There are a number of reasons for Audi’s domination of the automotive industry across numerous areas, but one of the company’s most outstanding contributions would have to be the quattro system.
The result of decades of research in front-wheel drive technology, the quattro system first broke ground in the winter of 1976-77, when the first test drives of vehicle using the system were conducted in Sweden. While the 170 hp five-cylinder engines tested were still outperformed by all-wheel drive vehicles at that time, they did show remarkable potential for the future.
What these and other test made apparent was that in order to compete with the superior propulsive power, traction and corner handling of four-wheel drive vehicles, a new model would have to be developed, one that would feature an all-wheel drive design and plenty of power under the hood. It was then that the quattro project got off the ground.
The system began to be developed in 1977 with three bright young engineers at the helm: Dr. Ferdinand Piëch, who served as Technical Director, Walter Treser as Project Manager, and Head of the Chassis Testing, Jörg Bensinger.
The first model of the ramps was given the codename A1, and it would later prove to be the first-generation Audi 80 in slightly modified form. This incarnation of the 80 featured an elongated wheelbase and a five-cylinder turbo engine that would later be used in the Audi 200.
Subsequent tests and speed trials in Austria would show that the new model offered superior traction, and along with other factors, this would result in a go-signal being given to the project by the Volkswagen Board of Management in 1978. The new model also exhibited outstanding performance on a wet slope in subsequent tests in Stammham.
One of the many innovative features introduced in the quattro system was the secondary shaft, which adopted a hollow design. This shaft resulted in a light and easy to manage drive by way of the four-wheel system. In fact, it was this simple design that made the quattro system suitable for everyday drive vehicles, instead of being relegated only to trucks and slower vehicles as it had been in the past.
Over the years, numerous other innovations were brought forth in the quattro line, but what remains constant is the company’s focus on providing a vehicle that placed capability and functionality over good looks. It is this focus that Audi attributes to the quattro system’s success. In fact, assertions that this system would pave the way for all-wheel drive designs in passenger cars in the future seem to be have come true.
Since then, the revolutionary quattro Clubsport concept and the excellent performance of its resultant vehicles have cemented Audi’s reputation as an automotive force to contend with and numerous innovative vehicles have come out as a result. While the company has since moved on to bigger and better things, the quattro system is and will remain one of the company’s most notable achievements.
Today, the quattro system is hugely popular among Audi enthusiasts. As with any vehicle, over time you’ll notice the need for repairs in order to keep it running its best.