Last week Audi invited me to Canada to drive their new diesel line of engines in just about every platform they offer. This was pretty amazing experience, being able to drive all the new diesels in 12 degree weather and snow and ice covered roads. The real highlight however was wasn’t a diesel car. It wasn’t even a car built in the last 20 years.
Audi brought out an 84 Sport Quattro rally car and ace rally driver John Buffum to scare the journalists and remind everyone where Audi came from. The Sport Quattro is a perfect example of what Audi is all about, nonconformist thinking and new technology. All wheel drive and turbo charging wasn’t main stream back when Audi built these cars and they were really breaking new ground with them. At the time most Rally cars were rear wheel drive and powered by normally aspirated engines. Audi saw a possibility to try something new and advanced the sport an entire level virtually overnight.
The experience riding in the car was amazing. There was far less turbo lag than expected from a turbo car from the early stages of technology. Partly because the tires are constantly spinning so it never runs out of boost but also from Buffum’s creative footwork. The G forces the car can pull on snow is also pretty astounding. Still nothing close to a modern race car on asphalt, but impressive none the less.
The car is basic and raw, there weren’t huge amounts of processing power in these old cars. There was probably more processing power in the rally computers used for time and distance than in the engine management, yet the engine still ran great, even in the cold weather.
The sound of the car is ferocious. Not as loud as you may think, but you can hear everything from the wastegate to the blow-off valve. Inside the car you hear gear whine and snow spraying all over the sheet metal. So many mechanical noises you can’t even identify them. The feeling of barreling sideways into a turn sliding across snow is unbelievable. Something I haven’t felt since sliding out of control down suicide hill riding on top of giant inflated innertube as a kid. That’s what this car is a giant version of the sled you fantasized about when you were 7 years old on a snow day.
The Diesel cars were incredible too. That’s an entirely different story that will be covered later. Right now I will keep thinking about ripping through frozen snowfields kicking up huge rooster tails and listening too the glorious mechanical symphony.