What It’s Like to Drive the Original Audi Quattro

The original Audi Quattro stands a fierce competitor as well as the ultimate rally car, and for good reason. In this YouTube video produced by The Smoking Tire, Zack Klapman is lucky enough to drive a 1985 Quattro that was far ahead of its time. The car is co-owned by Kenny, a 1980s car enthusiast who joins Klapman on the ride. They also discuss how Audi revolutionized rallying through the Quattro.

Audi Quattro as a Rally Car

As Klapman points out in the video, rally cars made before 1979 didn’t have all-wheel-drive systems. That year, FISA, the governing body of the WRC altered a rule to allow them in competition. But many automakers believed that AWD systems were complicated and weighed their cars down. The exception was Audi, and its gamble on these systems paid off.

The Quattro began winning competitions in 1981, helping to make AWD the gold standard for rally cars. By 1985, Audi developed the Sport Quattro, an extremely fast sports coupe version of the Quattro produced for Group B rallying. Only 224 Sport Quattros were made to meet FIA-required homologation. Group B is a set of regulations instituted by FIA (formerly FISA) instituted in 1982  for vehicles competing in racing and rallying. 

The cars that were developed as a result of these regulations were some of the fastest, most sophisticated, and most powerful rally cars ever made. Cars that competed during this “Golden Age of Rallying” included not only the Quattro but also the amazing Peugeot 205 GTI, the Ford RS200, and the Lancia Stratos.

The era of the perfect rally car ended in 1986 after several drivers, including Henri Toivonen and Attilio Bettega, were killed while competing. As a result, FIA revamped its regulations to make these cars to be safer. But rallying would be changed forever because AWD made such a huge impact on the sport.

A great example of the Audi Quattro

Although Kenny’s is a basic Quattro that is detuned to meet U.S. standards, it nicely represents what Audi was making at the time. The four-seater car’s styling is classic 80s: blocky with the exception of the rounded fender flares.

It has a 2.1-liter inline-five turbocharged engine and a manual five-speed transmission. This car produces 160 hp, down from 200 hp for the European version. The Sport Quattro made an impressive 300 hp by comparison. The basic 1985 Quattro offers a lot of torque with 181 lb-ft for a car that weighs just under 3,000 pounds. 

The Recaro leather seats with the Volvo-style headrests carry the sport styling into the Quattro’s interior. Adding to its rally appeal are center and rear differentials that can be locked manually. And, as Zack notes, the air conditioning works, which proves that Audi was successfully blending comfort with its racing style as far back as the 80s.

The drive


The Smoking Tire video shows Klapman taking the Quattro through its paces on the winding roads in the mountains outside of Los Angeles. As he begins driving the Audi, he appreciates the short throw on its shifter, which is rod-actuated. This kind of shifter is more responsive than cable-actuated shifters, which sometimes can be sloppy.

Klapman notes that the throttle response is good, which means the car lives up to its higher torque to horsepower ratio. He and Kenny discuss the boost of this two-door coupe, which starts at 3,000 rpm and is at its most effective at 6,000 rpm. There is a bit of turbo lag, he says, but this is typical in the early turbochargers.

The steering and handling are where the Quattro really shines. Klapman comments that the steering stays flat in the corners, which attests to the car’s superior handling. He notes a slight steering offset, more of which is engineered into race cars. Kenny tells Klapman that the suspension has been tightened up to improve cornering.

By the end of the video, it becomes clear that Klapman has very much enjoyed driving the Quattro. After all, a variant of this car, the Sport Quattro S1, not only excelled in rally racing but also broke a record by winning the Pikes Peak Hillclimb in 1985. The versatility, speed, and handling of the Audi Quattro set the bar for all its competitors, and for all the Audis that followed in its tracks.