On Monday, Audi made my dreams come true. Did they set me up on a date with Amy Adams? No. Did they build a Chick-fil-A next to the StreetsideAuto.com office? No. Did they buy me a month’s worth of rally school? Getting closer.
No, they did something better than all of these things combined (which is saying something, since that would mean a rally car full of delicious chicken sandwiches co-driven by Ms. Adams). They let slip that the 2010 Quattro Concept has been greenlit for production.
A little background first. At the 1980 Geneva Auto show, Audi unveiled their new straight five hatchback, simply called Quattro. That’s Italian for “four,” used probably because the German term is pronounced “fear.” It was so named for Audi’s four-wheel-drive system, the first in a long line of 4WD cars that exists today.
Audi took advantage of the Quattro’s 4WD system in the world of Group B Rally. It was a time when RWD monsters like the Lancia 037 were conquering the stages, and everyone thought a 4WD system would be too heavy for the tight corners and loose dirt of rally courses. It wasn’t. The improved grip revolutionized the very sport, and today, all top level WRC cars are four- or all-wheel-drive.
The Quattro dominated the WRC until Group B was banned in 1986. The final variant of the Quattro Sport, the S1, had 591 hp and used a combination of supercharging and turbocharging. Today the Quattro stands as the iconic rally car of the area, conjuring images of Walter Röhrl or Michelle Mouton drifting around sandy, Portuguese hairpins to keep their turbos spooled up.
And though Quattro production continued until 1991, and fanboy concept art abounded on the internet, that was the last we saw of the Quattro… until last year. Audi chose the 2010 Paris Auto Show to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Quattro by unveiling the Quattro Concept, a two-seat, fully functional, one-off throwback to 1980.
It was too good to be true. I knew it, the Paris Auto Show knew it, and the whole blogging community knew it. We let out a collective sigh of longing, as a young man does when he sees an old film starring Grace Kelly or Audrey Hepburn, and went back to our work. Then whispers started circulating that the Concept could see limited production. It was, after all, based on the RS5 chassis, and, come to think of it, the design wasn’t too radical like so many other concepts.
Now Audi insiders have let slip that the Quattro Concept will need a new name, because it will be going into production, and that officially made my Monday.
No official numbers have been released, but we can read the Concept’s stats for a likely place to start. Under the hood is a very nostalgic 2.5 liter straight five, laying down 354 lb ft of torque, and nicely turbocharged to 402 hp. That’s enough to launch the Quattro to 62 mph in 3.9 seconds- the same as a Lotus Exige. Top speed is limited to 155 mph, which is normal for German cars, and it manages about 30 mpg on the highway. Stopping the aluminum and carbon fiber body is a full set of carbon-ceramic brakes.
Better than all of this, perhaps, is the contraption between the foot wells, a six speed manual gearbox controlled by a stick. Yes, though Audi does do a fairly good job with their flappy paddle systems, a tribute such as this could do with nothing more than the vintage grip of a purely manual stick shifter.
It’s just part of a simple, minimalist interior that I find refreshing. A big red ignition button sits in bald-faced temptation next to the shifter, and the center stack has been all but eliminated in lieu of a big screen behind the steering wheel. I don’t expect the latter to make it to the production model, but the language is good.
But that’s only inside. And frankly, when you look at the outside, the interior could be made up of raw seafood and you wouldn’t care.
Somehow Audi have blended the Lego-esque, Atari-compatible design language of the 80s and blended it smoothly with the swollen, crash test ready necessities required by the acquiescent politicians who man the traffic safety committees of today. A friendly little pop-up spoiler crowns the rear, preceded by a massive homage to the original Quattro’s C pillar. And there’s just enough curve along the flanks to keep it current.
The result is a level of visual perfection seldom seen in automotive design today. You know what I’m talking about. With most beautiful cars, your eyes just slide over them until you hit that snag. Like last week’s Koenigsegg Agera and those bruise-like vents above its front wheels. Or the Ferrari FF’s goofy grille smile. Or the new Mercedes SLS AMG once you get behind the door line. Even the Fiat 500’s über small wheels fall into this category.
Not with the Quattro. Your skepticism scrambles for a handhold, a tiny ridge or fault to catch, but it finds no purchase. The Quattro Concept is just too perfect.
Until you get to the grille, of course. (And you thought I was getting carried away.) The Quattro comes equipped with the standard Audi event-horizon mouth. If you look closely, you can see streams of light being pulled into its otherworldly gravity well.
If Audi wants to fix the grill (which won’t happen), I won’t mind. Otherwise, they shouldn’t touch it. It’s absolutely perfect the way it is.
Audi insiders claim we might see the Quattro enter limited production as early as 2013, which can’t come soon enough. In the mean time, I’m going to sleep, in hopes that I’ll dream of driving a 2013 Quattro and eating some Chick-fil-A.
What do you think of the new Quattro? Is it as drooltastic as I make it out to be, or just a nostalgic fundraiser, like the new Star Wars?
Images courtesy of Audi.