40 years of Audi all-wheel drive — the quattro principle

This car has only covered 50,000 miles and looks like it just left the factory. The green Ur-quattro has long been one of Audi’s oldest treasures. At the brand’s proving ground in Neuburg an der Donau, the athlete, first introduced in 1985, impressively demonstrates what he is capable of today.

Well, on fast laps, we didn’t reach the limit of the car because we made it clear that a valuable thing needs to be carefully placed. It is still impressive that the predecessor of almost eleven million four-ring cars shows a slightly more abrupt “canter”. With its 200 hp it continues with a subtle rumble worthy of historical calm as it deals with rather lively combinations of twists and turns.

After changing the car, we move to the current moment with the new S3. Its two-liter TFSI engine develops 310 hp and 400 Nm of torque is in the range from 2000 to 5450 rpm. Dynamic mode is enabled, ESC is completely disabled, and we continue processing route number two.

This time there is no indication of a driving style that is as gentle as possible on “material”, and the compact Audi can show without filters what 4×4 drive is useful for. Its core is a hydraulically actuated multi-layer clutch, which is located on the rear axle due to better weight distribution. It is designed to be fresh and dynamic, so that some of the torque can be transferred from the front axle to the rear axle, which in turn means that the boundary zone of grip is shifted far up. The S3 sticks to the pavement with its four “legs” and pushes the rear out in an easy-to-control way.

This is followed by tests of the e-tron S and RS 5 Coupe, which interpret the quattro principle in completely different ways, but in both models the theory of practical operation of the Torsen self-locking center differential proves to be more effective.

His first appearance in 1986 in Urquatro weighed about five kilograms. The main distribution is 50 percent to the front and rear axles. Today, it weighs just under three kilograms on longitudinally-mounted models and typically provides 40 percent front axle power and 60 percent rear axle power. How simple and ingeniously designed a differential can be seen when you take it apart and put it back together — the Torsen is a marvel, made from the highest quality materials and with charming mechanics.

The Audi range uses only four different clutches in all-wheel drive models and four different center differentials. The self-locking center differential is designed for models with a longitudinally mounted front engine and an eight-speed tiptronic. In some engines, it works together with a sports differential on the rear axle, which distributes torque between the wheels depending on the driving situation.

Along with the seven-speed S tronic, longitudinally powered models use quattro with ultra-technology, which uses two clutches. In Audi’s compact transverse engine models, the aforementioned hydraulically controlled multilayer clutch regulates the power flow. The adjustable multi-layer clutch also works with the high-performance R8 sports car, although it is located on the front axle.

Speaking of ultra-technology — the control device is always ahead of time by 0.5 seconds. In other words, “intelligent control and regulation works predictably thanks to powerful sensors and evaluation data. To do this, the quattro uses two clutches, with which it can switch quickly from front-wheel drive to all-wheel drive. Thus, with a moderate «gait», the force moves forward. However, all-wheel drive is always available and even ready in advance if necessary.

The all-electric Audi e-tron and e-tron Sportback operate clutchless differentials. SUV models use electric all-wheel drive, in which electric motors perform all the functions of a quattro. The drive constantly and completely regulates the ideal distribution of torque between the two axles. And it’s in the blink of an eye, only about 30 milliseconds — that’s significantly faster than conventional quattro technology, and three times faster than the blink of an eye, because there’s no mechanical clutch and everything happens at the speed of electricity.

“Combined with selective torque control, all-wheel drive delivers high traction in a variety of weather conditions and terrain,” says Audi. This is very clearly visible on the irrigated area of ​​the test track. Breaking the e-tron’s motion, despite disabling the stabilization program, requires almost a blunder in throttle and steering use.

With such a concentration of talent on all four wheels, it’s no surprise that 45.3% of all Audi customers worldwide opted for quattro in 2019. More than 80 percent of the roughly 20 models that Audi has introduced and will introduce in 2020 will hit the market with at least one quattro variant. In 2019 alone, Audi sold 804,224 quattro models worldwide, 258,765 of them in Germany.

Even 40 years after its invention, the quattro phenomenon is more alive than ever.

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