The Quat­tro changed the face of ral­ly­ing and per­for­mance road cars. But good ex­am­ples are rarer than you might think

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - News - WORDS Richard Dredge PHO­TOG­RA­PHY Magic Car Pics

It changed the face of ral­ly­ing but good ex­am­ples are harder to fifind than you'd think.

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. There’s even rel­a­tive econ­omy. 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 the Quat­tro de­buted at the Geneva Mo­tor Show, with its four-wheel drive and tur­bocharged fi­five-pot en­gine. It went on to set the rally world alight with its per­for­mance and dura­bil­ity, the car stay­ing in pro­duc­tion for more than a decade.

It wouldn’t be un­til the end of 1981 that UK de­liv­er­ies would start, in left-hand drive form only. Th­ese ear­li­est cars fea­tured ca­ble-op­er­ated dif­fer­en­tials but by March 1982 they’d be­come switch-con­trolled pneu­matic items. Right-hand drive cars were avail­able from Septem­ber 1982; just 17 quad-head­light cars were built be­fore Audi switched to a sin­gle-head­light de­sign.

Dig­i­tal in­stru­men­ta­tion fea­tured from Oc­to­ber 1983, along with stan­dard anti-lock brakes; there were also re­vised third and fourth gear ra­tios. Six months later the sus­pen­sion was up­rated and low­ered by 20mm, while Ronal 8J wheels were now fi­fit­ted.

A front-end restyle in Septem­ber 1984 brought a sloped grille and head­lamps along with a colour­coded spoiler and smoked tail­lamp lenses. In Novem­ber 1987 the en­gine was en­larged to 2226cc (known as the MB en­gine, pre­vi­ous ones were dubbed the WR), a Torsen cen­tre dif­fer­en­tial was in­tro­duced and a sun­roof be­came stan­dard. Two years later the en­gine be­came a DOHC 20-valve unit (the RR) with twin three-way cat­alytic con­vert­ers; the in­te­rior trim was up­graded too. The last Quat­tro was built in Spring 1991, with 11,452 pro­duced in to­tal. Of those, 2710 were of­fi­cially brought into the UK, the WR ac­count­ing for a to­tal of 1994, the MB for 421 and the RR for 295.

OUR VER­DICT Bridg­ing the gap be­tween clas­sic and mod­ern, the Quat­tro can the­o­ret­i­cally be used ev­ery day. How­ever, the spares sit­u­a­tion is cur­rently poor, and while things are less of an is­sue if you’re buy­ing a min­ter, make sure that’s what you re­ally are get­ting. There are lots of seem­ingly great ex­am­ples out there that are ac­tu­ally very ropey.

It looks com­pli­cated and it is. Re­build­ing one of th­ese is an ex­pert and ex­pen­sive job, so fifind one that works as it should in the fi­first place.

Cab­ins are com­fort­able and well-equipped, and what’s in­side tends to last well.

The Quat­tro’s hand­some looks are still eye-catch­ing and pur­pose­ful now. Hard to be­lieve it’s 35 years old.

Four in­ter­linked rings nor­mally de­note qual­ity, but the Quat­tro can be quite frag­ile if not looked af­ter.

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