Trailblazer. How many cars fit that description? Vehicles that changed the face of motoring, led by example, showcased new technology and new thinking. The Porsche 911, while easily the world's most successful sports car, was never a trailblazer-otherwise other manufacturers would have slung heavy engines over their cars' rear axles. The Lamborghini Miura definitely blazed a trail. It defined an entirely new genre: the mid-engined supercar. The Range Rover, likewise, changed the car scene forever. It was the first luxury SUV and proved you could drive almost anywhere in complete comfort. The original Mini and the first Golf (or Rabbit) GTI should probably be on the list. And then there's the Audi Quattro.
To say the Quattro shook things up when it came along in 1980 would be doing it a huge disservice. It tore up the rulebook and started over, setting a template for the uture of car design. Yet anyonelooking at a Quattro in 2008 might be forgiven for wondering what the big deal is. It's boxy, looks dated and, judged against today's cars, not all that fast. Quite different from the new S5, which is a stunning amalgam of swoops, curves and in-your-face attitude. The S5 is also mighty quick, but, if it weren't for the original Quattro, cars such as this wouldn't exist.
It's been dubbed by many as the 'Ur-Quattro' to differentiate it from the herd of all-wheel-drive Audis that emerged after it, as they've all been given the Quattro moniker. 'Ur' is often used in the German language to mean 'first' or 'original' and the Germans sometimes refer to these Quattros as 'Uris.'
The Ur-Quattro brought four-wheel drive to the masses, redefining expectations en it came to safety and stability. Never before had a car been able to grip like his. It was a revelation and stole the 1980 Geneva Motor Show.
The Quattro name became ubiquitous. It turned motorsport on its head, particularly on the world's rally stages, and dominated all comers, thanks to its colossal grip and unbreakable build quality. Picking up the gauntlet that Audi threw down, other manufacturers jumped onto the four-wheel-drive bandwagon for their rally cars and soon Group B was upon us. Rally cars with previously unheard-of power tore through the world's forests. Casualties were inevitable. Drivers and navigators sometimes met their maker in a ball of flames, while spectators, who weren't as quick on their feet as the cars were on their tires, were killed with alarming regularity.
To end the carnage, Group B finished, but the Quattro legend lived on. Because, ultimately, it did more good than harm. Four-wheel drive and anti-lock brakes save lives-lots of them. But the Ur-Quattro is where it all began. And I feel incredibly privileged to be handed the keys to this rally replica, as well as a brandnew, out-of-the-box S5.
Ur-Quattros still quicken the pulse 4 when occasionally seen on the road. Yes, they look like they were designed using a ruler rather than in free hand, but they have plenty of presence, thanks to those blistered fenders and low ride height.