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Celebrate 40 Years of Audi Quattro With These AWD Icons

In this case, four driven wheels is better than two.

Billy RehbockWriterManufacturerPhotographer

Name a branded all-wheel drive system. What came to mind first? Was it Quattro? If it was, that's because Audi has been working for forty years to help you put the power down no matter the weather or road surface. Here's a list of our favorite Quattro-equipped cars, whether they were designed for the street, track, trail, or otherwise.

1980 Audi Quattro

Before Audi got involved with rallying, supercars, and mega wagons, there was this. Audi engineer Jörg Bensinger wanted to build a sporty car with four driven wheels, and thus the 1980 Audi Quattro was born. Often referred to as the "Ur-Quattro," meaning that it was the first one, this car was the first all-wheel drive Audi, using a longitudinal permanent four-wheel drive system. It launched with a 2.1-liter turbocharged five-cylinder engine producing 197 hp and 210 lb-ft of torque. It would go on to spawn one of the most iconic rally cars of all time.

1984 Audi Sport Quattro S1 

Every single Group B Audi Quattro variant was cool in its own right, but we especially love the in-betweener 1984 Quattro S1, raced by the legendary Walter Röhrl. This specific car, which had a 302-hp turbocharged 2.1-liter inline five-cylinder engine in homologated form, produced at least 400 and possibly more than 500 hp. Initially, the S1 wasn't as well received by drivers as the outgoing model, but it set the stage for the chassis' final incarnation, the wild Sport Quattro E2. Its significance in rallying is owed to its all-wheel drive system, which proved dominant against two-wheel-drive competitors. Quattro helped keep the road car-made-racecar relevant for half a decade, even when the competition had purpose-built racecars that didn't adhere as closely to the homologation rules.

1989 Audi 90 IMSA GTO

Driven by heroes such as Hans-Joachim Stuck, Hurley Haywood, and Walter Röhrl, the A90 IMSA GTO is a wide-body bad boy. Even though it bears the name of a street car, its performance far transcended the capabilities of its namesake. Its 2.2-liter five-cylinder engine churned out a massive 710 hp. All of that might was sent through a six-speed manual transmission and to the ground via, you guessed it, Audi's Quattro system. It only lasted one incredible season, but its success has immortalized it as one of the greats.

1994 RS 2 Avant

When we talk about our love of wagons, the Audi RS 2 Avant is in the pantheon of the greatest of all time. In its day, it was one of the quickest-accelerating vehicles in the world, thanks to its Porsche-built five-cylinder engine. In fact, Porsche built a lot of this car's components, making it one of the greatest collaborations ever, in our book. The then spectacular 0-60 mph time of just 4.8 seconds is owed in part to its all-wheel drive system, which allowed it to put all of its power down.

We had to wait quite some time for Audi to bring the Audi TT RS to the U.S. The performance coupe made its debut in 2009 but wasn't sold in the U.S. until 2011. Audi only offered the hot two-door with a potent 360-hp five-cylinder engine and a manual transmission. Its all-wheel drive made it capable of a four-second 0-60 mph run in U.S.-spec, although the automatic European variant could manage a more impressive 3.6-second time. It was seen by many as a baby R8. That's high praise.

With design by Frank Lamberty and Julian Hoenig, Audi created a timeless form with the first-generation R8. Based on the Lamborghini Gallardo, the R8 launched in 2006 with a 4.2-liter V-8 and a 5.2-liter V-10. The coupe was eventually joined by a convertible Spyder variant in 2008. For this list, we picked out the hardcore 2012 Audi R8 GT model, which made its debut in 2011, right before the first-generation car received a facelift in 2012.

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When new, the R8 was an instant hit with incredible acceleration figures—we even named it our 2008 Automobile of the Year. We applauded its driving dynamics, calling it "thrilling, poised, comfortable, fast, fluid, composed, and enormously capable." Now, we've sampled the latest incarnation of the second-generation supercar, and it seems like much of the original model's magic is still intact.

2012 Audi R18 E-Tron Quattro

This Le Mans winner is part of a lineage of extremely successful hybrid LMP-class racecars. It was the first R18-named car to adopt a hybrid drivetrain, with a 510-hp turbocharged diesel 3.7-liter V-6 engine driving the rear wheels and two electric motors driving the front wheels. It was a revolutionary step in Audi's development of the technology that would ultimately conclude with its first-ever EV, the 2019 E-Tron (which also bears Quattro branding).

2021 Audi RS6 Avant

Although we mentioned it earlier, we'll say it again for the people in the back. We love wagons. When Audi decided to bring the 2021 Audi RS6 Avant to our shores, it was a prayer answered. Imagine our relief when we drove it and it was as good as we'd hoped. Its mighty 591 hp is sent to all four wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission, making the hot wagon good for a 0-60 mph time of just 3.5 seconds. Our Editor-in-Chief Mike Floyd lauded its capabilities well beyond its acceleration, from its ride quality, to its brakes, to its handling. This long-roofed machine is a sign of more great things to come from Audi's all-wheel drive division. Here's to many more decades of Quattro.