On the road

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - Driven -

You’ll fall in love with the 20-valve Quat­tro the first time you hit the open road, and with the throt­tle floored, punch past 3000rpm. The off­beat thrum of its five-cylin­der en­gine trans­forms into a yowl, and you’re catalpulted to­wards the red line. At that mo­ment, it be­comes the fire­breath­ing sports car you al­ways hoped it would be.

The early signs aren’t that promis­ing. In your head, you just know it’s go­ing to be good, but it all starts off so qui­etly. The driv­ing po­si­tion is spot on, with the ped­als cor­rectly aligned and the wheel di­rectly ahead. Vis­i­bil­ity is ex­cel­lent, with slim pil­lars and al­though it has an over-theshoul­der blind spot, it’s cer­tainly not a prob­lem to those used to more mod­ern cars.

The in­te­rior ma­te­ri­als are a mix­ture of good and bad. The leather seats and leather-bound steer­ing wheel are a de­light, but the dash­board plas­tics and slider con­trols for the heat­ing and ven­ti­la­tion are nasty, even by tacky 1980 stan­dards.

Driv­ers who ap­pre­ci­ate lots of in­for­ma­tion will find the Quat­tro dis­ap­point­ing. You’ll miss the trio of di­als (volts, oil tem­per­a­ture and pres­sure) that coupé own­ers are treated to in the cen­tre con­sole. In their place, the Quat­tro gains a pair of diff-lock in­di­ca­tors. The con­trols for the lights, which are grouped around the in­stru­ment bin­na­cle, also feel cheap and un­sat­is­fy­ing to use. But all this pales into in­signif­i­cance when you twist the key and, ahem, fire up the Quat­tro.

The Quat­tro starts quickly and set­tles down to a level idle, cold or hot. The temp­ta­tion is to rev it up, but un­til the en­gine is up to tem­per­a­ture (not long) you’re dis­in­clined to do this.

The Quat­tro doesn’t suf­fer too badly from throt­tle lag. Yes, it feels docile at low revs, only wak­ing up prop­erly at 3000rpm, but from this point on, it ab­so­lutely flies. The turbo doesn’t have too much of a muf­fling ef­fect – it’s crisp, and sounds great. Such is the ad­dic­tive­ness of this thrust and the glo­ri­ous sound­track, it’s all too easy to slam into the 6700rpm rev lim­iter. But do that once and we guar­an­tee you won’t do it again.

Given the full beans from rest, the Quat­tro re­ally makes the most of its su­perb trac­tion. The 0-60mph time is 6.3 sec­onds, and 100mph comes up in 18.5 sec­onds, while the top speed is 141mph. You could pretty much repli­cate all of those fig­ures in all weath­ers, with four-square sta­bil­ity. This man­i­fests it­self even on mo­tor­way runs, where the Quat­tro feels nailed down.

On any A- or B-road, this us­abil­ity in­spires con­fi­dence. Trac­tion is pre­dictably the Quat­tro’s main sell­ing point, and you’ll soon learn to The Quat­tro’s 7x15in Ronal al­loy wheels be­came the sig­na­ture de­sign for all fast Audis for years to come.

ap­pre­ci­ate just how early you can ap­ply the power in bends. For­get the old slow-in-and-ap­ply-pow­erat-the-apex ap­proach to cor­ners you adopt in the Quat­tro’s ri­vals – as long as your en­try speed is sen­si­ble, you can pretty much floor the throt­tle yards be­fore the apex. And that means turn­ing, hold­ing on and rev­el­ling in the grip. The steer­ing is well-weighted and per­fectly geared, while the brakes are strong and slightly lack­ing in feel.

But we can’t over­sell just how ca­pa­ble this car is. Com­pared with its ri­vals, the Quat­tro will leave all of them in its wake on a damp, twist­ing coun­try lane. But for the rest of the time, it’s well­be­haved, rides sur­pris­ingly well and gen­uinely has room for four grown ups. And any­one who doesn’t fall for that sound­track re­ally doesn’t de­serve to have a driv­ing li­cence.

In case you haven’t al­ready guessed, we love the Audi Quat­tro. It was a rev­o­lu­tion at launch in 1980, and one that still stands up to scru­tiny in mod­ern traf­fic. As a clas­sic car, the Quat­tro turns heads and is a guar­an­teed con­ver­sa­tion-starter.

But don’t lose sight of the fact that this can be an ex­cep­tion­ally ex­pen­sive car to fix, with some parts now be­com­ing al­most im­pos­si­ble to source new. Don’t en­trust its ser­vic­ing and main­te­nance to any­one other than a spe­cial­ist, ei­ther.

Take th­ese pro­vi­sos on board, and as­sum­ing you don’t want to go down the Porsche route, the Quat­tro stands up as one of the great­est Ger­man per­for­mance cars for your money.

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