“Is this the new Audi Quattro?”
The 1980s legend has been a constant monkey on Audi’s back, a car by which all other fast Quattros are judged. Will the Audi A1 Quattro, a new high performance version of Audi’s city car, be a true successor?
The signs look good.
Currently, the most powerful Audi A1 you can buy is the 1.4 TSI, which shares an engine with the Volkswagen Polo GTI, Seat Ibiza Cupra and Skoda Fabia vRS. With 180bhp that car is already pretty speedy, but the A1 Quattro is equipped with a 2.0 TFSI engine putting out 256bhp.
That’s not a million miles behind Audi’s own TT-S coupe - and this is a supermini we’re talking about. With all that power, a six-speed manual transmission and Quattro all-wheel drive traction, the 0-62mph sprint will take only 5.7 seconds and top speed is over 150mph.
So it certainly has the performance credentials, but what about the old Quattro’s strongpoint, handling?
A multi-plate clutch directs power between the front and rear axles. Normally, the front wheels will get the power, but the rears come into play when traction is lost. An electronic differential lock helps reduce wheel-spin, and Audi says the drivetrain is much more “tautly tuned” (read: aggressive) than regular Quattros. The stability control system has a sport mode, and can even be turned off entirely.
It all bodes well for the driving experience, then. The A1 Quattro looks the part too. The Glacier White paint, black roof and 18-inch wheels lend a motorsport look to the compact shape and the muscular body kit is more Sisteron than Sloane. On the inside, Silk Nappa leather is liberally splashed about and covers the heavily bolstered seats.
Prices in the UK have been announced at starting from £34,000, though options will quickly take that up. It will only be available in left hand drive.
So are we looking at the Audi Quattro we’ve all been waiting for?
Not quite. For a start, not all of us can have a go - only 333 are being made, with deliveries starting in the second half of 2012.
What we’re looking at, if not in name, is an Audi S1, or given the performance and styling on offer, an RS1. We wonder why it isn't called the RS1, perhaps Audi want to produce a longer-run model towards the end of the A1's life, or maybe they're even saving the badge for something even wilder.
Even if it’s no spiritual successor to the original Quattro, it’s still the maddest supermini since the Renault Clio V6… and we want one. Audi we applaud you.