By Mark Nobes

Launched in 1980, the Audi Quattro was a pretty remarkable four-wheel-drive performance road car and rally car. Remarkable because it also featured a turbocharged, in-line five cylinder engine (with an intercooler and electronic ignition system) which was a first from Audi.

The motoring media loved it, and in 1984, Audi released an even better version of the Quattro featuring stiffer suspension, wider wheels and a talking digital dashboard, although the latter wasn't liked by everyone - 
I remember the Austin Maestro also had a talking dashboard and it annoyed the hell out of just about everyone who drove it! Nonethless, the red digital display looked a lot clearer than its British counterparts.

The UK launch price was £14,500, although it was only available as a left-hand drive in the early years. This was definitely way above my budget back then, but for a performance car this price was actually quite competitive, and 11, 452 Quattro's were sold during its 11 year life.
Black Audi Quattro (1980s) - public domain (CC0)

In North America,  the Quattro wasn't launched until 1983 and the first models (from 1983 to 1986) were based on the European 1982 design, with a few differences such as larger bumpers with built-in suspension.

The Quattro name refers to its four wheel drive system (it's Latin for "four") and it also made a great rally car as, fortunately for Audi, rallying rules had been recently changed to allow the use of 4WD cars. It was extremely competitive and won many competitions for several years.

Four wheel drive allows for better traction and stability, especially when driving on slippery or wet surfaces. The quattro system is also beneficial for high-performance driving, as it helps to distribute power evenly to all four wheels.
Despite many changes to its design over the years (particularly in the early 1990's when it became much more aerodynamic) Audi fans still maintain that the original early 80s models were the most exciting, and I have to say that I agree with them!
The Audi quattro remains an iconic car, and is still revered by Audi fans and performance car enthusiasts alike. It's certainly a car that oozes eighties coolness.


Three engines were used in the Quattro. The first engine was a 10 valve 2.1L (2144cc) SOHC 15, which had a turbocharger and intercooler, and was used between 1980 and 1987. In 1987, a 2.2L SOHC 15 was launched, and then in 1989, a 2.2L DOHC 20 valve i5 was used until its demise in 1991, when it was superseded by the Audi S2.
The original engine could accelerate the Quattro from 0 to 100 kmh (62 mph) in 7.1 seconds, with a top speed of over 220 kmh (137 mph). The final 2.2L engine helped the Audi to reach a top speed of 230 kmh (143 mph).
On the downside, the Quattro did suffer from turbo lag, although this was commonplace back in the 80s.

Exterior Design

The exterior of the Audi Quattro was designed by the Sheffield-born designer Martin Smith, who had been a car fanatic since he was a young lad, and studied at the University of Liverpool and Royal College of Art in London.
The slender pillars give the Audi great visibility and the boxy shape with modest sculpting and aerodynamic sloping rear end has aged well compared to many of its rivals.  
From 1973 to 1977, he worked with Porsche, before joining Audi. He was responsible for transforming the rather boring Audi Coupe into the more exciting Quattro and eventually became the head of Audi's Munich Design Studio. He then joined Opel in 2007 and then Ford in 2004, before retiring in May 2014.


All images are copyright-free and in the Public Domain unless otherwise stated.

Silver 1980s Audi Quattro
Gorgeous white Audi Quattro from the 1980s
I've always been a fan of white cars and this Quattro looks simply gorgeous in this photo!
Red Audi Sport Quattro (1984)
Audi Sport Quattro S1 (1984)
Audi Sport Quattro S1 - GNU Free image license
Audi Quattro Series 1 Rally Car at the 1984 Portugal Rally
Royalty Free Public Domain Photo: Audi quattro A2 at the 1984 Rally Portugal

Audi Quattro Group B Rally Car
Group B rally car

1983 Audi Quattro Sport
1983 Audi Quattro Sport
1980s Audi Quattro rally car - from A3 poster print
Black 1980s Audi Quattro
Black Audi Quattro - Creative Commons image from WIkipedia
1990s Audi A4 1.8T Quattro Sedan
1990's Audi A4 1.8T Quattro Sedan with Australian plate - Public Domain image


Audi Quattro green

1987, Lago Blue Metallic Audi quattro with 2226cc MB engine


Sport quattro1

Audi Sport Quattro


Audi Sport quattro concept

Audi Sport Quattro (2013)

By Thomas Wolf, (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 de], via Wikimedia Commons