The automotive press has had a long-standing love affair with the original Quattro, the car that brought reliable all-wheel-drive technology into the performance arena.
Long faded memories have the uncanny ability to deceive one's senses to the point of non-recognition. Just as one's first love resides tucked away shrouded by time's clutch, popular sentiment surrounding the original Quattro belies how dated the technology has become over the years. It was this infatuation that granted the original Quattro stays of execution and denied the replacement Coupe Quattro its just dues. The U.S. market had always been lukewarm to the Quattro concept, and Audi of North America pulled the plug early `80s; in Europe, the original Quattro would be sold alongside the new Quattro Coupe. This duality earned the earlier car moniker "Ur (the German word for original) Quattro."
In the mid 1980's, the U.S. press and public first got its first look at the replacement Quattro Coupe based on the new 80/90 B3-series platform. Following in the shadow of its rally-winning sibling, it's not surprising the Q Coupe received a mixed reception despite its many virtues.
The biggest source of disconcert was the public's unwillingness to endorse Audi's entry into upscale market sectors, a journey that would require banishing the aggressive look of the original Quattro. (BMW would follow down the same path, abandoning the race-bred look of the M3 but with far better commercial success.)
Contemporary road tests all conveyed identical sentiments: The Coupe Quattro was reassuring to drive in demanding terrain, looked too ordinary, carried a heavy weight penalty, and was too expensive for what it was.
Cynthia Claes of AutoWeek, after driving the Q Coupe through the back roads of the Cascade Mountains (July 10, 1989), said, "After running a particular section of the trail successively five or six times, the car instilled a confidence factor of 10. Of course, the Coupe would still hold the corner at an added 5 mph--and then 5 more. Again each pass until, finally, the edge of the escarpment came a little too close."
Editor Brown had the occasion to drive the Coupe Quattro on wet logging roads on the way to Lake Tahoe about the same time and was inspired by its handling ability: "Traction was always there when needed. There was no way to tell Quattro was doing its thing, except that the Coupe negotiated the slippery road with few slips. The 27 miles of Military Pass Rd. were left behind at a far faster pace than I thought possible, yet never did I fear that the bodywork threatened an intimate encounter with a roadside redwood."
Without a doubt, the best thing going for Audi then (or now) was its Quattro system. BMW, Mercedes, and others can play around with electronic gizmos and various traction aids till the cows come home, but there is no substitute for all-wheel drive, period. Audi proved it in rallying, Trans Am and IMSA; Porsche proved it all the way from Paris to Dakar a couple times.
Early Quattro systems were quite basic: Traction was distributed equally 50 percent to the front and 50 percent to the rear. Then Audi began using a TORSEN (TORque SENsing) center differential, which could redistribute up to 78 percent of the torque to the front or rear (depending on whichever end already had the traction), with the remaining 22 percent going to the loose end. If there was no relative slip end-to-end, torque was delivered 50-50. This allowed fitment of ABS, which could otherwise be confused by all wheels being compelled to turn with the same force. Interestingly, the ABS system could be switched off by means of a dash-mounted switch, which would then re-engage upon restart. Audi proposed that under certain conditions, such as loose snow over an icy surface, locked wheels could stop a car more quickly than one with ABS. In rally terms, this off switch also enabled a driver to left-foot brake and hang out the rear end in a physics-defying slide.
Weight played an all too important part in the Coupe Quattro's performance. Audi was quick to point out this engine was its most powerful normally aspirated engine in the U.S, but performance figures indicated a 8.l-sec. O to 60-mph time and a top speed of 135 mph. The standard engine for the U.S. market was a 2.3-liter inline five with four valves per cylinder, producing 164 hp at a lofty 6000 rpm. Torque topped out at 157 ft-lb at 4500 rpm. Clearly this was an engine that needed to be revved to take full advantage of the multi-valve setup, which didn't exactly jive with the almost 3,200 lb of curb weight. Weight was mostly due to the Quattro's abundant list of standard features and amenities, which included headlight washers, zebrano wood dash inlays, power everything, steel sunroof, trip computer, etc, ad nauseum. Editor, Brown proposed an interesting concept in the May/June 1990 issue of VW and Porsche whereby Audi could reduce the number of standard features and gadgets to adjust the Quattro's power to weight to better coincide with its sporting aspirations. As an added bonus, this weight reduction plan would lower the $30K retail price down to a level commensurate with Audi's public image. Sadly Audi neither heard nor heeded these words, and the Coupe Quattro was offered in the U.S. for only the 1990 and 1991 model years.
Should one buy a Coupe Quattro instead of an Ur Quattro? If you want an upscale sport coupe with luxurious appointments, decent performance at a decent price, maybe you should. If you want the raw and visceral experience of driving the car that started it all, buy an Ur Quattro.
Apart from traditional sources, the most information you'll encounter will be on the Internet. There are a number of enthusiast's web pages with photos, information and modification tips as experienced by owners. The premier 20V Quattro web page can be found at http://www.geocities.com/MotorCity/Speedway/3229. The page, hosted by Geocities and compiled by an unnamed author, contains specifications, buyer's tips, modifications, maintenance tips, and upgrades. Anyone who owns a 20V Quattro should view this web page. NOTE: In the time since this article was originally published, the site has moved to its own address at http://20v.org. The content has continued to expand and is well worth a visit. On the site, the person maintaining it mentions that there is a group of contributors who provide content to this site, and I thank them all.
Anyone who plans to work on his or her car will indubitably need a factory repair manual. Getting a Volkswagen or Audi factory service manual or electrical troubleshooting guide is a simple matter of calling Robert Bentley Publishers at (800) 423-4595, or purchase the book online from www.amazon.com for about $40 less than the $149.95 list price. The ordering information is listed below.
Owners are also encouraged to join the Audi Quattro Club USA. With more than 2,500 members, the club offers a host of services including; quarterly newsletter, technical tips, new product info, free classified ads, parts discounts, and other perks. The annual membership costs total $40 domestic and $48 outside the U.S. Contact Karen Chadwick for membership specifics.
1990 Audi Coupe Quattro Specifications
|Base price (1990)||$29,750|
| || |
|Type ||DOHC inline five cylinder|
|Horsepower ||164@6000 rpm|
|Torque (ft-lb)|| 157@4500 rpm|
|Fuel injection ||Hitachi MPI|
|Transmission ||Five-speed manual with permanently engagedall-wheel-drive with TORSEN center differential.|
| || |
|Length/width/height || 176/67.6/54.3 in.|
|Curb weight ||3,174 lb|
|Fuel tank ||18.5 U.S. gal|
| || |
|Suspension, front/rear|| Coil spring/shock absorber (gas pressurized) struts, wishbone tower control arms, stabilizer barSteering Variable power assist rack and pinion|
|Wheels || 7J x 15, Speedline six-spoke light alloy (4 x l 08mm with 37mm offset)|
|Tires ||205/60VR-15 steel belted radial|
|Brakes, front/rear ||Vented 276mm discs/solid 245mm discs, ABS|
| || |
|0-60mph||8.1 sec.||1/4 mile || unpublished|
|Maximum speed||135 mph|
|Fuel economy, EPA city/hwy|| 18/24 mpg|
|Official Factory Repair Manual |
80, 90 Coupe Quattro
1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992
Robert Bentley Publishers
Audi Car Club of North America
111 North Main Street
Oconomowoc, WI 53066
Phone: (262) 567-5476
Fax: (262) 567-5494