Audi’s Game Changer

It may be hard to believe but there was a brief moment in the early 1980s when Audi was the most innovative company in the world. It’s hard to believe because today all that innovation has turned into marketing tosh. Yet at the dawn of the decade that fashion forgot Audi gave the world not only the radical super-smooth 100 saloon but also the boxy but astonishing Audi Quattro. The Quattro turned the classic definition of sports cars on its head. Previously the only time all wheel drive tractor technology had forayed into the tarmac arena was with the Jensen FF, a critically lauded by ultra niche 4WD Interceptor. So when the Quattro hit our roads the world raised a curious eyebrow. It took the the sight of Stig Bomqvist piloting a Quattro to world rally domination to convince us that four was at least twice as good as two. The cleverly named Quattro changed the rally car landscape overnight. Suddenly Ford Escorts and Opel Mantas were distinctly old school. The Quattro harnessed something very simple – four driven wheels work much better than two. Audi’s breakthrough was to make four wheel drive reliable and durable enough to survive rally stages as well as motorway mile munching.

Four wheel drive rally and road cars evolved because of the race for more power – Audi simply arrived at a solution first. The thirst for more bhp in the late 70s and early 80s was beginning to stretch the limitations of two wheel drive, causing poor off-the-line control and handling issues due to torque steer. Today technology has solved this but in the 80s it was thought that the maximum power a two wheel drive car could handle was 200 bhp. And 200 bhp in the 1980s was an awful lot of power. Inevitably the furore over rally Quattros filtered down to road car sales. Canny coupe buyers realised that the Quattro, with its exotic 200 bhp, willfully idiosyncratic 5 cylinder engine and corner-defying 4WD was unassailable as a cross-country B-road banzai. That it was built by Audi and could fit four adults in comfort made it almost perfect.  Only the blocky dashboard and of-a-period interior trim possibly detracted…. In the 1980s the Quattro was the everyday car to have. In red obviously, because in the 80s red meant Success, being equally at home applied to braces or cars.  At £20,000 the Quattro was twice the price of any other Audi Coupe, which cleverly kept proper Quattros a rare and exotic sight on British roads. If you couldn’t afford a proper Quattro Audi, in a display of marketing prowess that has subsequently become the company’s raison d’etre, offered poorer customers the Quattro drivetrain on more humble models. Today, of course, you can Quattro any of Audi’s gargantuan range of cars. That all started with the Quattro. Despite its significant role in motoring and rally history, the Audi Quattro fell out of favour in the 90s and 00s, probably due in part to its complexity, expensive running costs and boxy, dated design. It took Gene Hunt to change all that. The second series of Life on Mars meant a new generation rediscovered the Quattro, even if most of the tail sliding scenes couldn’t have been achieved with a 4WD car. Now, 30 years after it arrived, the Quattro is recognised as a proper classic and its angular lines have mellowed into something distinctive and unavoidably Teutonic. It looks good. At Great Escape we do rather like 80s cars and few come more 80s than a red Quattro.  So we added one to our classic car hire fleet. It’s a proper blister-arched 2.1 litre 200 bhp Quattro from 1982 finished of course in red with a fetching period interior. You can hire it now from our Shropshire site for just £199 for 24 hrs or £349 for 48 hrs, including unlimited mileage, insurance for 1 driver (extra drivers can be added) and full UK breakdown cover. To find out more about the new Audi Quattro for hire call 01527 893733 or visit

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