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Audi Quattro

Published: 8th May 2014 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Audi Quattro
Audi Quattro
Audi Quattro
Audi Quattro

Buyer Beware

As with all rare performance cars, an independent check by a specialist is money well spent, as is a HPI check. As car is fairly recent for a classic, some level of service history is critical. And check the V5; too many owners in short succession point to a bad car.

Quattros were more or less hand made but pre-85 cars weren’t galvanised so rust more; post ’88 most solid but sill, doors and wheelarches are common areas to go.

Engine rebuilds are costly but can go on for 200,000 miles. Most troublesome is the 10 valve 2.2; the MB is far easier on mind and wallet.

Canted engine leads to bore trouble but smoking may also be due to worn turbo or valve guides. A ticking when hot can be due to failing exhaust manifolds (common) which are now unobtainable.

Check oil cooler pipes at offside front by air dam as these corrode; parts cost around £200.

Transmission is strong but gearbox can lose synchro. Clutches last up to 150,000 miles unless really abused.

Check diff locks. These are permanently operated so activate switch and ensure dash light illuminates. If they are seized, don’t worry as it’s fairly easy to rectify.

Like all Audis and VWs check the suspension for worn bushes although the rear subframe on 20V cars can crack if car is regularly thrashed. So has it already been replaced with lesser unit from 80/90 saloon?

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the sensible supercar

Classic car magazines love to promote certain oldies as suitable daily drivers for today’s roads. We’re as guilty as the title… but in truth only a very few select classics can really make a strong enough case for themselves.

An ideal classic candidate would possess great security, good brakes, secure handling in all weathers, more than ample power, decent civility and refinement, durability and ease of running. Oh – and distinctive looks and classic character. Something like an original Audi Quattro in fact.

They say that motorsport improves the breed and the Quattro is another case in point. Originally it was designated purely as a low volume hybrid for competition use – rallying mainly – yet such was the car’s impact that it not only became a showroom model but also spawned a family of quattros that still not only exist but thrive to this day – not bad for a concept that was actually designed with the military in mind!

Announced in 1980, the four-wheel drive Quattro represents a milestone on classic cars while its make up was as advanced as Jensen’s FF launched 14 years earlier it really is a parts bin special. The German’s now famous all-wheel drive system was nothing more exotic than a design VW developed for its ‘Iltis’ military vehicle, the basic floorpan came from the Audi 80 while the five-cylinder engine was already found in Audi’s 200 saloon. Looking around you’ll find handfuls of common components shared with a Mk1 Volkswagen Golf.

You’d think that Quattros would be valued like gold bars and while the top Sport models can certainly command Aston DB like sums, the more common Quattro cost about the same as an MGB or TR6. So if you’re after a sensible, serious yet subtly-styled supercar that you can use every day, then why not acquaint yourself with a Quattro? We’re chiefly looking at the original model but also touching on later ‘quattro’ offshoots also well worth considering.


There’s Quattros and there are quattros. The most desired and classical are the original ‘Uber’ square cut 200bhp turbo coupés, more so if they are the initial cars exported to the UK and left-hand drive. Officially there are 163 LHD UK registered cars. The first chassis number for RHD model was 85DA900556.

However, the later the car the better it became, particularly in terms of its handling and braking (which we’ll touch on later). In 1982 single headlamps were installed in favour of the original quad set up and there were tweaks to the rear suspension geometry to aid a nervous feeling handling and straight-line stability, the rear anti-roll bar was ditched at the same time. The transmission diff locks were upgraded, too.
A year later Bosch anti-lock brakes were made standard and RHD pattern windscreen wipers were fitted. The Ronal alloys were enlarged from 205/60 15 to 215/50 while the suspension was lowered 20mm for a sportier feel as were the gear ratios for similar reasons.

Audi only reasoned that the car would stay in production until 1988 but such was demand – especially in the UK where 30 per cent went – that the car was not only given a stay of execution, but a new lease of life with a new MB power unit fitted but with a smaller turbo for improved pick up.

Bigger twin pot brakes were installed and a Torsen torque sensing differential was fitted to the 4x4 system, allowing an automatic grip split depending where it was most needed.

In 1989 the 20V cars were introduced. This new twin cam unit (derived from the Sport Quattro) along with Motronic fuel injection boosted power to 220bhp.

Ignoring the short wheelbase, big bucks rally-bred Sport, there are other Quattros, albeit with a smaller q. These are the four-wheel drive derivatives of Audi’s range which have the security of four-wheel drive and in many cases Quattro-like performance, but without the character and price tags. Cars worth your consideration are the 80/90 saloons and the Avant estates if you need a real all weather workhorse.

The Quattro’s replacement, the S2 Coupé isn’t a bad car and in top tune used the same engine plus, in some instances, a six-speed gearbox as well as the same Torsen diff set up. They understandably lack the character and charisma of the original, but are more usable, boast a useful rear hatch, are as easy to use as a Golf and can be very cheap, from a few grand.


The Quattro is one of the most practical performance cars ever made. A lusty if somewhat lumpy five-pot delivers supercar-like pace in 20V form yet is docile and fairly frugal. Even the original models hit 60mph in a tad over seven seconds while the top Sport could do it in 4.3! Quattros suffer from turbo lag, which is much worse on the original cars, but that’s all part of the 1980’s character. Despite the performance, you can see fuel returns in the mid 20s.

Handling and braking need less of a watch now than it did 30 years ago simply because the Audi was in another league that was alien to the majority. The car’s cross-country prowess was – and still is – pretty outstanding but this was more down to the four-wheel drive system than chassis excellence, especially on the early cars which, when pressed, suffered from strong if safe understeer at the limit. This was hardly helped by having over 60 per cent of the car’s weight over the front wheels. Later cars boasting the Torsen differential instead of the original fixed 50/50 transmission split, are much better and certainly later cars featuring anti-lock brakes are far preferable if for no other reason that the original Audi always gripped better than it braked – catching out many press-on drivers in the process. Also, you can’t defy the laws of physics and knowledgeable owners will warn you that when a Quattro finally relinquishes its grip on the tarmac then it really lets go in a biggish way…


As we said right at the start, the Quattro is one of the most usable supercars on the block and thanks to solid reliability can be pressed into service as a daily driver so long as the – by today’s standards anyway – lowly fuel returns do not bother you.

This rather anonymous Audi is roomier than most other 2+2s and the cabin, while not a thing of luxury or beauty, is Golf-like durable and comfortable.

Opt for a lesser quattro and you have the wider choice of a saloon, coupé, cabriolet and Avant estates. There’s also a broader engine choice that encompasses efficient and economical diesels. However, if you don’t want the cost and concern of a replacement turbo unit but like a bit of performance, try to get one of the sugar sweet V6s, in manual or automatic guise.


Thanks to a pick-and-mix make up from the VW parts bin, Quattros are pretty easy to maintain and there’s a spread of Audi/VW specialists around to contain costs although Quattro servicing is invariably dearer than a conventional quattro, and when buying you need to ensure this hasn’t been neglected.

The famed 4x4 system is well known now and proven but it’s still complex and beyond the realms of some garages, which is why you need a good specialist. Talking of which, a good service and sort out by a Quattro expert transforms many cars, especially the geometry alignment. And while there’s a host of upgrades such as sports exhausts, turbo tweaks, sportier spring and dampers, etc, they aren’t really needed and may hurt the value.

Normal servicing is a DIY job. Thanks to electronic ignition and leave-it-alone fuel injection, it is mainly a case of fluids and filters every 10,000 miles.

We Reckon...

Just like the E-type and the Mini, Audi’s Quattro is a motoring milestone and so a true classic. Today, it’s one of the few oldies which successfully cuts it on modern roads in standard trim as well as making a practical daily driver. And if you want more choice at less cost, then seek out the underrated S2 or one of the other members of the quattro family.

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