What does "Audi quattro" mean?
With the return of the Audi quattro Cup for 2018, we thought we’d take a look at the history of the ‘quattro’ sub-brand and what it actually means to have the coveted quattro badge on your car.
The Origin of the Audi quattro
Used by Audi since 1980, the ‘quattro’ name applies to the four-wheel-drive system fitted to the Bavarian brand’s road and racing cars. Audi spell the system itself with a lowercase ‘q’ after the Italian word for ‘four’ - Quattro with a capital ‘Q’ applies to the iconic Group B rally car from the 1980s.
The Quattro was a revolution as it was introduced at a time when the competition were using just two-wheel drive. The Quattro devastated the field by winning the World Rally Championship back-to-back, from then on Audi filtered it down into the their road car roster. Nowadays you’re most likely to find the quattro badge fitted to Audi’s high-performance RS models such as the RS3, TT RS and the mid-engine R8 super car.
How Does the quattro System Work and What Makes it so Good?
Typically, most all-wheel-drive cars have something called a transfer box fitted within them. The transfer box usually sits after the gearbox and is used to divide the engine’s power between the front and rear wheels. You might be asking yourself, ‘why don’t all cars have them? – Well the problem is, these systems are usually heavy and difficult to package in smaller cars.
So how have Audi managed it? Their engineers managed to develop a centre differential (rotating gears with two output shafts) – which directs the engine’s turning force, otherwise known as torque – to both front rears axles. This system is compact enough to be fitted within the car’s gearbox and can be infinitely adjusted to send power to whichever wheel has the most amount of grip. As these units are a lot smaller and also lighter than a conventional transfer box, they’re more efficient. Most effective obviously when driving on slippery surfaces, they can also be used all year round on normal roads to provide superb performance and safety.
What About Smaller Audis?
In the more compact Audis like the A3 and TT, Audi have employed a slightly different quattro system which they call the Haldex unit. This system sends most of the power to the front wheels in normal driving conditions but if it detects a wheel slipping a secondary clutch will jump in and divert up to 100% of the torque to the rear axle.
The die-hard Audi quattro fans feel this system isn’t a real quattro so they refer to the Torsen systems as ‘true quattros’ – however unless you consistently push your quattro to its limit you won’t be able to tell the difference.
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