From the Ur-quattro to the e-tron S: The Legendary All-Wheel Drive Celebrates its 40th Birthday

source: Audi AG

Four rings, forty years, one quattro – in short: an Ingolstadt success story. The Audi quattro celebrates its anniversary in 2020. Read how the first Audi with all-wheel drive revolutionized the automotive industry.

The idea behind the quattro

The search for traces of the origins of the Audi quattro leads straight to the winter of 1976: At that time, Audi developed the VW Iltis off-road vehicle for the German armed forces – with all-wheel drive. The engineers were enthusiastic about the excellent driving behavior of the VW Iltis on snow and ice. The Iltis drove for comparison purposes on development drives for new Audi prototypes – and it was superior to the front-wheel drive cars. This gave rise to the idea of ​​transferring the special drive technology to a series vehicle.

Walter Treser, then Head of Advance Development, was fascinated by the “vision of developing a car that didn’t exist in this form,” as he later said. It also needed a suitable name. The four-wheel drive car almost became known as the Audi Carat (abbreviation for “Coupé All-Rad-Antrieb Turbo”). However, there was already a perfume with the same name – that would not have suited the image at all. That is why Walter Treser prevailed with his suggestion: “Audi quattro” – a name that should make a career.

In 1980 Audi presented its “Ur-quattro” at the Geneva Motor Show. The reactions exceeded all expectations: the car convinced critics and enthusiastic drivers. Until 1991 – a full 11 years – Audi had the car in its range as a production model. Then the Ur-quattro went. But the drive technology remained – and continued to develop.

The quattro drive technology in detail

The technology automatically distributes the drive torque evenly to the four wheels. The quattro drive offers the car the advantages of perfect grip and safe drive – even in adverse conditions .

Audi adapts the drive technology to the respective vehicle type. There are two variants for cars with a longitudinally installed engine:

  • The classic quattro drive with a self-locking center differential is used in the tiptronic automatic transmission.
  • Audi with manual transmission or S tronic use ultra technology that selectively activates all-wheel drive.

For models with transverse engines and the Audi R8 sports car, Audi relies on its own quattro drive train with a hydraulic multi-plate clutch.

Audi quattro: a legend in motorsport

Review January 1981: An off-road track in the Austrian outback between snow and mud. Numerous cars struggle across the route, including an Audi quattro. This scene took place at the January rally in the Mühlviertel. In the end, the winning team is determined: Franz Wittmann senior and Kurt Nestinger in the Audi quattro.

The victory was the start of a long series of successes in motorsport. Until 1987, the Audi quattro (also known as Audi Sport quattro) raced down the slopes of numerous world rally championships and achieved many victories. At the end of the 1980s, Audi then focused on touring car racing. With Hans-Joachim Stuck and Hurley Haywood in the Audi 90 quattro, Audi won the DTM, world championships and the TransAm series.

The name Le Mans is also closely associated with the quattro: the four-wheel drive vehicles achieved three consecutive overall victories in the legendary 24-hour race.

Electric all-wheel drive and sport differential: the quattro legend lives on in the e-tron (S)

Audi has never rested on the success of the quattro. True to the motto: Even a legend has to evolve. With the electric all-wheel drive in the Audi e-tron and the Audi e-tron Sportback , you are up to date. The drive technology runs here via electric motors on both axes.

In the Audi e-tron S and e-tron S Sportback , Audi presents the latest expansion stage of the electric all-wheel drive. The two highly dynamic electric SUVs each have three electric motors on board. Their intelligent drive control raises driving safety and above all driving dynamics to a new level.