Precisely 25 years ago, a car that was to change the automobile engineering world went on display for the first time: on March 3, 1980 the first Audi quattro was shown to the public at the Geneva Motor Show in Switzerland. Before long, the many competition successes achieved by this model established a heritage of success that has remained undimmed by time.
The birth of the first quattro is a tale of initial driving tests in the snow and of a brilliant piece of technical thinking – the use of a hollow shaft in the gearbox to transmit the drive to the front and rear axles. With the concept refined by the addition of a centre differential between the axles, later to use the Torsen principle, the first quattro went on sale in late 1980. This coupe model with its sharp-edged styling became an immediate best seller: with its permanent all-wheel drive and 200-bhp, five-cylinder turbocharged engine, it was able to offer sporty high performance in a fascinating, revolutionary form.
Between 1982 and 1984 the quattro gained four world rally championship titles, and the exploits of its now legendary drivers have remained unforgotten to this day. Following these successes on loose-surfaced sand and gravel tracks, the manufacturer’s competition department concentrated on circuit racing, and here too the supremacy of the quattro permanent all-wheel-drive principle was patently obvious as the Audi quattro drivers collected all the most prestigious trophies in the USA and in Europe.
As the years wore on, the ‘original quattro’ grew into an entire family of roadgoing all-wheel-drive models, and today this technology represents one of the brand’s most substantial foundations. In the 25 years up to the end of 2004, Audi built 1,815,396 quattro vehicles, and the current model programme includes 74 versions with all-wheel drive. Thanks to thorough technical updating, the reputation of the quattro all-wheel driveline is today stronger and more active then ever before. ‘quattro’ stands not just for traction, but also for emotive appeal, safe driving and dynamism. The quattro models in the Audi range are both a driving force for the brand and an integral element of its innovative technology.