24 May 2018

More than an old car #67: Audi quattro

Many of you would be familiar with Audi and you would associate these drivers with rich people. Others may think of the sporty TT or even the R8, which is also surprisingly uncommon. If you are lucky, you may get a Grab/Uber in an Audi as well, although it would be the smaller A3 sedan. I am inclined to believe that car enthusiasts would recognise this particular Audi immediately, but for the benefit of those who aren't into cars, let me present to you this legendary 1985 Audi quattro.

It all began with August Horch, who established the company A. Horch and Cie in 1899. Due to disagreements, he then founded another company called August Horch Automobilwerke GmbH in 1909. However, he could not use the "Horch" name as his former partners had claimed it as their trademark. While discussing with his friend about the name, the friend's son suggested calling it "audi" instead of "horch". "Horch" means "to hear" in German, which is "Audi" in the singular imperative form of "audiere" in Latin. With that settled, the Audi Automobilwerke GmbH Zwickau was officially formed on 1910.

The 4 rings on its logo is a homage to the 4 constituent brands: Audi, Horch, DKW and Wanderer, and together they were called Auto Union from 1932. In 1969, it merged with NSU (of motorcycle fame) and became the Audi that we know of today. Currently, it is a member of the VW Group.

The ur-quattro [its actual name: "original quattro"] was first proposed by Audi's chassis engineer, Jörg Bensinger in 1977. Previously, Audi was going through a slump as its cars were often associated with old men. In need for a fresh breath of air, work was done to develop the Audi 80 into an all-wheel drive system, in order to meet the rigors of off- road rallying. 

It was unveiled to the public in 1980. Initially, it seemed counter-intuitive as the car became heavier and more complex to fix. However, successes in the rallying world caught everyone's attention--Audi had planned to make only 400 but due to strong public demand, it increased the production capacity. 
It was powered by a 2144cc i5 engine, allowing it to reach a top speed of 222 km/h with an acceleration of 7.1 seconds [0-100 km/h]. It was 4404 mm long and weighed 1300 kg. A further check on the car's chassis number revealed that it was built in December 1984.

Production ended in 1990 with 11,452 made in different variants. This is currently the only registered quattro in Singapore: I am aware of another unit that was imported from the UK but never registered for road use. The number plate indicates that it was originally registered here back in the 80s. I had been always hoping to catch a glimpse of it up close, and seeing it really took my breath away. Its red coat of paint fits it perfectly, similar to how we always associate Ferraris with the colour red. 

The legacy of the quattro system lives on in practically every Audi car on the road today. What made this vehicle attain such status was partly due to people's love for rally races, and how Audi was able to wield the novel all-wheel drive feature into a force to be reckoned with. I don't know whether you will be lucky enough to see it for yourself too, but hopefully you will be as equally awestruck at how it still survives here for so long!

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