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