30 years of Audi quattro

30 years of Audi quattro  
Filed under:
News, Technology, Audi
on 03/02/2010

Source: Audi

quattro technology from Audi has an anniversary to celebrate: The spotlights homed in on the first Audi quattro at the Geneva Motor Show on March 3, 1980. Its appearance signaled the start of a winning streak in motor sport and on ordinary roads that still continues today. Now, 30 years on, Audi is taking the wraps off the next generation of its successful technology.

How much performance can front-wheel drive develop? That was the question in winter 1976/77 during the test drives that Audi developers were conducting in Sweden. The camouflaged prototypes with their 170 hp five-cylinder engines put in a worthy performance. But they were left standing when pitted against a high-wheeled vehicle with 75 hp engine that was equipped with driver-engaged all-wheel drive – the Iltis military off-road vehicle that Audi was developing as the successor to the Munga.

Cars which distribute their propulsive power between all four wheels can generate a higher cornering force at each wheel than rear-wheel-drive or front-wheel-drive vehicles. Their traction and cornering behavior are superior. A sporty Audi car with permanent all-wheel drive and plenty of engine power – that would be the perfect solution, thought the engineers.

The project got off the ground in the early part of 1977 as “Development Order 262”. It was masterminded by three young engineers: Technical Director Dr. Ferdinand Piëch, Project Manager Walter Treser and Jörg Bensinger, Head of the Chassis Testing. The prototype bore the internal codename A1 – it was a modified first-generation Audi 80 with a slightly elongated wheelbase and the five-cylinder turbo engine of that would be fitted in the future Audi 200. The rear suspension comprised a second McPherson front suspension layout, rotated through 180 degrees.

In trials in deep snow on the Turracher Höhe in Styria, Austria, in January 1978 the test vehicle with the license number IN - NC 92 was able to demonstrate just how good its traction was. The definitive go-ahead was given by Volkswagen Board of Management Chairman Toni Schmücker in May 1978. One of the project engineers knew of a steeply sloping field in Stammham, near Ingolstadt. The local fire department was called in to saturate it from top to bottom. Schmücker climbed into the A1, and drove effortlessly all the way up the slope.

Meanwhile the wife of Volkswagen Development Director Ernst Fiala had been driving the A1 around in city traffic in Vienna, but complained that it felt tense on tight bends: “The car hops,” is how she put it. On bends, the front wheels describe a slightly larger arc than the rear wheels, so they need to be able to rotate faster. That was not possible on the prototype because its axles were rigidly connected. Audi’s developers focused on two priority objectives: The all-wheel drive was to be permanent, and it had to function without a separate transfer case and second propshaft at the front.

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