Profile: Audi Sport Quattro

Andrew Noakes looks at one of the motoring world's best-loved icons.

Andrew Noakes Motoring Writer
Andrew Noakes studied automotive engineering before deciding that writing about cars was more fun. He was technical editor of Fast Car magazine in the 1990s and then founded the award-winning classic car mag Classics. Since then he has written more than a dozen car books, and alongside that lectures in automotive journalism at Coventry University. Obsessed with fine engineering, he drives a car with what he says is "one of the greatest engines of its time, or any other": a BMW E46 M3.
Andrew Noakes
2 min read
Max Earey

Thirty years ago, the most expensive German car wasn't a Merc or a BMW or a Porsche, it was an Audi Quattro.

To secure one of the 200 Sport Quattros that Audi planned to offer for public sale, you had to lay your hands on DM200,000, which was just shy of £50,000 ($80,095 US). Back then that would have bought you an optioned-up BMW 735i -- with enough left over for a Ferrari 308GTBi...

The stratospheric price tag was justified because the Sport Quattro wasn't simply a breathed-on version of the 1980 Quattro coupe -- it was far more. Or less, depending on how you look at it: one of the major changes was a 12.6-inch (320mm) shorter wheelbase and a 10.7-inch (270mm) reduction in overall length, both of which made the Sport Quattro a lighter and more agile rally car. A more upright windscreen was fitted to kill reflections, and there were wide arches, moulded in a Kevlar composite to cover wider 9-inch wheels.

Not even its designer Peter Birtwhistle would describe the Sport Quattro as pretty, but it was certainly purposeful.

Power came from a 2,133cc version of Audi's five-cylinder engine with an alloy block in place of the iron original. There were four valves per cylinder and a massive KKK turbo to deliver over 300 bhp in road spec and up to 600 bhp in competition trim.

The Sport Quattro was unveiled in 1983, and Audi's works rally drivers had them by the end of 1984, to take on Group B rivals like Lancia's 037 and Peugeot's 205T16. But as a rally car, it never quite made the impression that its image suggested it should have. It won only two world championship rallies, with Stig Blomqvist at the wheel in the Ivory Coast Rally in 1984 and then in Sanremo in '85 driven by Walter Röhrl.

Audi left the World Rally stage early in 1986, after a string of serious accidents involving other teams. Perhaps the Sport Quattro could have achieved more if its career had lasted longer, but the works cars had been soundly beaten by the midengined Peugeot 205T16 in 1985, and Lancia's Delta S4 was ever more competitive. It would have been tough.

As it is, the Sport Quattro's greatest achievement was to win the Pike's Peak International Hillclimb outright three years in a row, driven by Michèle Mouton, Bobby Unser, and Röhrl.