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The List

 

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 soul.

 

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 France.

 

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.





 
 

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