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Audi Quattro

Ur Still Fab! Published: 25th May 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Audi Quattro

Fast Facts

  • Best model: 20-valve
  • Worst model: Pre-1987 cars
  • Budget buy: 1987-1989 cars
  • OK for unleaded?: Yes, best on super-unleaded
  • Will it fit in the garage? (mm): L 4404 x W 1723
  • Spares situation: Not great
  • DIY ease?: Only the basics
  • Club support: Good
  • Appreciating asset?: Steadily
  • Good buy or good-bye?: Good buy
Cabin is typical Teutonic putting function before style, although later cars became more luxurious with leather trim, etc. As coupes go it’s pretty roomy and comfortable in the back Cabin is typical Teutonic putting function before style, although later cars became more luxurious with leather trim, etc. As coupes go it’s pretty roomy and comfortable in the back
Engines are robust fi ve pots if looked after. Exhaust manifolds are known to fracture and are expensive to replace. Watch for poorly chipped or go-faster mods which do more harm than good Engines are robust fi ve pots if looked after. Exhaust manifolds are known to fracture and are expensive to replace. Watch for poorly chipped or go-faster mods which do more harm than good
Performance exhausts help, not cheap Performance exhausts help, not cheap
Car made its mark in the rally world thanks to sheer grip and grunt: watch for track day cars Car made its mark in the rally world thanks to sheer grip and grunt: watch for track day cars
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The original Audi Quattro is 30 years old and yet still sets the standard as a modern performance classic – at affordable prices, too

Pros & Cons

Performance, usability, practicality, image, relatively low purchase costs
Poor parts availability, high running costs, tricky DIY maintenance. Many iffy examples

Life is full of compromises. Gain in one area and you lose in another – unless you’re an Audi quattro driver. This is the car that has it all; shattering performance, handling, grip, reliability and muscular looks – even relative economy. Bridging the gap between classic and modern, the quattro can theoretically be used every day as an equal to any modern or just for the occasional Sunday run. However, the spares situation is surpringly poor, with many parts available only on a used basis, so clocking up a high mileage could prove as expensive as it is unwise.


A military project by VW started it all

It’s rare that a car changes how people think, but the quattro did; before this, four-wheel drive was for off-roading. It also changed Audi’s image forever; until March 1980, the company produced worthy but dull cars. Then quattro debuted at the March 1980 Geneva motor show, with its four-wheel drive and turbocharged fi ve-pot engine, and production followed immediately after. The quattro went on to set the rally world alight with its performance and durability, the car staying in production for more than a decade. Books have been written on the car so we’ll be brief on this: quattro came about after Audi got hold of a 4x4 military VW proposal called Iltis in the mid 1970s and some bright spark wondered how the transmission would work as a performance aid and raise the image of the brand to catch up with BMW. When the quattro was introduced, after a remarkably short development spell, it was based on the Audi C (coupe) but with a 2144cc SOHC fi ve-cylinder turbocharged engine – good for 200bhp – and was offered with left-hand drive only. It was also one of the fi rst cars with an ECU. UK deliveries started in November, but these fi rst cars were only left hookers which made the £14,500 asked a bit hard to stomach. By March 1981 the original cable-operated differentials had become switch-controlled pneumatic items, then from September 1982 the fi rst right-hand drive cars were available. At fi rst these featured quad headlamps like the orignal, but after just 17 such cars had been built, single-piece Cibié headlights started to be fi tted. The rear anti-roll bar was deleted but the suspension’s ‘toe-in’ setting was altered to suit. From October 1983 the quattro was fi tted with digital instrumentation in place of the previous analogue dash, Bosch anti lock brakes became standard and the third and fourth gear ratios were revised and ‘sportifed’ too.

In March 1984, now a £20,000 supercar, the suspension was uprated and lowered by 20mm, while Ronal 8J wheels were now fi tted. At the same time, the magnifi cent short-wheelbase Sport quattro Group B homologation special arrived; 214 were built, including 164 road cars with a 20-valve 300bhp engine and fi ve-speed manual gearbox. The quattro got exterior revisions in September 1984, with sloped headlamps and grille, while the rear end got a colour-coded spoiler and smoked tail lamp lenses. By November 1987 the engine had been enlarged to 2226cc and the compression ratio increased from 7.0:1 to 8.6:1, while a smaller water-cooled turbo was now fi tted; peak power remained the same at 200bhp. At the same time, a Torsen centre differential was introduced, and a sunroof came as standard. The engine was upgraded further in October 1989; there was now a DOHC 20-valve unit with 220bhp and 228lbft. Twin three-way catalytic converters were also now fi tted and the interior trim was upgraded while the quattro tail badge was deleted. The last quattro came off the production line in Spring 1991, with 11,452 produced in total. Of those, 2710 were offi cially brought into the UK, the WR (pre-1987) accounting for 1994, the MB (1987-1989) for 421 and the RR (post-1989) for 295.


Compared with many modern cars that feature the likes if traction control systems, wide, sticky tyres and generous power outputs, Audi’s quattro may not appear all that impressive any more. But it is – deeply so and is one of the very rare classics (alongside the Lotus Carlton and Lancia Integrale?ed) that can truly cut it on today‘s roads with ability to spare. This car doesn’t rely on traction control to get the power down, because that power is equally transmitted to each corner of the car, ensuring that even on streaming wet roads there’s plenty of grip, while the chassis remains neutral when pushed hard into dry corners, in a safe if too understeery sort of way, although the Torsen diff helped on later cars and there’s scope for tweaking the chassis. It’s the four-wheel drive that’s the headline news of course; it’s this confi guration that has such a massive impact on the car’s dynamics. But this is no one-trick pony because the 200bhp engine also offers plenty of muscle (0-60 7.3 secs), so rapid cruising is effortless, although the power delivery isn’t as linear as in a modern car – it’s nothing like as laggy as some of its contemporaries though.

Despite its sporting pretensions, the quattro is comfortable too, with a ride that’s not as harshas you’d expect, while the seats offer support even when the car is being cornered hard. This square-cut coupe grants surprisingly acceptable 2+2 accommodation. As you’d expect, the press went wild over the Audi, although usually had a dig at its sombre style and gloomy cabin. The late lamented Fast Lanereckoned the 20V was ‘astonishing’while Autocar already hailed the Audi as a classic even when new and reckoned that given its user friendliness “had no equal”. Car summed the car up by calling it “an inspiring ground coverer and a standard for all the rest.”


Despite the quattro’s wide-ranging talents and competition heritage, a roadworthy example can amazingly be picked up for under £3000 although you need to take care here. Service history is vital irrespective of the price; a pre-1989 car can command up to £12,000 if it’s exceptional, although most cars fetch between £5000 to £10,000 – but a lack of history can cut a car’s value in half. It’s the 20-valve editions that everyone wants; even high-mileage examples fetch at least £7500. Expect to pay £14,000 for something worthwhile but a really special late car can be worth over £20,000. That’s still cheap compared with a Sport though; these spuerb short-wheelbase editions fetch £45,000 £65,000 depending on mileage and condition!


The quattro is one of those cars that’s best left as it is, because it was so essentially right – if it‘s set up properly. However, poor or costly original parts supply and a desire to have something even more capable means some owners fi t upgraded brakes, suspension systems or exhausts. Such modifi cations are all well and good, but they’re often unnecessary – so before buying one that’s had signifi cant changes made, make sure it hasn’t been a track day hack. Our advice is to have the car carefully checked and set up by an expert which we’re told makes a world of difference.

What To Look For

  • They were more or less hand-made, and with plenty of zinc plating on most cars, exterior panels are durable. Pre-1985 quattros, with no galvanised panels, can show signs of localised rust even if they’ve never been pranged. From 1985, various panels such as the wings and bonnet were galvanised – but it’s not possible to say with certainty which panels were galvanised and when, as Audi mixed and match between plated and non-plated. Until 1987 the bootlid was made of steel; after this it was plastic.
  • Any post-1984 car that hasn’t been scraped should be largely rust-free as at least some of its panels will be galvanised; post-1988 examples are the most durable of all. If there are original factory stickers on the underside of the bonnet the car is probably genuine, as these decals haven’t been available for years.
  • Sills can rot on the earliest quattros, along with the underside of each door and the wheelarches. All need their wings analysed, and especially their seams, which often harbour rust as a result of poor accident repairs.
  • That in-line fi ve-cylinder engine was built in three forms. First came the 10-valve 2144cc WR unit, followed by the MB in 1987 (2226cc, 10 valves) and the RR (2226cc, 20 valves) from 1989. Most troublesome is the WR while the most reliable is the RR – although this unit is also the priciest to buy parts for. That leaves the MB, which gives the best balance of affordability and reliability.
  • Engine rebuilds are costly, but if looked after, a WR unit will despatch 150,000 miles before it needs attention; expect at least another 50,000 miles from an MB or RR unit. Hopefully the owner will have changed the oil every 5000 miles, using a synthetic lubricant. They will also have used only Audi oil fi lters (WR engines have two), complete with non–return valves to prevent oil starvation of the top end at start up.
  • To achieve a low bonnet line, the powerplant is canted over, leading to pistons and their rings eroding the cylinder wall, causing it to become oval. It takes a long time for signifi cant wear to occur, but once it has, things get expensive. Once the powerplant is worn, you’re best fi nding a decent used unit; they’re not plentiful but can be sourced through the owners’ clubs for around £750.
  • Key WR weak spots include a failed turbocharger, given away by poor performance and blue exhaust smoke – the problem is largely solved on later cars by the use of a watercooled unit. Also listen for ticking from the exhaust manifold as the engine warms up, indicating a cracked manifold, with replacements unobtainable. You must start the car from cold and let it heat up; if it’s already warm, the manifold will already have expanded.
  • If you’re testing a 10-valve car that’s unable to run cleanly, then it’s probably because of perished or split rubber intercooler hoses. If the rubber is damaged, it’s straightforward to replace them; they’re £30-£170 each, and there are three of them.
  • There aren’t any problems specifi c to just the MB or the RR engine, but there are some which might crop up in any of the three types of engine (and particularly the WR unit). The fi rst is worn valve guides and hardened valve seals, given away by blue exhaust smoke on the over-run. If the engine has been thrashed, a top-end rebuild could be needed in just 60,000 miles, costing up to £1300.
  • Look behind the offside corner of the front air dam, at the oil cooler and the unions on its pipes. These corrode, allowing the engine to lose its oil. Get to it in time and the bill is £200 plus four hours’ labour; leave it and the bill could be £4000 for a full powerplant rebuild.
  • If the engine runs badly or won’t start at all, take a look at the turbo boost gauge. If this gives a permanently high reading it’s because the inlet manifold pressure sensor has packed up; replacements are £150 (available only from the Quattro Workshop) and fi tting is easy.
  • The Bosch fuel injection system is reliable, but the fuel pump can give trouble if the car hasn’t been used much. It’s easy to spot because the engine won’t start, but will turn over. Replacing the pump at £150 is the only solution.
  • Whichever model you’re looking at, ask when the cam belt was last changed. This should be done every 45,000 miles or fi ve years, but it’s not that straightforward. Not only does it need a 27mm socket, but you’ll also need a torque wrench that goes up to 450Nm (331lb ft)!
  • Despite the transmission’s complexity, it’s incredibly durable. Synchromesh may have taken a beating if the gearbox has been abused, but this is easy to spot by trying to change gear quickly when the gearbox is still cold; crunching means it has gone. As a rebuild is nearly £1000, most owners live with it or buy a used ‘box for around £200, plus 10-12 hours’ labour to fi t it.
  • Clutches typically last 150,000 miles, but if seriously abused they can last a lot less. Accelerate smartly in each gear and see if the clutch slips; if it does, all is not lost as specialists can supply an original equipment Sachs unit for £170. It’s possible to buy even cheaper clutch kits, but don’t be tempted – the Sachs one has proved the most reliable of the lot.
  • Finish by checking the diff locks haven’t seized up. They’re pneumatically operated and to ensure they’re working just activate the switch in the centre console, then ensure the light on the dash has lit up to say they’re activated. If all’s not well, it’s just a question of freeing them off and lubricating them – an easy job.
  • As you’d expect quattros tend to be thrown about, wearing out the suspension bushes, which also have a hard time because of the torque and tyre grip. The front and rear sub-frame bushes bear the brunt, along with the wishbone bushes.
  • Look for split wishbone bushes – a new set is £50 and it’s an easy swap. If a 20v quattro has been really chucked around, it could be suffering from cracks down the nearside of the rear subframe; a replacement is £800. That’s why most owners use the same from a lesser quattro (such as an 80), sourced from a scrapyard for £35 or so.
  • Steering should be sharp, with plenty of feel. If not, it’s probably because the wheels are out of alignment, leading to uneven tyre wear. Each corner can be adjusted for camber and toe in/toe out, and it should be checked by a specialist.
  • Moaning from the front wheels means fresh bearings are required; it’s not possible to detect play by feeling for it while the car is jacked up. New bearings cost £30 per corner and they usually last around 80,000 miles.
  • Wheels can get damaged on the inside rim. With the car on axle stands, get underneath and check. If it’s badly damaged the wheel will need renewing – at over £300 apiece from Audi. Used ones can be bought, but most of those need refurbishing by now.

Three Of A Kind

Ford Sierra RS Cosworth 4x4
Ford Sierra RS Cosworth 4x4
Cossies have always been desirable, but you need to be careful when looking at one as crash damage is highly likely, as well as general decay from harduse. However, a good one is more capable than pretty much anything else at the price, with pace and handling with reliability and practicality too. Prices vary between £2000 and £10,000.
Lancia Delta HF and Integrale
Lancia Delta HF and Integrale
An evolution of the Delta HF Turbo, which was front then four-wheel drive, all Integrales had power going to each corner. Early editions had eight valves but from 1989 there were 16 valves; all Integrales featured a turbocharged four-cylinder engine and left-hand drive. Pick of the bunch is the Evo 2 of 1993, but they’re big money.
Subaru Impreza Turbo saloon/estate
Subaru Impreza Turbo saloon/estate
Another rally weapon for the road, the Impreza Turbo’s abilities are nothing short of breathtaking. Buy an estate edition and there’s decent practicality thrown in, while upgrades for all cars are easy to find and fit. Low values mean many are bought by youngsters who abuse them, so check on car’s history, past accidents, etc.


Any quattro will fi nd a buyer – but many shouldn’t. Cars have been known to sell for just a couple of thousand , but they’re guaranteed to have big bills attached. Also bear in mind that DIY maintenance isn’t possible apart from the basics. Therefore, not only is a service history vital, but the key is to get an expert to check any potential purchase. That said, a good one still amazes 30 years on.

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