Audi quattro and Coupe
Arguably the star new car of 1980, the quattro (with a lower-case ‘q’ at Audi’s insistence) caused a sensation when it was first revealed at the Geneva Motor Show 40 years ago.
Inspired by the all-wheel-drive system of Volkswagen’s Iltis military ‘jeep’, the quattro revisited and refined the concept of an all-wheel-drive performance coupe, able to deliver maximum power equally to all four wheels, as pioneered by the Jensen FF in 1966, and imitated in the 1970s by Subaru for its more practical L-Series 4WD passenger saloons, coupes and estates.
Sharing its Geneva launch, plus most of its bodywork, with the ‘regular’ but overlooked Audi 80-based front-wheel-drive Coupe, Audi developed the turbocharged quattro to exploit an important recent change in motor sport regulations, allowing all-wheel-drive to be officially used in rallying for the first time
The quattro made its rallying debut a few months after its Geneva Salon launch in the 1980 Janner Rally in Austria, the Audi developing 304PS in its early competition form. By 1981 the quattro’s substantial impact on the world of rallying was beginning to be felt, with Audi team driver Michele Mouton becoming the first female driver to win a world championship rally behind the wheel of a quattro.
Within a few years the quattro was dominating world rallying, taking multiple victories, with Audi increasing the rally weapon’s power output to 355PS before unleashing the 450PS short-wheelbase Sport quattro homologation special in response to stronger all-wheel-drive competition from Peugeot, Lancia, MG and more, prompted by changing Group B regulations.
Production of the regular road going quattro lasted until 1991, with almost 11,500 examples being made, this modest quantity not really reflected the Audi’s impact on changing the shape of performance motoring (and world rallying) for ever more. Lost in the shadow of its mightier quattro sibling, the boxy ‘plain Jane’ Coupe was replaced by the more rotund three-door B3 model in 1988.