On the road
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.