The true home of quattro is the Alps, for it was here where the groundbreaking all-wheel-drive system made its motorsport debut some three decades ago and revolutionised rallying in the years after. In fact, the first race ever won by an Audi Quattro was in Austria, back in 1981. It was fitting, then, that my first-ever Alpine road trip would begin in the town of Innsbruck, Austria.
This two-day trip would take me from Innsbruck to Interlaken, Switzerland, with a stopover in Meran, Italy – a 685km trek with no less than seven alpine passes. My drive route would include some of the greatest driving roads in the world.
After a typical Swiss lunch of mostly “speck” (ham) in the ski resort town of St. Moritz, I took what felt like the longest ski lift back down to drive what I flew 10,000km across the world for.
For the benefit of rally fans, I shall jump straight to the Sport Quattro. Yes, the Ur (German for “original”) Quattro set the standard for all future Audi cars, but unlike the Sport Quattro, the “Quattro-quattro” wasn’t built specifically to compete in Group B rallying. Neither was it limited to just 214 rare examples, and it didn’t cost a staggering 203,850 Deutsche marks when new (roughly $203,000 in today’s money). This was 30 years ago, mind you.
First off, the Sport Quattro is fast. Unlike in modern Audi quattro models, where the touring experience and stunning Alpine scenery would compete for my attention, the communicative old-timer, with its period brakes and long-throw gearbox, demanded my full focus on the task of driving – especially when the tachometer surged past 3000rpm and all of the stable’s 306 thoroughbred horses were released. There was, as expected, slight turbo lag, but afterr building the revs on the 2.1-litre, turbocharged 5-cylinder engine, it rewarded with surprisingly blistering performance.
If the Sport Quattro feels this fast in 2013, what must it have felt like in 1983? Suddenly, I got a sense of what this machine was developed for – to pulverise Ford, Lancia and Peugeot in the World Rally Championship in the early 1980s.
Indeed, Audi’s Sport Quattro lived up to its name and performed like it did in its “youth” – quick, grippy and purposeful.