Marques of Distinction - Audi

By: Unique Cars magazine

audi quattro 2 audi quattro 2

The world of international rallying was a fairly predictable place until the arrival of Audi's revolutionary Quattro

First published Unique Cars #271, Mar 2007

Audi - Marques of Distinction

The world of international rallying was a fairly predictable place until the arrival of Audi’s revolutionary Quattro.

Using a turbocharged, five-cylinder engine and torque-splitting centre differential,  Quattro coupes won the World Manufacturers’ Championship in 1982 and 1984 but more significantly spawned a power race among World Rally Championship teams that would end only after the deaths of several competitors and spectators.

Audi was an unlikely candidate for controversy. As part of the Auto-Union conglomerate that in 1932 combined four German brands, its early contributions were genteel touring cars and roadsters. The most significant of its pre-WWII products was the front-wheel drive ‘Front’ with a six-cylinder engine designed by Ferdinand Porsche.

The brand then disappeared for over 20 years before emerging in the mid-’60s with a range of front-wheel drive sedans and coupes. Australia saw a few of the elegant 100LS sedans but the car to properly introduce Audi to this country was the Passat-based Fox.

In 1983 Audi announced a car that would revolutionise the shape of large sedans. Its 100CD boasted a drag coefficient of just 0.30 – lower than most sports cars – and a five-cylinder 2.2-litre engine. When enlarged to 2.3-litres and turbocharged, the engine pushed the company’s luxury 200T to more than 200km/h.

Importer apathy and exchange rate problems during the late-’80s saw Australia denied many of Audi’s best 1980s products including the turbo Quattro but we did see a handful of the $120,000 V8 Quattro sedans. That position improved during the 1990s when a full range of the company’s models became locally available and it finally was able to mount a viable challenge to BMW.

Audi -quattro

The car that put Audi pin-ups on millions of teenage bedroom walls was the TT coupe. Based on a ‘design exercise’ that was displayed at the 1995 Frankfurt Motor Show, production TT coupes used a mid-mounted, 1.8-litre turbo engine with all-wheel drive and by 1999 were ready for road use.

That year saw Audi return to international motorsport; its sights set not on rally dominance but sports car racing. A year later Audi recorded its first Le Mans 24-Hour victory and has repeated the result every year except for 2003 when the race was won by stablemate Bentley.

During 2006, Audi’s pioneering V12 turbo-diesel competition engine was awarded ‘Race Engine of the Year’. It went on to prove the pace and durability of high-performance diesel technology with a fifth Le Mans win and matching result in the Sebring 12-Hour event in the US.



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