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Flying around the mountains with an all-wheel drive car is nothing short of sublime. The machine glides from corner to corner, and there’s no shortage of grip. AWD sedans weren’t as prominent in America as they were in Europe, but in the 1980s, they started to make their mark. Some of the most interesting AWD sedans ever made came out of the 80s, and these are just a few. 

1989 converted the Mitsubishi Galant VR-4 into an AWD sedan

Mitsubishi’s Galant was bred from the assembly line as a rear-wheel-drive car in the late 1960s. By its sixth generation in the late 1980s, Mitsubishi had transformed it into an AWD sedan, with the world’s first electronically-controlled suspension in a passenger car (in two-wheel-drive only). To compete with the Galant in rally racing, Mitsubishi made the VR-4 variant, which used the fabled 4G63T, a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four, developing 237 horsepower. It kept the electronic suspension and got ABS as well as steering on all four wheels.

1985 325ix: BMW’s first AWD sedan

BMW 325ix in the snow
BMW 325ix in the snow | Photo by John Mahler/Toronto Star via Getty Images

BMW’s E30 3-series did more than just stitch the first M3 in the tapestry of automotive history. In 1986 BMW gave the 325i an AWD sedan platform, the first-ever for the brand. It used a viscous coupling differential in the middle, which connected to a limited-slip differential in the rear. BMW had the middle differential split the torque 37/63 front-rear to accommodate the weight distribution under acceleration. It’s designed to pull power away from the slipping wheels. The 325ix received wider tires than its rear-wheel-drive counterpart and a lower axle ratio. Although America didn’t see a four-door BMW E30 325ix, they did exist in Canada. It used a 2.5-liter inline-six with 168 horsepower and weighed as much as 2,650 pounds.

The AWD racing legend 1988 Lancia Delta HF Integrale

Lancia Delta Integrale racing in Austria
Lancia Delta Integrale racing in Austria | Markus Tobisch/SEPA.Media /Getty Images

The Lancia Delta invaded rally racing by storm. It wasn’t much more than a great-looking ‘80s homage of itself, but by 1986 it had become a four-wheel-drive Group B rally car. When Group A came about, Lancia decided it would compete with the Delta again. The road-going version became a permanent AWD sedan and its turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four got 182 horsepower. The Lancia Delta Integrale was more than legend. It was the most successful rally car in history, earning six consecutive championships.

In 1988 Audi made its first-ever AWD sedan with a V8

For the first time ever, Audi employed a V8 in an AWD sedan. Audi V8s in the 1980s got 3.6-liters and 250 horsepower, which could pair to either an automatic or manual transmission. Both sent the power to all four wheels. It was a hefty full-size luxury car that weighed almost 3,800 pounds, which ultimately prevented it from competing against BMW and Mercedes in straight-line speed. The Audi was comfortable, roomy, and it provided a smooth ride. 

Which one is the best?

Each of these AWD sedans has its place in history. Without the Galant VR-4, there would be no Lancer Evolution. The BMW 325ix was the first of its kind, as was the Audi V8. Meanwhile, the Lancia cemented its stature as the most successful rally car. The Audi is probably the most interesting, but the best would be the BMW 325ix. It’s lightweight, all mechanical, and does well in the snow.


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