Audi has announced that the first Audi A1 quattro prototype has started testing on the snow-laden roads around Montreal. An Audi A1 quattro prototype currently undergoing baptism grappling with freezing conditions on Canada’s densely snow-packed roads. The one-off development car is one of the stars of the ‘Fascination of quattro’ event taking place in Montreal to celebrate the past, present and future of the legendary four-wheel-drive system, which reached its 30th anniversary in 2010. Packing a 182bhp 1.4-litre supercharged and turbocharged engine, along with four-wheel-drive traction, this is the fastest and most capable Audi A1 yet.
The latest member of the burgeoning quattro family uses technology very similar to that used in A3 and TT models. At its core is an electronically controlled, hydraulically actuated multi-plate clutch located in front of the rear axle for an optimized distribution of weight. Inside is a package of plates that rotate in an oil bath.
During normal driving, the clutch sends most of the engine’s power to the front wheels. If the front axle loses grip, the clutch can instantly transfer torque to the rear axle by forcing the plate packages together. A pressure reservoir helps the electric pump to develop the necessary oil pressure.
Following in the wheeltracks of the range-topping front-wheel- drive A1 1.4 TFSI – revealed at the Paris Motor Show in September and on sale later this year – the A1 quattro, which uses the same engine, is aimed at buyers who want maximum traction in all conditions.
And it certainly delivers. With the engine’s impressive power output going to every wheel, the car gives you so much more confidence than a regular front-wheel-drive version, even with ESP.
The A1 quattro uses the latest version of quattro all-wheel drive for smaller cars, first seen on the TT and hotter TT-RS, so it is a dynamic package. But in a smaller car, it’s even more fun.
Power and torque can be swapped 100 per cent front to rear instantly – and there was no time on either the cold, hard tarmac or on the snow-packed ice track when we felt out of control, the A1 behaving predictably and safely. The engine is very impressive, too. There’s a wide power band and really punchy performance all the way to the 7,000rpm red line. Audi quotes a rapid 0-62mph time of only 6.9 seconds, and it feels every bit as quick as the figures suggest, while 250Nm of torque available from only 1,500rpm makes for easy overtaking manoeuvres.
Beyond the performance improvements over the standard car, the body gets a sinister extended rear roof spoiler. On the inside, the backs of the seats are coloured the same as the exterior paintwork – rust orange in the case of our car. The cabin is also available in sporty S line trim. With Alcantara suede touches, it really is a smart place to be.
When the A1 quattro arrives in the UK next year, it will be available with 16-inch alloy wheels as standard, with 17- and 18-inch rims as options – the same as on the front-wheel-drive machine.
The quattro set-up is not solely planned for the 1.4 TFSI engine trim, but also for the 1.6 TDI. Expect to pay about a £1,500 premium for all-wheel drive. That’s certainly not cheap, but if you live in the wetter or colder parts of the country – or you simply want the security that quattro brings – this little machine comes highly recommended.