Perhaps a car with the most famed rally history of all time, the Audi Sport Quattro has been missed dearly. With the Quattro name now relegated to the shadows of Audi’s performance department and now only ever defining their All Wheel Drive System, the Quattro name back then meant something more. It meant a turbocharged unique inline 5 cylinder, it meant 306 horsepower and 258 ft-lbs of torque at a curb weight of just north of 3,000 lbs, and most importantly it meant winning.
The Audi Sport Quattro was a beefed up version of the road going Audi Quattro Coupe. Entering the game in 1980 on to the rally scene, Audi completely whipped around the game in their favor. Winning 2 rally championships in 3 years: 1982 and 1984, absolutely shocking the world. From then on Audi was a force to be reckoned with as long as they had the Quattro. The boxy style was a gentle reminder of the time period, but for all that it’s worth, the rest of the Quattro was way ahead of its time. While the rest of the world made lazy use of the ugly drivetrain sending power to the back tires, Audi would have no part. Revolutionizing the AWD concept by creating a vehicle that yearned to be driven on anything except asphalt would propel Audi to one of the most famed cars in the world.
Hardcore steering and upgraded suspension components allow the Quattro to propel on soft surfaces such as snow and dirt. The Germans also lifted the car more than the stock coupe to allow free flowing air underneath and making sure you wouldn’t hit anything under 2 feet. Upgraded Michelin tires from their French neighbors let the Quattro excel on any surface as well as allow the backend to get nice and slippery. While this may be an AWD king, it certainly has more than enough power to drift it around dirt trails all you want. From Mammoth Lakes to the Poconos, the Quattro can handle it all. A sharp cable controlled throttle makes accelerating out of corners a breeze. When you do step on it, you’ll sprint up to 60 MPH in a cool 7.8 seconds, which is okay, not great. At the time, and given the circumstances you’d beat anyone you want in a rally straightaway. Hop on the highway and push it up to a respectable 122 MPH and redline it at 7500 RPM (today’s standard).
Unlike most AWD cars today, it would send its primary power to the rear wheels, allowing that hardcore steering to rip loose. The driver had all the options in the world at his whim. A center console button would allow you to lock diffs at your leisure again giving one a superb advantage around corners. Pushing this car to its limits was not easy, as there simply weren’t many. The Quattro had a bulletproof inline-5, a German staple, and a heavy transmission to top it off. Coming standard with a 5-speed manual and built in support for a sequential shifter allowed the Quattro to embrace its rally heritage.
“Pushing this car to its limits was not easy, as there simply weren’t many”
Going inside you would see a barebones interior, but what more than you need. Unlike today, this was a drivers’ car. You had to truly drive it and that was the best part. A four spoke steering wheel and a boring gray interior definitely put the Quattro in this time period. The turbocharged engine called for a boost gauge mounted onto the dash, the 6500 RPM redline tachometer, and cloth Recaro to bolster people in place. No climate control, just simple heating and cooling, again, playing into the basic theme. Power operated mirrors and windows adorn the sides along with thick beefy pillars. Yes, these are necessary in terms of functionality, but they really are quite the contrary. The huge pillars create gorging blind spots and are not very practical for daily driving.
Meeting at the intersection of SUV, sports car, and hatchback, the Audi Quattro was well ahead of its time. Making it an instant super hit, we wonder what it would be like today if Audi ever brought it back.