1984 Audi Quattro Sport

There I was, standing next to this 1984 Audi Sport Quattro painted Malachite Green – one of only 15 units ever delivered in said color – in the northern Italian mountain town of Merano. I was about to be encouraged to tear-ass over a few famous high altitude passes in this short-wheelbase iconic machine.

The Sport Quattro street version was a homologation program car to let the Audi S1 Group B cars qualify to go nuts in the World Rally Championship circuit in the mid-1980s. So, only roughly so many as were necessary for this homologation were built (in this case 214 total) and sold at really heady prices ($100k+ back in the day), hence the rarity of having any shot at actually driving one of them over the types of roads for which they were really designed. Much less driving it as it was meant to be driven to the best of my abilities.

Once upon a time, short wheelbase sportscars were the cure for finding maximum agility. The theory was to make them as tossable as possible in order to make curves your allies in beating pants off your competition. With quattro all-wheel drive, the tossing with the Sport Quattro is different, the goal being to get set up on the right line so you can then just hammer it through and out, thereby making the absolute most of every subsequent (relatively) straight section.

Driving Notes
  • There's nothing quite as hearken-back-worthy as a fragrant leatherette interior with tall cabin windows, only adequate "sport" seats from the 1980s and a bare naked five-speed manual shifter tapping against your right knee every now and again.
  • Of course, this was a perfectly maintained Sport Quattro from the Audi Heritage attic. I was barely able to heel-and-toe it smoothly with the pedal placement, frequently opting not to do so in favor of just moving my right leg more. The shifts from the five-speed were extremely sweet, too.
  • In 1984, there was no series production car with a greater specific power output. The in-line five-cylinder turbocharged longitudinal all-aluminum engine has a 2.1-liter capacity and chugs out 302 SAE horses at 6,700 rpm and 258 pound-feet peaking at 3,700 rpm. Yes, there is turbo lag in boat loads, but you need to learn to never lug it. Keep revs north of 3,200 rpm and she's a smooth rocket.
  • Tthe body was entirely crafted of a combination of bullet-proof aramid fabric, fiberglass and Kevlar by limited-production coachbuild specialist Baur of Stuttgart. This custom work was necessary for maximum weight savings and rigidity, but also because the Sport Quattro slices 12.4 inches off the wheelbase of the standard Quattro. Total curb weight is quoted at 2,866 pounds and the Sport Quattro drives like something this light and abridged.
  • The standard wheelset here is four 15-inch-by-9-inch Ronals and my treads were heritage-style 225/50 ZR15 Pirelli P Zero Asimmatrico. There is always thought to be some archaic disadvantage to using such a setup, but I beg to differ. Along with the unique driving style required for these shorter wheelbase racers, the hooking-up advantages of winter-style traction patches on all four corners on these roads are notable.
  • Firsts for Audi in the Sport Quattro were also the cross-flow engine head, four valves per cylinder and early ABS braking. They knew it was early and imperfect, so here you can also deactivate the system. Switching off ABS was a neat trick with this particular car and I vastly preferred the feeling of pedal input equaling actual braking desired with it deactivated.
  • You have to love a four-spoke steering wheel in this rectangular style; great grab-on spots are everywhere. The other nice bit is that the nimbleness at speed of the truncated-wheelbase chassis translates perfectly through the steering wheel, especially once you're flowing from curve to curve and keeping those revs up through the Pirellis, knowing when to stay with second gear or third gear and using fourth almost exclusively on briskly sailing downhill sections.
  • What a thrill this all was for around 150 miles of nothing but asphalt amusement park driving. An honor.