly, it was £5,000 more than the S2 Coupe(its official replacement). The very last quattro was a Titan grey metallic 20v, driven off the line byWalter Röhrl. It now resides in Audi’s Historic Museum at Ingolstadt.  During its 11-year production run, 11,452 quattros were produced, (not including Sport quattros).


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