It’s hard to believe that it’s been 30 years since Audi launched their quattro all-wheel-drive system. Inspired by the agility of the Volkswagen Iltis, a short wheel base military vehicle, Audi engineers thought that an all wheel drive car would offer superior performance in bad weather and superior handling in all weather. Critics said that Audi would never sell 500 cars equipped with quattro; today, 33% of Audis sold worldwide come with quattro drive.
Racing success in the WRC, IMSA, Trans Am and at Pikes Peak helped to elevate Audi quattro to almost mythic proportions. The S1, a 600 horsepower, short wheel base quattro built for Group B rally competition, would accelerate from 0 to 100 kph (62 mph) in 2.9 seconds on loose gravel. The S1 was so intimidating that rally co-driver Christian Geistdörfer called it, “the first car I was afraid to be co-piloting”.
Today, Audi continues to pioneer innovations in all-wheel drive, and the quattro system of 2010 bears little resemblance to the quattro system of 1980. Audi has established quattro as a recognized trademark worldwide, and one thing is certain: as long as Audi continues to build cars, they will offer quattro variants.