Audi Rally Quattro
After transforming rallying for good, the Rally Quattro went on to win just about everything - with up to 600bhp under the bonnet
The Audi Quattro didn’t just rewrite the high-performance road car rulebook – it also changed the rallying landscape forever. At the end of the Seventies, rear-wheel-drive cars dominated most events, but Audi realised the gruelling conditions of rally competition would be the perfect proving ground for its new quattro technology.
What could be better for promoting its all-wheel-drive hardware than the rough surfaces and varied climates of the World Rally Championship? Testing began in summer 1980 and the first victory followed in 1981, when Hannu Mikkola used four-wheel-drive traction to win in the snow of the Swedish Rally.
Audi Sport UK built the beautifully restored car in our pictures, and it triumphed on its British Championship debut in the 1982 Mintex Rally. The coupé was such a success that both four-wheel drive and turbo technology rapidly became the norm in rallying, forcing Audi to continually develop the Quattro to keep it ahead of its rivals. The ultimate example was the legendary Sport Quattro, which was built to Group B regulations in 1984.
Even today, the mere mention of its name is enough to quicken the pulse of diehard rally fans. The Sport Quattro sold in limited numbers as a production car and the competition versions initially produced around 350bhp. They’re unmistakable thanks to their 320mm shorter wheelbase and wider track.
This was just the beginning, though, as in 1984 the S1 arrived with 500bhp and even more outrageous aerodynamic wings. Some versions featured the direct forerunner to Audi’s S tronic double clutch gearbox.
With a raucous engine note, these flame-spitting machines competed until Group B rallying was outlawed in 1986. Then rally maestro Walter Rohrl took Audi’s third victory in the Pikes Peak hillclimb in Colorado, USA, behind the wheel of a 600bhp S1.
In all, Audi won two driver and a pair of manufacturer world titles, plus countless other national rally victories, with the Quattro. This success cemented the quattro legend and helped boost sales of the road car. Top-level rallying has been dominated by 4WD cars ever since – testament to its forward-thinking design.
WHY: The original four wheel drive rally car, and the father of modern Audis
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 QuattroOne 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 Quattro - currently readingAfter 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