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Before the days of all-wheel-drive everything, Audi stood out with their Quattro all-wheel drive system. These days, the technology extends throughout the entire lineup. From SUVs to compact cars and even EVs, you can find Audi Quattro performance. But what is it? And is Audi Quattro different from other all-wheel drive systems? The answer is yes, but it’s a bit more complicated than that.

A green Audi RS 3 with Quattro parked in front of water and a sand dune
The Audi RS 3 comes standard with Quattro all-wheel drive | Audi Pressroom

What does Audi Quattro mean?

Audi’s all-wheel drive system uses a three-differential system to deliver the ultimate versatility. There are differentials on each axle, plus one in the center to split torque between the front and rear. This allows the Quattro system to send power to each wheel individually. Depending on the situation, this can help improve handling or just help retain control in adverse conditions.

Which Audi models have Quattro?

These days, you can get Audi Quattro in a majority of new Audi models. From the A3 compact sedan through the Audi Q7 three-row SUV, Quattro is available across the board. Most Audi models come standard with the all-wheel drive technology, but there are a few that make it optional. The compact Audi A3 sedan makes all-wheel drive an available option, while standard models are front-wheel drive. The Audi Q4 e-tron uses rear-wheel drive as standard, but is available with Quattro drive as well. In addition, the Audi R8 supercar comes standard with rear-wheel drive, while offering all-wheel drive as an optional extra.

What is special about Audi Quattro?

To truly understand the advantages of Quattro means understanding how it improves your driving experience. For starters, torque vectoring improves dry-road handling for a more engaging drive. When accelerating through a corner, Quattro with torque vectoring will send more power to the outside wheels to help with rotation. Depending on the drive mode, it can send more of that torque to the outside rear wheel to further improve handling. This can help make even a heavy Audi model feel light and nimble. Its part of what makes the Audi RS 6 Avant and Audi SQ 8 crossover so engaging despite their size.

A red Audi R8 on a race track
The Audi R8 is one of just a few models that doesn’t come standard with Quattro | Audi Pressroom

When did Audi debut Quattro technology?

The history of Audi Quattro dates back to 1980. At that time, it was a standalone model within the Audi lineup. As the first four-ringed model with all-wheel drive, the Quattro was a rally-bred hatchback designed to win off-road races around the world. After winning four championships through the early 80s, the technology made its way into more of the Audi lineup. These days, the Audi Quattro brand refers specifically to the brand’s all-wheel drive system. But its name and the technology all originate from one legendary rally car.

Cons of Audi Quattro Drive

Quattro works incredibly well, but there are some drawbacks to the system. For instance, fuel economy is diminished as all four wheels are always powered to some degree. Even with different drive modes, power is still sent to both axles, increasing fuel consumption. In addition, most Quattro-drive cars are front-wheel drive biased, so they lack the personality of rear-biased systems like BMW xDrive.

Is Quattro the all-wheel drive system for you?

If you live in a northern climate, Audi Quattro is a great option. But even if you don’t, the intelligent torque-vectoring of modern Quattro systems means excellent handling. If you’ve never experienced Quattro technology, take one for a test drive for your own experience. But if you’re just taking our word for it, it’s hard to argue against Audi’s all-wheel drive tech.

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