Audi builds 5 millionth Quattro all-wheel drive equipped vehicle

Trevor Hofmann - CAP staff
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A white 2013 A6 Allroad 3.0 TDI rolled out of Audi's Neckarsulm, Germany assembly plant yesterday, marking the 5-millionth model fitted with the luxury brand's much-lauded Quattro all-wheel drive system.

Amazingly, since it was introduced over 30 years ago at the 1980 Geneva motor show underpinning the now legendary Quattro Coupé, Audi's all-wheel drive system has been integrated into more than 140 different models.

An innovative system at its onset and still today, Quattro was lightweight, compact and therefore very efficient, ideally suited for passenger car applications. It became a household name by competing in the now infamous Group B rally circuit, where the Quattro S1 first thrilled fans at Portugal's Algarve Rallye, driven by Hannu Mikkola and guided by co-driver Arne Hertz, and then went on that year to win the 1980 Jänner-Rallye in Austria. Interestingly, the following year Michèle Mouton became the first woman driver to win a World Champion rally at the 1981 Rallye San Remo, behind the wheel of a Quattro S1. Audi became unbeatable in 1982, winning the Manufacturers' Trophy, while Mikkola captured the driver's title in 1983. The 1984 season was even better, with Audi winning the world championship as well as the driver's title with Stig Blomqvist at the wheel. While showing amazing dominance in World Rally racing, Audi considers Walter Röhrl's victory at the 1987 Pikes Peak hill climb in Colorado the 600-horsepower Sport quattro S1's greatest victory. Audi continues to champion Quattro in racing series' throughout the world, and has won many additional titles.

With performances on the world stage like these, it wasn't long before the names Audi and Quattro became synonymous, the Ingolstadt, Germany-based luxury brand being the first premium automaker to popularize all-wheel drivetrains. The formula was so successful that it has been copied by all of Audi's rivals, although Quattro remains the only all-wheel drive system to enjoy household name status and such a revered history.

Currently, Audi offers Quattro throughout its entire model lineup, with 43-percent of its global customers opting for the all-wheel drive system in 2012; the take-rate is much higher in Canada where the A3 and A4 are the only cars offered with front-wheel drive. Other markets with a higher-than-average Quattro take-rate include the United States, Russia and the Middle East.

On all models excepting the A3, TT sports car, Q7 SUV and R8 supercar, Audi uses a version of Quattro that features a self-locking centre differential that transfers 40-percent of engine torque to the front wheels and 60-percent to those in the rear in dry conditions, but on slippery surfaces it can vary the thrust level in order to send more torque to the axle with the most grip. The most sophisticated versions of Quattro use torque vectoring, which combines all-wheel drive with onboard electronics that apply a "subtle, selective and pulsing application of the brakes," says Audi. This improves high-speed performance and all-round stability in any weather condition.

It should be noted that, depending on the application, Quattro comes in varying mechanical designs. The aforementioned mechanical system is ideal for larger vehicles with enough room for a central differential, but other more compact models with transverse-mounted engines like the A3 and TT incorporate an electronically controlled multi-plate clutch with hydraulic actuator that allows up to 100-percent torque transference to the rear. Alternatively, the Audi Q7 crossover SUV uses a more traditional Quattro all-wheel drive system, but houses it in a more conventional transfer case. Ironically the brand's top-line R8 supercar uses the most common type of all-wheel drive system in existence due to packaging restrictions and requisite lightweight design, a front axle-mounted viscous coupling capable of diverting between 15- and 30-percent of the engine's torque to the front wheels when required. The most recent and more advanced Quattro developments are being used by Audi's RS 4 Avant, RS 5 Coupé and RS 5 Cabriolet models. These super fast cars utilize a light and compact crown gear centre differential, which Audi says "operates extremely fast and smoothly." The automaker adds that "up to 85-percent of torque can be diverted to the front and a maximum of 70-percent to the rear.

"quattro is one of the key pillars of our brand and has been a critical factor in our successful history," said Rupert Stadler, Chairman of the Board of Management of Audi AG. "The quattro permanent all-wheel drive makes it possible to directly experience our 'Vorsprung durch Technik.' We are committed to our pioneering role and will continue to develop this advantage with new technologies."

No doubt Quattro will continue to be a driving source behind Audi's popularity and overall success.

©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

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