Audi UR Quattro
One of the first passenger cars to feature four wheel drive, the UR Quattro's engine, looks and handling propelled it to legendary status
In the early Seventies, Audis were reliable, solid and worthy – but they weren’t exciting. So it’s no wonder the new Quattro stunned onlookers at the 1980 Geneva Motor Show.
It was named after the Italian word for ‘four’ and, with the exception of Britain’s little known Jensen FF sportster, was the first passenger car to feature permanent four-wheel drive. Powered by a 2.1-litre,10-valve, five-cylinder turbo engine that produced 197bhp, it provided strong performance, too.
Using the underpinnings of the Audi 80 as a starting point, the unique styling was the work of British designer Martin Smith. But it was how the Quattro drove that elevated it to legendary status. Road testers of the time raved about the extraordinary performance and grip. And it’s a testament to its abilities that even 29 years later, the Quattro still feels the part. The purity of its steering, superb traction and tuneful powerplant are a joy.
It will come as no surprise to learn that 11,452 Quattros were made by the time production ceased in 1991. During that period, the Audi gradually evolved. To improve its low-end torque, the engine was increased to 2.2 litres and then, in 1987, a new 20-valve version saw power increase to 217bhp. Visually, the Quattro changed little, but subtle styling differences distinguished each variant. Early cars had four separate headlamps, but they were replaced in 1983 by combined units. Then, in 1985, it got a new sloping grille to go with its trim and badging updates.
In true Eighties style, post-1984 models feature a green digital instrument cluster and even have a voice synthesizer to remind you to check the oil! In 1988, digital orange dials were introduced, and it’s these you can see on the gorgeous 1991 car in our pictures.
One of the last cars ever produced, it’s a classic example of a machine considered by many to be one of the most influential of the 20th century. It changed performance cars forever – and began the quattro legacy that lies at the heart of the Audi brand.
WHY: A revelation of handling, power and looks
In this review
- 1IntroductionAudi's new RS5 has been launched on the 30th anniversary of Audi's quattro system. Here we hit the race track in 11 of the best four-wheel-drive cars has ever made...
- 2Audi UR Quattro - currently readingOne of the first passenger cars to feature four wheel drive, the UR Quattro's engine, looks and handling propelled it to legendary status
- 3Audi Rally QuattroAfter transforming rallying for good, the Rally Quattro went on to win just about everything - with up to 600bhp under the bonnet
- 4Audi Sport QuattroThe 2.1-litre engine in the Sport Quattro produces 307bhp and shoots it to 60mph in 4.8 seconds. Not bad for 1984, or now for that matter
- 5Audi S2 CoupeSmoother S2 was a major departure from original Quattro.
- 6Audi RS2 AvantPorsche and Audi joined forces and engineered the 315bhp RS2 Avant. Less than 3000 were made and even fewer were RHD.
- 7Audi A4 Touring CarFielding an all-wheel drive Audi in the BTCC gave it the notoriety it deserved. It also got 4WD cars banned from entering ever again.
- 8Audi TT SportThe lighter, tuned TT Sport turned the already great TT into a proper drivers' car
- 9Audi RS4 AvantA spiritual successor to the Porsche-tuned RS2, the RS4 Avant blends supercar power with estate practicality
- 10Audi RS6The most powerful production Audi ever belongs in this list for that reason alone
- 11Audi TTSExtra power, sharper steering and better dynamics add extra thrills to the already superb TT
- 12Audi R8Fantastic handling, outstanding performance and looks that stop traffic, the R8 is an outstanding car