Audi is a German automaker owned by Volkswagen that produces some very popular luxury and high-performance cars. The Audi Quattro coupe (1980 through 1991) stood out from the crowd as a very special Audi vehicle. For one thing, it had a successful reign in motorsports after its reveal at the Geneva Motor Show in 1980.
What really set it apart, though, was the inclusion of an innovative, revolutionary, and patented Quattro all-wheel drive technology. In fact, it was this very technology that eventually led to the Audi Quattro coupe being banned from motorsports after 1986, because the advanced four-wheel drive was finally deemed an unfair advantage.
The Audi Quattro was a two-door coupe throughout its lifetime. It was uniquely suited to competition racing, and had a lucky break when it was permitted to take advantage of recently changed competition rules that allowed four-wheel drive in racing in 1980. This helped the Audi Quattro to win many, many competitions in the next few years. The Audi Quattro was so successful that it inspired Audi to include the “quattro” badge on all subsequent Audis with its unique four-wheel-drive system.
The immediate successor to the Audi Quattro coupe was the Audi S2, a sports version of the Audi coupé that used an engine derived from the Quattro. Once other Audi models started to take on the quattro name as a marker of its all-wheel drive technology, the original Audi Quattro model came to be referred to as the Ur-Quattro. The “ur” is a German word for the original or first of something, so it’s a shorthand way of describing the original Audi Quattro vehicle in comparison to newer models with quattro AWD.
The original 1980 Audi Quattro sports coupe was powerful enough to come out on top in race after race during its first several years of production. It also paired the quattro four-wheel drive with a turbocharged engine, a first in its day. The original engine was 2.1L, featuring a turbocharger and intercooler, with power of 147kW and torque of 285Nm at 3500rpm. It could zoom from 0 to 100km/h in just 7.1 seconds, and could top speeds of 220km/h. It had average fuel consumption of 11.1L/100km.
The Audi Quattro eventually saw a nice bump to a 2.2L engine with 162kW of power and the same peak torque at a lower rpm. Fuel consumption jumped slightly to 11.6L/100km. From 1980 to 1991, the Quattro didn’t change dramatically inside or outside, but it was a very powerful and impressive engine that spawned a successful line of future Audis based on the quattro all-wheel drive technology.
The two main markets for the Quattro were Europe and North America. Visually, the cars remained mostly the same throughout their 11-year production run, but they did have some nice updates in kit. In 1983, the analogue instrument cluster on the dash was upgraded to a green digital LCD screen. In 1984, standard equipment was upgraded around a new dash layout, including an improved steering wheel and new centre console.
Most models included air conditioning, leather upholstery, and other amenities standard. There was also an update to the leather seating that had the “quattro” script on it. Generally, the external styling of the car was also mostly static during the production span. Headlights were changed a few times, as was the grille, but on the whole, both European and North American models received infrequent updates to an already-excellent car.
Collectors of rally or motorsports cars won’t find another vehicle that fills the niche of the Audi Quattro. It represented the beginning of a line of very successful vehicles. As of 2013, Audi has sold more than 5 million Audis outfitted with its patented quattro all-wheel drive technology. Audi also presented a 2010 Audi Quattro Concept to commemorate the thirtieth anniversary, showcasing how far the engine had come and where it might go in the future. The car is one of a kind among both Audis and cars in general.
Still, there are other motorsport cars that interested buyers can uncover. Notable ones with success include the Mazda RX7 and the Mitsubishi Starion. Those who are only really concerned about having an excellent performing car might find plenty to like in Audi’s newer offerings, including some high-performing luxury cars like the Audi A3. At any rate, many will be scared off by the lack of inventory in the Audi Quattro, while those who are determined to own this excellent, iconic car are sure to find a way.