x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Designed for the forest, driven on roads

The Quattro is a brand synonymous with the 1980s and has evolved into one of the most trusted marques in motorsport.

The Quattro set the benchmark for the Sierra Cosworth and the Subaru Impreza WRX to follow and provided competition for Porsche.
The Quattro set the benchmark for the Sierra Cosworth and the Subaru Impreza WRX to follow and provided competition for Porsche.

The Quattro is a brand synonymous with the 1980s and has evolved into one of the most trusted marques in motorsport. In fact, before the introduction of its rallying version in 1980, Audi was a manufacturer renowned for solid but hardly scintillating saloons. With a literal translation as four, the fastback was one of the first sports cars to boast four-wheel-drive. While its rallying counterpart needed the additional traction for the gravel, the civilian incarnation used it solely for gravitas.

In the Seventies, owning a neck-jerkingly quick road car was a very expensive business for buyers limited to exclusive badges such as Ferrari, Lamborghini and Jaguar. But in the following decade, mainstream manufacturers began offering something simpler, more affordable but just as exciting. The Quattro, along with the Golf GTI and Lancia Delta Integrale, gave the everyday motorist the thrill of the race and the rally. The Quattro was based on an Audi 80 coupe but boasted a 2.2L turbocharged powerplant that produced a shade under 200hp. This was more than sufficient to see it reach 100kph in seven seconds. After nine years, this was increased to 220hp, taking the latter models' top speed to more than 220kph.

More than 11,000 Quattros were produced in an 11-year lifespan ending in 1991. Very few aesthetic changes were made, attesting to the classic lines of the model. Its design is butch rather than brutal nd had more in common with American muscle cars than elegant Italian coupes. In rallying, the Quattro soon became a dominant force and, with an additional 150hp over its tarmac-touching cousin, it was hardly any surprise. It was an era when rally cars became faster than ever and, in the Quattro's ultimate incarnation, the 1986 S1, it produced a remarkable 596hp, still holding the title of the most powerful rally car ever made.

But despite its speed and sporting pedigree, the appeal of the Quattro is in its durability. It is a multi- purpose sports car and therefore set the mould for the likes of the Sierra Cosworth and the Subaru Impreza WRX. It also gave Germany a second sporting marque to keep Porsche company. Almost 30 years since its launch, the Quattro badge can still be seen on countless hatchbacks and SUVs. This four-wheel-drive concept has seen Audi become one of the most sought-after brands in the world. Its control and poise pleases the driver while its promise of safety appeases the family man.

Its ruggedness has assured that most Quattros are still on the road almost 20 years since production ended. In years to come, rarity will add to its value as a classic. As less are seen on the road, people will appreciate it more and come to realise that it is not only an 80s style icon but a significant contributor to the evolution of the car. With a Peugeot 205, a Ford Escort or a Skoda Favorit, it is difficult to imagine them speeding through a forest in the World Rally Championship. But with a Quattro, you always know it was designed for competition and not the cul-de-sac. tbrooks@thenational.ae