Road test - 1990 Audi Quattro 20v
Story by Shane O' Donoghue, pictures by Kelvin Fagan - November 2001.
If this were a modern car road test then there would be more bad points than good. However, difficult as it sometimes is, we must remember that the Audi Quattro 20v under test was produced in 1990, and the model itself has been around since 1983.
With that in mind, and your foot to the floor on an open road, the Quattro soon shows its good side. 220 bhp isn't terribly intimidating, but you must remember that it is complemented by 228 lb ft of torque and typical turbo-style acceleration. Which is to say, there is a certain amount of lag, but to be honest, a distinctive whistle and a very acceptable surge accompany any engine speed higher than 3000 rpm. This is not in the same league as the Quattro Sport we have also tested, but it is still very quick.
Being one of the first aluminium four-valve per cylinder heads, the 20v does actually thrive on revs. Thankfully, the limiter is quite high, by which stage you will want to move onto the next cog to do it all again. Changing cogs. Now there is a complaint I would have if this were a new car. It almost hurts to change gear in the 20v. The box is obtrusive and nasty. Saying that, there is no vagueness in the change, and, so long as you have the upper body strength it is difficult to miss a gear. Partnering this is a clutch, which has no feel and very little travel.
The middle pedal offers plenty of braking power, but not a lot of communication. The system is powerful though, as it should be with large discs at the front and rear. ABS is standard, but you can turn it off for those off-road locked differential moments… Needless to say we didn't explore the car's abilities that far.
The 20v is very similar to the much older Quattro Sport inside, though the Sport seems to exude more quality. The nasty digital dash in the 20v doesn't help. It does actually work quite well, and is crystal clear, but for engine speed, and more importantly in this country, road speed is something the driver should be able to see out of the corner of their eye. In this car, it just adds to the late 80s feel of the car.
The overall shape is now quite distinctive as a Quattro. I suppose it should be - the silhouette has not changed since 1983. This version gives the impression of being a very long car. Thankfully, it has much more rear legroom than many modern coupes. Small diameter wheels (15 inch) in comparison to modern sports cars do not help the appearance. The wheels themselves are very much part of the Quattro style. White race wheels under white bodywork would never be my own personal choice though.
Back to the driving. The car does not feel particularly large while pressing on, and it is quite nimble on all but the narrowest of roads. There is plenty of grip as would be expected. The limits are high, on wet or dry roads. I would imagine an owner of this car would easily shrug off boy racers in their GTis etc.
So, as a continuation of the Quattro family, this car certainly had its place, though the body and style were past their best. Witness the arrival only a year later of the new shape Coupe based on the successful Audi 80 range. This car then is unique in the Quattro family tree. It managed to be outdated and modern at the same time. I would not want one personally, but there are many people out there that are bored with the anodyne Subaru/Mitsubishi Evo theme. Those cars are much better dynamically, but they certainly do not have as much character. When testing them, we can judge them on modern standards, but how do you measure character?
Audi UK site