30 Days Of Audi Allroad: The Past, Present, And Future Of Quattro AWD

June 5, 2013
To a certain kind of automotive enthusiast, Audi Quattro is one thing first and foremost: a rally-bred, high-performance four-wheel-drive performance car from the 1980s—and a performance icon to this day.

But to the rest of us—and especially here in the U.S.—quattro [note the lower case] is what has helped Audi really hit its stride in the market in recent years. And that holds true both to those who need all-weather traction, and to those who appreciate great handling and dynamic resilience, whether in a sedan, coupe, wagon, hatchback, coupe, or sports car. Audi offers it in all of those body styles.

With today’s latest longitudinal version of quattro, which we have on the 2013 Audi Allroad that we’re zooming in on and zooming around in for 30 Days Of The Audi Allroad, you essentially get a system that’s great for curvy canyon roads yet has enough smarts to churn through deep snow, or even up a loose gravel slope.

Current Allroad quattro system has finesse

The 2013 Allroad's system, with its planetary-gear (‘self-locking’) center differential, sends 40 percent to the front wheels and 60 percent to the rear during ‘normal’ driving, yet it can send up to 65 percent to the front or up to 85 percent to the back.

On the road, this version is a subtle, proactive companion in restoring balance and control—not just a system that scrambles for traction or relies on blips and nudges from the anti-lock braking system to keep things in line. You don’t need to be ‘gunning’ the gas to get the power to the wheels that can use it, either.

But it hasn’t always been like this; and even today, the quattro system you get on some Audi models can be completely different.

The past: effective but not refined

Going back to the beginning, quattro was novel and surprisingly tenacious, but lacking the kind of finesse to make it tremendously useful in everyday driving the way that it is today. First-generation quattro systems were rather crude, incorporating permanent four-wheel drive with manually lockable center and rear differentials. Don't think about today's level of refinement; you had quite a lot of gear whine and driveline rumble.

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