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Thursday 16th February 2012

Driven: Audi A1 Quattro

Chris Harris gets in a spin with the bonkers £40K 256hp A1 Quattro



I love the motor industry: just when you think it has been standardised into a series of predictable formats, a car like the A1 Quattro comes along.

£40K, 256hp - big numbers for a small car
£40K, 256hp - big numbers for a small car
As we all know, the A1 shares its platform with the students' favourite the VW Polo. In having 256hp, it opens itself up to being described as a near-260hp Polo, which is actually a very cool association to foster.

But more bizarrely for a shopping trolley boasting the power-to-weight ratio of a Porsche 964, the narrative behind this car is actually as interesting as the finished product.

You see Audi has a strict hierarchy of fastness. Its normal cars are developed by certain teams, the hotter S models go to a group fed on slightly spicier food and the RS versions - the fastest of all - always go to the people at Quattro GmbH, who dine exclusively on Scotch Bonnets.

Harris goes all rally style in the baby Quattro
Harris goes all rally style in the baby Quattro
The A1 Quattro is a very hot little car. That 256hp from the 2.0-litre TFSI motor is supported by 258lb ft and Audi claims 0-62mph in 5.7sec. In fact it's about as potent as we'd expect an RS1 to be, and yet it has been nowhere near Quattro GmbH.

That's like BMW launching the 1 M Coupe and not consulting the boys at M. Ask Audi why this is the case and it says the team at Quattro have been busy on other projects (RS4, revised R8 etc) but it does seem strange that the company has circumnavigated its own, it has to be said hard-earned, performance heritage to launch one of its silliest cars for many years.

There are over 600 changes to the A1 to make this car, and herein lies another area of suspicion. Audi is making just 333 of these cars (no significance to the number, it just 'likes' it), all in left-hand drive, and yet it has made alterations to the body in white to swap the rear torsion beam from the standard car to a multi-link set-up that accommodates the rear running gear.

Dour interior at odds with mechanical mentalism
Dour interior at odds with mechanical mentalism
The fuel tank is now saddle-shaped to make way for the prop-shaft, there are new front suspension components and, naturally, a completely revised set of spring and damper settings and, flying completely in the face of other fast Audis, it comes with a manual gearbox only. It all rather looks like Audi blowing a raspberry at Quattro GmbH. To add insult, it also uses the Quattro badge in a markedly Ur-fashion.

And do those read like modifications that members of the board of Audi would okay for use in just 333 cars? Correct: we were not born yesterday. Homologating the new fuel tank alone probably absorbed the budget Lotus spent on the entire Evora project. There will surely be other 4WD A1s, some may even wear S and RS badges. One might even be an Allroad.

Ice drive proves little about A1's actual ability
Ice drive proves little about A1's actual ability
Now you might have noticed that I have avoided talking about the way the new A1 Quattro drives. I apologise for this, but there is a reason. I don't really know how it drives. I spent half an hour driving it like a wally on a frozen lake, during which time I deduced the following.

Despite weighing 1,300kg, it is surprisingly fast. The gear ratios seem quite long and throttle response is pretty sharp. The exhaust makes nice parpy sounds when power is cut suddenly.

The Haldex 4WD system still feels front-biased (because it is), but on small studs and a frozen lake it'll hold great big, all-four-wheels-pointing-in-the-same-direction slides that are immense fun. But don't actually give any indication of what the car will be like on the road.

Soundtrack good from twin exhausts
Soundtrack good from twin exhausts
The handbrake works.

After this I met Stig Blomqvist, who was quiet and heroic, just the way you want your heroes to be, but that didn't give me any better idea of what the A1 Quattro was like to drive.

Nor did a few thoroughly enjoyable laps on the ice in a revised RS5, with a new electromechanical steering which was so light at standstill I thought the wheel had come loose, and a few detail changes. And which was fitted with the optional sport differential.

The car was just brilliant on the lake, it didn't understeer at all and actually exposed the weaknesses of the A1's Haldex system which does occasionally make the wrong call and punt all motive forces to the front wheels, right at the moment you want all drive going to the rear. Does this alter my opinion of the RS5 on the road? A little bit, but I still don't rate it as a road car.

None of this really matters. Only 20 A1 Quattros will come to the UK costing £39,930 each. 14 have already gone. One will be kept by Audi UK for its historic fleet. In the context of what else is available for the money, the car is laughable. For those who want the ultimate Waitrose chariot, it is probably the most desirable car on sale, oozing with Audi detail, style and showroom pizzazz.

And it isn't the last fast A1 we're going to see. Happy days.



AUDI A1 QUATTRO
Engine:
1,998cc in-line four
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Power (hp): 256@6,000rpm
Torque (lb ft): 258@2,500rpm
0-62mph: 5.7sec
Top speed: 152mph
Weight: 1,300kg
MPG: 33.2mpg (NEDC combined)
CO2: n/a
Price new: £39,930

Revised RS5 tasted alongside A1
Revised RS5 tasted alongside A1
Harris eye view of the new A1 Quattro
Harris eye view of the new A1 Quattro

 

Chris Harris
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Author Discussion

goron59

Original Poster:

394 posts

57 months

[news] 
Thursday 16th February 2012 quote quote all
Bonkers smile I want a frozen lake.

Tin Hat

618 posts

95 months

[news] 
Thursday 16th February 2012 quote quote all
Thick end of £ 40K - Crazy

Crusoe

3,187 posts

117 months

[news] 
Thursday 16th February 2012 quote quote all
Similar to a 135i when compared to a 1M then? Baby M car that wasn't by M sport division.

Would be a bit peeved if you spent £40k on one and then they bring out a faster RS version in right hand drive later on.

Big Six

37 posts

33 months

[news] 
Thursday 16th February 2012 quote quote all
Crusoe said:
Similar to a 135i when compared to a 1M then? Baby M car that wasn't by M sport division.

Would be a bit peeved if you spent £40k on one and then they bring out a faster RS version in right hand drive later on.
Which is exactly what they will do.

Big Six

37 posts

33 months

[news] 
Thursday 16th February 2012 quote quote all
40K for a Polo.

The sad thing is people will still buy it & not even mention the RIDICULAS price.

I just couldn't bring myself ever owning a Audi. I would just feel embarrassed.
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LotusOmega375D

2,574 posts

39 months

[news] 
Thursday 16th February 2012 quote quote all
What a disappointment. I was expecting something like Hannu Mikola's A1 quattro.



Edited by LotusOmega375D on Thursday 16th February 17:30

Dr G

11,260 posts

128 months

[news] 
Thursday 16th February 2012 quote quote all
Loads of fun I'm sure and I'm glad to see CH confirming he feels both tests are ultimately useless laugh

Can't wait to see proper road tests for each.

craigb84

1,138 posts

38 months

[news] 
Thursday 16th February 2012 quote quote all
Is it me or does anything remotely interesting from ze Germans just have a £40k price tag slapped on it these days?

It's all getting a bit predictable really.

I feel a bit like fergie when he keeps saying there's no value in the market.

anything fast

977 posts

50 months

[news] 
Thursday 16th February 2012 quote quote all
MENTAL CAR.. MENTAL PRICE frown

kambites

41,078 posts

107 months

[news] 
Thursday 16th February 2012 quote quote all
craigb84 said:
Is it me or does anything remotely interesting from ze Germans just have a £40k price tag slapped on it these days?
It's called "inflation".

What I want to know is how the hell a 260bhp 4wd car of that size is so slow to 60? Similar power to weight ratio to my car, better power to drag ratio and better traction yet it's slower?

MonkeyMatt

5,323 posts

93 months

[news] 
Thursday 16th February 2012 quote quote all
Who cares how much it costs! none of us are going to be able to buy one! Thank god companies make cars like this!

How often do we see concept cars and moan when they dont actually make them! Well done Audi

GroundEffect

8,021 posts

42 months

[news] 
Thursday 16th February 2012 quote quote all
kambites said:
craigb84 said:
Is it me or does anything remotely interesting from ze Germans just have a £40k price tag slapped on it these days?
It's called "inflation".

What I want to know is how the hell a 260bhp 4wd car of that size is so slow to 60? Similar power to weight ratio to my car, better power to drag ratio and better traction yet it's slower?
Drag is irrelevant in 0-60.

thinfourth2

30,378 posts

90 months

[news] 
Thursday 16th February 2012 quote quote all
Or for the same money you could have a brand new fiat panda and a brand new caterham R300

But neither of they says how rich you are

kambites

41,078 posts

107 months

[news] 
Thursday 16th February 2012 quote quote all
GroundEffect said:
Drag is irrelevant in 0-60.
confused Are you saying that a car has no drag at 60mph?

wab172uk

904 posts

113 months

[news] 
Thursday 16th February 2012 quote quote all
Big Six said:
40K for a Polo.

The sad thing is people will still buy it & not even mention the RIDICULAS price.

I just couldn't bring myself ever owning a Audi. I would just feel embarrassed.
So you've not driven an R8 or last gen RS4 then?

Hardly embarrasing driving an R8?

PS. I have an R8, so may be biased.

EDLT

14,716 posts

92 months

[news] 
Thursday 16th February 2012 quote quote all
kambites said:
craigb84 said:
Is it me or does anything remotely interesting from ze Germans just have a £40k price tag slapped on it these days?
It's called "inflation".

What I want to know is how the hell a 260bhp 4wd car of that size is so slow to 60? Similar power to weight ratio to my car, better power to drag ratio and better traction yet it's slower?
The performance figures sound about right to me, a slightly heavier Evo VIII 260 did 0-60 in six seconds
http://www.autocar.co.uk/CarReviews/RoadTestsData/...

MonkeyMatt

5,323 posts

93 months

[news] 
Thursday 16th February 2012 quote quote all
Ive just looked at the performance figures of the S3! This A1 must be quicker than they are suggesting

RichTBiscuit

403 posts

37 months

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Thursday 16th February 2012 quote quote all
I don't get it. Why is a 256 bhp hatch 'bonkers'? Alfa did it 10 years ago with the 147 GTA and many others have done it since.

It does make you wonder if driving this on snow is the only way to get a journo to claim its 'fun' or perhaps I'm just being cynical.

AFC1886

471 posts

36 months

[news] 
Thursday 16th February 2012 quote quote all
What happened to the cool alloy wheels!?

craigb84

1,138 posts

38 months

[news] 
Thursday 16th February 2012 quote quote all
kambites said:
It's called "inflation".

What I want to know is how the hell a 260bhp 4wd car of that size is so slow to 60? Similar power to weight ratio to my car, better power to drag ratio and better traction yet it's slower?
Call it what you want but last time I checked there was a long list of cars that are quicker, cheaper and probably a lot better.

Torque isn't exactly mind blowing so I'm not surprised the 0-60 is what it is.
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