Audi Ur Quattro
Although Audi was not the first manufacturer to produce a
four wheel drive road car, the public perception of the brand is inextricably linked with the notion of all four wheels being driven. This is primarily due to the legacy of one car: the Audi Quattro
Coupe, or Ur Quattro, as it is rather pretentiously
described by car enthusiasts eager to differentiate it from
the company’s more prosaic Quattro – badged machines.
Despite having the unpromising origins of a platform
largely shared with the dull-as-a-winter-break-in-Weston-
Super-Mare Audi 80, the Ur Quattro enjoyed significant
success in world rallying, providing the rather boxy coupe
with an altogether more sexy, performance-orientated image
than might otherwise have been the case. It was the Impreza
Turbo of its era, but sans the rather downmarket
connotations that car has acquired since the late 1990s.
Today it represents one of the few cars produced by a
mass market manufacturer during the 1980s that can be
justifiably referred to as a classic, and it is this,
together with its status as the father of the turbocharged
four wheel drive rally car that has earned it a deserved
place on The List.
The angular exterior is functional, rather than
beautiful, but it is the car’s mechanicals, more than any
other car on The List, that define it and justify its raison
d’etre. One of the most important of these can be found
under the bonnet, where there lies an unusual five cylinder
engine, which, when fired up emits a curious off beat sound,
quite unlike any of its contemporaries. Coupled to a turbo,
and a permanent four wheel drive system, this provides the
Quattro with its essential character, and, in a way, its
There is plenty of turbo lag in the power delivery, but
once past 3000 RPM, the Ur Quattro begins to feel as fast as
its reputation suggests it should. It is not in the league
as a modern supercar, but, in 20v form, it is certainly
quicker than all but the largest engined German saloons.
The steering is surprisingly feelsome with good weighting
and little of the dead feel that most Audis since the
Quattro have displayed. This is surprising, mainly because
the Ur Quattro shares its nose heavy weight distribution
with almost all of Audi’s subsequent four wheel drive cars.
In fact, its layout can almost be thought of as a kind of
reverse 911 Carrera 4, such is the front bias.
Enter a corner too fast and the front will begin to push
wide, but it can be made more neutral with the application
of additional throttle. It is not like a Mitsubishi Evo, or
a 4WD Porsche, where the feel is more like a rear wheel
drive car, but there is certainly the potential of using the
drive to the rear tyres to influence the yaw angle. Just
don’t expect to be able to maintain slides as you would in
an early M3, for example. Lift off oversteer is present, but
is not a defining characteristic.
But it is not overall cornering ability, or pure speed
that define the Ur Quattro; it is more its ability to tackle
any challenge, be it a snow covered road in Norway, a track
day at Spa, or a high speed trip down to the South of
Its relative rarity and status as an iconic rally car
bestow upon the Quattro an image that belies its slightly
utilitarian appearance. Unlike some of its contemporaries
and successors, its performance tag and initially
depreciating price as it became older have not led to the
gradual diminishing of its image; the Ur Quattro today has
actually become an appreciating asset.
Ultimately, it offers something that few new cars can
match: the seemingly oxymoronic combination of safe yet
exciting handling, together with the projection to the world
of the notion that the driver is a person who is able to
view the true worth that is only visible beneath the skin of
the Ur Quattro.