Whether you felt the full force of the original Audi UR Quattro rally car that dominated so strongly in the 80’s or enjoyed the BBC television series ‘Ashes to Ashes’ based in the same decade, you cannot help but be fired up when someone mentions the word ‘Quattro’.
Audi must have realised they’d struck real gold long after the UR Quattro ended its rallying days with the name and badge still being pinned to the back of saloon and estate models fitted with its four wheel drive system. Even today if someone asks what you drive, instead of replaying the entire model name and number of your executive toy you can simply say ‘Audi-Quattro’. Those two words remain as evocative as ever which in itself is quite remarkable.
Walk up to an original Audi UR Quattro and you are drawn by its muscular stance, particularly when viewed from the rear, the distinctive extended arches sitting squarely over each of the wide lattice alloys adorned with their low profile rubber. The stance though is not too aggressive to demand unnecessarily high levels of respect. This was a car designed when Audi was a much smaller part of the VW group and that influence has left certain femininity in the design that means this car simply lets you feel at ease, despite its undeniable hard earned success.
Inside a 1985 WR model the binnacle that faces the driver is totally unique and includes a bright green digital dash display. Now how 1980’s is that? The controls for the heater and the whole way the interior is constructed are all still faintly familiar, being very VW in their look and feel. The softness is something that marks this car out as a bit of a sleeper when installed in the driver’s seat. Turn the key and start the forward mounted five cylinder turbo charged engine, pull away and you still have no idea what is about to happen next.
When manufacturers like Audi bolted turbochargers to their petrol driven road cars, particularly those helping achieve homologation for race or rally, they weren’t overly concerned about lag. They were after all only focussed on exploiting the regulations to ensure they would be ultra-competitive. These days technology means turbo lag is almost a thing of the past and I for one miss it. Bury the throttle in an Audi UR Quattro and you get delay, delay, delay and then boom, power and acceleration in spades. 1325Kg and 200BHP may equate to no more than a normally aspirated 2000cc hot hatch in 2012, but wind the clock back some thirty years and they helped deliver a genuine 4WD rally car for the road experience.
At full chat the nose of the UR Quattro lifts high into the sky as the car charges towards the horizon with a determination that is completely at odds with its conservative interior styling. The offbeat sound that fills the cabin from the 5 cylinder engine is nothing short of inspiring. The road car may be some 350BHP shy of the final Audi Sport model but the noise is still very similar. A distinctive musical note over strong base, it clearly means business. Brake hard for a tight corner that by now is approaching rather quickly and the nose drops straight back down, pointing you at the road. Turn in and you find a car that leans at quite an angle, far greater than any other car of this type whether older or newer.
This Audi really wants to move around on its tyres and I really like that, because although four wheel drive sounds amazing and in slippery conditions is totally reassuring the rest of the time it can dilute things. Not here, despite ordinary feeling brakes and steering, not to mention a gearbox that is like stirring thick soup, this car is a riot whilst on the road. From the turbo that suddenly and without warning punches the car forwards, to the way it wants to tilt through the corners, you never feel detached from the action. When cruising along at 70MPH the car tends to tramline slightly, holding your attention even on boring stretches.
The engine which is mounted forward of the front wheels should in theory seriously affect the handling, it doesn’t. A bit like a 911 with its engine hung out back, when driven on the road within UK speed limits you have absolutely no idea of the potential risks. OK push on, particularly in wet or slippery conditions and it might be a different story. But turn-in on a spirited drive in the dry and if anything it is the back of the car that is trying to break away and not the front push on. Possibly a bit like a swing being pushed down and moved sideways at one end to cause the other end to lift and turn in the opposite direction. The genuine rear drive effect produced enhances the driving pleasure you get. This is a rally car that wants to play and entertain on the road, even at sensible speeds, and not one that insists on three figures being displayed on the dash before getting up to dance.
I thought I was going to hate the green digital LED dash and even more so the female voice that announces to close the door or to put your seatbelt on. The thing is in a modern world of high quality touchscreen devices it totally places the car in the era it was born. That said the announcer styled warning system could still be annoying but thankfully only ever mentioned once about the seatbelt after I removed it to reverse the car back onto the drive of its Wiltshire home, so no complaints there really.
1985 Audi UR Quattro reminds the world how you can make a 200BHP rally car for the road that is fun and engaging to drive at any speed.
How does this car make you feel?
In one word: Michelle (Mouton)
As a favourite meal: Cheeseburger served from a van somewhere in a Welsh forest on a cold winter’s day.
Anything Else: VW influence brings a unique softness to this genre of car to deliver a beautiful balance when out on the road.
Key Ingredients: Unrefined turbo punch, movement of the chassis and distinctive five cylinder warble.
With thanks to Vintage-Classics
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