When Four Was The Magic Number

Quattro. Never has a single word been quite so overused. Today you’d be forgiven for being a bit sick of reading the word ‘quattro’ nailed to the back of every imaginable incarnation of Audi (of which there are many). Back in 1980 it was never thus. In the 80s the word ‘quattro’ was all you needed to use to summon up the image of a blister-arched, forest stage-defying German sports coupe. Quattro meant only one thing: on the limit road-holding. The story of the original ‘ur’ Quattro by Audi is a fairly simple one. Audi’s chief chassis engineer Jorg Bensinger noticed how fast Volkswagen’s Iltis offroad military vehicle was on ice. It could outperform anything, regardless of power. He conceived the idea of an Audi 80 with 4WD. Audi agreed to run with the idea to create a ‘halo’ car to support its market position as a maker of advanced cars – hence the famous strapline ‘vorsprung durch technik.’ The original idea of a 4WD 80 saloon morphed into an all wheel drive car based on the 80 coupe instead, in part due to the extremely high selling price necessitated by the need to hand building every one. The Quattro’s path to market was eased by Volkswagen Audi’s success with the Golf GTI, a similar albeit more mass market idea. The first Quattro – known as the ‘ur’ (original) Quattro – was technologically advanced in that it mated four wheel power to a turbocharged engine. The 4WD system was adapted from the Iltis but with a clever differential placed longitudinally via a hollow propshaft. The Quattro’s performance figures of 200bhp and 7.1 secs to 60 mph may not set the world alight today but back in 1980 they were startling. This was an era when sporting Cavaliers trumpeted their 130bhp output.

The Quattro’s calling card was not straight line speed or in-gear punch. No car went round corners with the sure-footed feel of a Quattro. When high performance Porsches were spinning backwards into hedges with alarming frequency, here was a much more advanced, better built and more reliable sports coupe that could run rings around them. And seat four in comfort. The Quattro was marketed cleverly. It was hand built in small numbers, looked totally different from its closely related underpinnings in the Audi range and cost two and a half times the price of the next fastest Audi GT. That, plus some natty colour schemes, meant that the Quattro was a rare sight but one that marked the owner out as someone with taste and style. Audi’s clever world rally programme provided an adrenalin-fuelled demonstration of the car’s potential; on forest stages across the globe the Quattro revolutionised motor sport. And in turn, how car enthusiasts perceived sports cars. Its shadow continues to be cast across fast cars even today. The rally success demonstrated that the Audi was as good to drive and own as the hype suggested. Here was a car that went well in a straight line yet went round corners like nothing else. Literally, nothing else. Since the Jensen FF of the 1960s no car had combined power with all wheel drive. Yet the Quattro’s performance was accessible and, being an Audi, it was reliable too. This was a car that could as easily pootle down the Kings Road as it could bash through the snow in the Brecon Beacons.

Today the Quattro still has the power to excite. It is quick, but not perhaps fascinatingly so, and it suffers from turbo lag. The interior, which mixes Lego-chic with some terribly ‘distinctive’ cloth patterns, is not its finest hour. But none of this matters. Show a Quattro a bend and it’ll show you why every sports car since owes something to it: it hangs on well beyond your fear threshold, communicating its plans without the fuzz of nannying technology so annoying in modern cars. All this and I haven’t even mentioned Ashes to Ashes. The Quattro deserved its late-flowering fame at the hands of Gene Hunt but every Quattro lover knows that beatling around city streets on the doorhandles was never what the Quattro was intended to do. It needs a clear road to build up speed and stay that way. Cities are for tail-sliding Capris, the Quattro is for open roads. Which is why we’ve relocated our Quattro to the Midlands. From our Worcestershire site we’re on the doorstep of some of Britain’s best Quattro-orientated driving across the Cotswolds and Welsh Borders. You can choose to hire it for a day or more and find your own perfect Evo Triangle or join one of our driving days and sample the Quattro on some of our favourite roads.

Moving the Quattro to our main site has enabled us to reduce its hire cost because we now do all the maintenance ourselves. Now you can hire a Quattro from just £175 per day or £299 for the weekend. That is unquestionably the cheapest urQuattro hire price in the UK. And we’ll keep it that way. The Quattro was the first and, perhaps, the last real Audi 4WD sports car. Others have followed that are faster, perhaps better, but none have turned the world of sports cars upside down. Audi’s decision to plaster the Quattro moniker on every model may have broadened the appeal of 4WD but it’s the first car that really delivered on the simple, basic idea. To find out more call 01527 893733 or visit http://www.greatescapecars.co.uk.


www.greatescapecars.co.uk 01527 893733

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