Hi-5s : Audi Ur-quattro & TT RS

Car Specifications
Full Specifications Below

Cult Car Central revisits the Audi Ur-quattro
Vital Statistics
Car: Audi Ur-quattro
Owners: 2
Original Registration: May 1985
Mileage: approx. 75,000 km
Revisited: 5th/8th June 2010

(*click on thumbnails to enlarge images)

In concept, the S5/RS 5 would probably have been the more appropriate car in terms of size to be driven back to back with the Ur-quattro, but we ultimately decided on the TT RS by virtue of its similarity in terms of engine configuration; both the Ur and the TT RS are animated by pretty charismatic turbocharged 5-cylinders.

Perhaps what's more interesting is the fact that both cars exemplify diverse ends of the styling spectrum: the classic 80s wedge versus the edgy TT RS coupe; today's current TT has evolved to a point where it is pretty far removed from the original - a minimalist Bauhaus-inspired predecessor.

Even though the basic silhouette of the original is retained in today's car, this hardcore RS variant comes even more body addenda to break the pure lines of the basic TT, which goes some way towards dispelling the notion that a TT necessarily has to be a girlie car.

The last engine from Audi to really wow us was the naturally-aspirated 4.2L V8, which made is debut in the RS 4, but is now found in almost everything from the R8 to the RS 5, not that there's anything wrong with that (or NTTAWWT, for you Seinfeld fans). That V8 proved to be a flexible and charismatic beast, which provided low, mid and high-end punch.

Making its debut in the TT RS (coupe and roadster variants), the turbocharged 2.5L 5-cylinder could very well be the spiritual successor to the original lusty 2.2L turbo'd 5-cylinder in the Ur.

As much as we aren't huge fans of turbocharging or other forms of forced induction in larger engines, it has to be said that it makes some sense when applied to smaller power-plants in the sub-3L region. 

In fact, rumours already abound that the coming RS 3 will have this same engine beneath its bonnet... but more on this gem of an engine later.

Once upon a time, when one mentioned they drove a 'quattro', only one car came to mind... the legendary Ur-quattro. Today, like Subaru, Audi has made it a point to associate the sure-footed dynamism of the quattro drive-train with the majority of its line-up (where it's gradually evolved from just 'safety') to the extent that the mention of 'quattro' could mean anything from the S3 to the Q7 and lots of cars in-between.

Although it's commonly referred to as the Ur or Ur-quattro today, the car's original full moniker is the Audi Quattro Turbo Coupe (notice the biq 'Q'). As a side-note, with the prevalence of sms shortforms, a new confusion has arisen: the use of 'ur' for 'your'.

Saying, "im going to shoot the ur quattro", served up the response, "my quattro? i don't have one", more than on one occasion. In fact, using 'Quattro Turbo Coupe' didn't help that much either, since invariably, it would start a guessing game among most respondents who would then pepper you with a list of current Audi quattro models... albeit all with the small 'q'.

In Audi's history, there was only one Quattro; in memory of this car, every model after that to be equipped with the quattro drivetrain was designated with a small 'q'. The 'Ur' came about (likely as a form of reverse snobbery... NTTAWWT) to differentiate newer cars from this original.

Meaning 'ancestral' or 'original' in German, the 'Ur' prefix was used to point to the car's status as the grand-daddy of all of today's quattro cars (small 'q'). 'Ur' is also the name of the first known city that man built (in modern day Iraq), which also ties in with the notion of 'first' or 'original'.

As with most things, 'quattro' has its fair share of detractors, since many people feel (mistakenly or otherwise) it blunts the 'feel' of spirited driving. As the RS 4 so ably proved at its launch (and incidentally almost every Lancer Evolution so far), Audi is capable of tuning the drive-split of the quattro drive-train to result in an enjoyable rear-bias, yet retain a degree of traction and surefooted-ness that continues to shame many two-wheel driven cars.

Officially shown at the 1980 Geneva Motor Show, the Ur-quattro (the Quattro Turbo Coupes were all fully hand-built at Ingolstadt) would go through several engine variations throughout its lifetime, including a revised 2226cc 10-valve engine from the 1988 model year onwards (designated MB) before a subsequent (and more punchy) 2226cc 20-valve engine (designated RR) arrived on the scene a short while later from mid-1989 onwards.

It's probably also worth noting that the Quattro Turbo Coupe was subject to some of the most gruelling running tests (suspension, engine, chassis, etc.) that Audi has ever inflicted upon a car. In fact, the claim is that the only other production Audi to be tested at the same rigorous level is ... today's R8.

The idea for the Ur-quattro first came about in 1977 as the result of a chassis engineer's brainwave to develop a four-wheel variant of the Audi 80. The engineer, Jörg Bensinger, took inspiration from a vehicle called the Volkswagen Iltis, which had been developed for the German Army and proved untouchable in terms of traction in snow.

Through collaboration with Walter Treser (Director of Pre-Development) the test vehicle (codenamed A1 for Allrad, or allroad) went through pre-production testing before a final refinement was applied (Hans Nedvidek and Franz Tengler are credited for the idea of further improving on the machinations of the differential) , which made it ready for its show debut in 1980 and production shortly after.

The 2144cc in this particular car (designated WR) is a turbocharged 10-valve SOHC engine that produces 200PS and 285Nm. Coupled to a 1.3-tonne kg kerbweight, the century sprint was dispatched in just over 7 seconds and it had a top speed of 222km/h, no mean feat in 1980.

The Mercedes-Benz 190 E 2.3-16 would only be launched a few years later (intending to compete in the rally championships, but Audi effectively dominated the series with its potent combination of quattro all-wheel drive and turbocharging).

In person, this vibrant Red Ur-quattro we have with us is a spectacular sight (not least because  it is the only one left in Singapore); its road presence is quietly palpable and it accomplishes so much visually without recourse to oversized spoilers and outrageous bodykits.

In reality, this is not Audi's Tornado Red (which comes across as 'flatter' in contrast to this car's shade), but a more luxurious and flamboyant Rosso Corsa, a Ferrari code and a sort of a 'trademark' colour of the spraypaint specialist who repainted this car, Lim Yew Boo Spray Paint Company.

However, readers who are more concerned with the provenance of this remaining Ur-quattro in Singapore will be interested to learn that the car's original colour was Amazon Blue when it was first registered by Champion Motors back in 1985.

Under the fender flares, even the rims measure in at a mere 15-inches (almost puny in contrast to the TT RS' 18-inch footwear), but somehow, all the proportions look just right, with not a hair out of place.

Also, it is not until you park it alongside the TT RS that we appreciate how 'big' cars have become. Even then, a quick peek inside the Ur-quattro reveals a commodious cabin that would accommodate four adults in comfort, while in contrast, the TT RS would struggle to fit 2 adults into the +2 seats at the back.

The Ur-quattro's interior ambience emanates a sense of gravitas not found in many of today's cars; you get the sense that nothing is done merely for aesthetics but for a purpose. The front seats have been newly reuphostered but the black leather seats in the rear are nicely seasoned and give off the same sort of feel as the cracked armchairs in the lounge of an old-world era gentlemen's club.

This variant comes with the digital green dashboard (from model year 1983 revision), as well as a rotary differential locking control knob. Alongside the 2-setting diff control are LED graphical indicators that let the driver keep an eye on oil temperature and battery voltage. It was not til after 1987 that a Torsen differential was used, which replaced the manual centre differential lock of the earlier cars.

Patrizia also hopped onto the merry bandwagon as the 'ghost' in this machine. In addition to the array of warning lights and check systems, an autocheck unit with a female voice synthesiser was included in the package (disconnected in this car).

Due to long periods of inactivity, the owner consciously keeps the fuel at a low level, but the problem with this was it would trigger Patrizia's frequent exhortations to 'refuel'. So although we didn't have her yammering at us during the drive, we were ever conscious of the car's fuel level, especially after the owner told us it averages 4km/L during enthusiastic driving, although this would improve to about 7km/L on the highway.

At start-up, there's only a barely discernible hint of the 5-cylinder's off-beat throb (and certainly Audi's 5-pot beat is far more charismatic than the recent offerings from the Ford Group). Steering, clutch and pedal action are easy to work. The gear-shift quality is positive and short-of-throw to provide a sporty feel. There's none of that weighty, ponderous feel that cars of this vintage are typically associated with.

It's not until you gun it that the magical music starts. There's a delightful sense of rally-hero whimsy as you tackle the tarmac. Unfortunately, the brakes are a bit of a weak spot on the car so hard stops weren't the order of the day.

The Ur-quattro has the same agile feel as its Golf GTI (Mk I and II) contemporaries of the era and boost starts to build from low down the rev band for even easier tractability during daily drives. Due to the expanse of glass and window design, visibility out of the Ur-quattro is fantastic and one is always instantly aware of the surroundings.

The TT RS Coupe is animated by the same turbo'd 5-cylinder engine as the  TT RS Roadster we tried a few months ago. Main differences include the fixed roof (obviously!) and '+2' seats in the rear, which at best can accommodate two children under 6 and even then, they're likely to be enjoying the ride in a classic knee-to-chin position. Otherwise, the TT RS Coupe has the big wheels and body-kit that we already saw on the TT RS Roadster.

However, the TT RS Coupe's practicality isn't being called out here, nor should it be, since the star of the show is the engine. As jaded motoring hacks and enthusiasts, it really takes quite a bit to make us sit up and pay attention.

But then again, just because we don't rave about every new thing to appear (more bad than good) on the scene, we don't necessarily talk trash for the sake of it either, like the many 'critics' who bash the iPhone just because everybody has one.

As mentioned way up above, the last jewel in Audi's crown was the naturally-aspirated 4.2L V8...

So giving credit when it's due, Audi's new in-line 5-cylinder could well be the next diamond in the rough as we move beyond 2010. As far as we have soft spots for large-hearted naturally-aspirated engines, the assured competence of this new 5-cylinder continues to wow us.

Leaving the form factor aside for now (since not everybody's a fan of the TT), the amount of raw grunt on tap from just a prod of the right foot is staggering... even more so when you consider this is available across a wide rev band (incidentally, just like the Ur-quattro).

Turbo-lag is barely noticeable; moreover, the hearty 2.5L gives enough of a shove as you wait for full boost to arrive. The gear ratios are well-chosen to make sure the engine never falls out of the boost zone (once on the move).

Also, where the turbo'd 5 in the Ur-quattro made more of a genteel off-beat note, the TT RS snarls with a vengeance under hard acceleration (even more so with the 'S' button on). As quiet as it seems inside the cabin, trust us when we say this will turn many heads as you blast down a straight.

Like the TT RS Roadster, we feel that the steering is overly light on the TT RS Coupe. The clutch action and pedal feel has seen quite a bit of criticism, but this is something you can get used to. The steering however, is entirely different altogether, since it lacks the weight and feel that we think thoroughbred performance cars should possess.

Cabin-wise, its clearly geared towards spirited driving: sports seats hang on tight to the front occupants, there's a suitably chunky steering wheel to grip, sports pedals and the ribbed gear-knob look the part and provide better grip, snazzy instruments to look at and chrome accents that adorn the parts that you're likely to touch.

As much as the cabin of the TT RS seems to be so perfect, it doesn't quite give us the same warmth as the Ur-quattro.

Again, like the TT RS Roadster, the 'S' button livens things up for the driver. However, unlike the RS 4, where the driver's seat wings tighten around the body for a vise-like grip, on the TT RS, throttle response is sharpened and the suspension stiffens up noticeably; the former feature is perfect for track use but makes progress painful at low-speeds due to the resultant ultra-sensitivity of the gas pedal.

The brakes offer immense stopping power (dinner plate items that are almost as big as the rims on the Ur-quattro!) and the grip levels are unlikely to be exceeded on normal roads... unless you're doing something really stupid or reckless. Even in the wet, there's just so much confidence offered by quattro that one can tackle any road with security.

(Jump to Conclusion after Specs)

story and photos by mp

FAST FACTS : Audi Ur-quattro (Audi Quattro Turbo Coupe)
Engine: 2144cc (WR), 10-valve, in-line 5, SOHC
Maximum power @ rpm: 200PS @ 5500rpm
Maximum torque @ rpm: 285Nm @ 3500rpm
Bore x Stroke (mm): 79.5 x 86.4
Compression ratio: 7.0 : 1

Driven wheels: Permanent four-wheel drive
5-Speed Manual
Gear Ratios: 3.600/2.125/1.458/1.071/0.778:1 / R 3.500:1
Final drive: 3.889:1

0-100km/h: 7.3 seconds
Top speed: 222km/h

Front: MacPherson struts, lower wishbones, coil springs, telescopic dampers, anti-roll bar
Rear: MacPherson struts, lower wishbones, coil springs, telescopic dampers, anti-roll bar

Front: 280mm ventilated discs
Rear: 245mm discs
Wheels: 15-inch alloys
Tyres: 215/50 R15 Bridgestone RE-55S

L x B x H: 4404 x 1723 x 1344 mm
Wheelbase: 2524mm
Turning circle: 11.3m
Kerbweight: 1290kg
Fuel tank: 90L

Engine: 2480cc, 20-valve, in-line 5
Maximum power @ rpm: 340PS @ 5400-6500rpm
Maximum torque @ rpm: 450Nm @ 1600-5300rpm
Bore x Stroke (mm): 82.5 x 92.8
Compression ratio: 10.0:1

Driven wheels: Permanent all-wheel drive
Transmission: 6-Speed Manual
Gear Ratios: 3.57/2.16/1.89/1.43/1.16/0.97:1 / R 4.500:1
Final drive (1st to 4th): 3.765:1
Final drive (5th/6th): 2.909

0-100km/h: 4.6 seconds
Top speed: 248km/h (electronically limited)

Front: MacPherson struts, aluminium lower wishbones, coil springs, anti-roll bar
Rear: Four-link, coil springs, anti-roll bar

Front: Ventilated discs
Rear: Ventilated discs
Wheels: 18-inch alloys
Tyres: 245/40 R18

L x B x H: 4198 x 1842 x 1342 mm
Wheelbase: 2468mm
Turning circle: 10.96m
Kerbweight: 1450kg
Fuel tank: 60L

One is a veritable living legend, the other could well be a future classic... both bound together by the throbbing, off-beat 5-pot engines that lurk beneath their bonnets. Despite the age gap of the Ur-quattro, it's interesting to note that it still looks good to this day, even alongside its fresh-faced brethren, which goes to show that some designs continue to stand the test of Time.
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