When Audi presented the first generation quattro to an international public at the Geneva Automobile Show in spring 1980, this signalised one of the most important innovations in modern automotive technology.
The idea of all-wheel-drive was not new – shortly after the invention of the automobile around the turn of the century, the first constructions with four-wheel-drive appeared. The technology is a necessity in building offroad vehicles there were even several attempts to use 4WD in Formula 1. However, Audi was the first automobile manufacturer in the world to perfect permanent four-wheel-drive for large scale production.
The Audi engineers presented a very special stroke of genius: Traditionally in 4WD vehicles the power is split between front and rear axle via a heavy and voluminous transfer gear behind the gearbox. Considerable changes to chassis structures as well as an inconvenient reduction of space in the passenger compartment through a large propshaft tunnel result in unfavourable conditions which are unlikely to be outweighed by the advantages of four-wheel-drive in everyday motoring.
Audi developed a small, light gearbox – just a touch longer than the unit in a conventional front-wheel-drive automobile. This solution was made possible thanks to a centre differential connected to a hollow gearbox shaft, which housed a second shaft for the front wheel drive. That made a separate transfer gear and its housing obsolete.
For an initial period this technology was reserved for the 200 hp top model Audi quattro. But very soon the bulk of AudiÂ´s model range was available with permanent four-wheel-drive as an option.
Parallel to the success on the roads, several quattro models proved, first in rallying and later on the race tracks, that this sophisticated technology first and foremost brought real dynamic advantages – not only on loose ground.
The quattro drive first proved its superiority in World Championship Rallying and went on to collect successes in the American TransAm and in the IMSA Series. In the German Touring Car Championship (DTM) and in touring car series all over the world, the quattros captured numerous titles.