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First drive: Audi A4 quattro ultra. Image by Audi.

First drive: Audi A4 quattro ultra
Audi's latest quattro development takes economy very serious indeed.

   



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Audi A4 quattro ultra

4 4 4 4 4

Four-wheel drive and economy have never been happy companions, but Audi's new 'quattro ultra' system aims to combine the benefits of four driven wheels with decent mpg and emissions at the same time. We've driven the new system in the latest Audi A4.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Audi A4 quattro ultra
Price: circa 35,000
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol
Transmission: seven-speed DSG automatic, four-wheel drive
Body style: four-door saloon
Top speed: 155mph
0-62mph: circa 5.8 seconds
Power: 252hp at 5,000rpm
Torque: 320Nm at 1,425rpm

What's this?

Not, as the quattro ultra name might suggest, a revamp of the much-loved, massively-missed Ur-Quattro that kicked off the whole four-wheel drive production cars story. There's one of those here, complete with blistered wheelarches in all its turbocharged five-cylinder and late '80s loveliness, but it's here as a reminder of Audi's quattro history, and we're here to learn about its future. Unsurprisingly, that means economy; the ultra badge is one Audi slings on the boot lids and grilles of its most parsimonious models, rather than potential Pikes Peak and World Rally Championship winners. More's the pity.

So we're in an A4, one of the very cars we may have driven on the original launch in Venice, but Audi's engineers have torn out the gizzards and fitted its latest quattro technology. That's a four-wheel drive system promising economy gains of around 0.3 litres/100km, or in CO2 speak, that's tax liability to you and me, an improvement in emissions to the tune of 7g/km. As 43 per cent of all Audis sold have all four wheels driven, that's a useful saving. This new quattro ultra tech specifically fits the longitudinally engined Audis, which encompasses the A4, Q5, A6, A7, Q7 and A8 models, though with it being limited to around 500Nm of torque it'll be restricted to the smaller output four-cylinder and V6 engine line-up, with more powerful V6s and V8s retaining the conventional quattro set-up.

How does it drive?

Imperceptibly. Which is a good thing, as quattro ultra represents one of the most fundamental changes in Audi's four-wheel drive since Audi strapped a few talented but imagination-limited rally drivers into Ur-Quattros and sent them into the forest stages. The quattro ultra system is basically part time four-wheel drive. The engineers will argue that it's not, but simplistically, as it decouples the drive to the rear then it is. It's how it chooses to do so and when, that's clever, as Audi utilises all the sensors it can to predict with real accuracy when it'll need to divert drive to the rear. It monitors everything, from throttle position to driver style, grip levels, steering angle and more besides. It doesn't, as yet, use GPS info from the satnav or utilise car-to-X communication - though both are certainties as the tech evolves.

Dieter Weidemann, Head of Development All-Wheel Drive Systems, at Audi says: "the brief was clear, keep dynamics but combined with fuel consumption comparable with a front-wheel drive car." To achieve that the quattro ultra system manages a pair of clutches, one at the front of the driveshaft and another at the rear differential. There's a new lubrication system in the gearbox, too, and quattro ultra works with both the six-speed manual or seven-speed DSG automatic transmissions.

With the data from the sensors monitored 100 times a second the system is, Audi says, predictive by as much as half a second, meaning it shouldn't ever be caught out. The decoupling allows rotational or splashing drag losses to be removed, helping with the economy. Crucially, the system feels four-wheel drive when you'd expect it to. On our drive that was around 50 per cent of the time (we know that from an iPad and an engineer rather than from feeling it), during an admittedly sedate route through an alpine pass. On the motorway or around town the quattro ultra would be predominantly front-wheel drive, with obvious benefits to economy.


Kyle Fortune - 7 Mar 2016



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2016 Audi A4 quattro. Image by Audi.2016 Audi A4 quattro. Image by Audi.2016 Audi A4 quattro. Image by Audi.2016 Audi A4 quattro. Image by Audi.2016 Audi A4 quattro. Image by Audi.

2016 Audi A4 quattro. Image by Audi.2016 Audi A4 quattro. Image by Audi.2016 Audi A4 quattro. Image by Audi.2016 Audi A4 quattro. Image by Audi.2016 Audi A4 quattro. Image by Audi.



2016 Audi A4 quattro. Image by Audi.
 

2016 Audi A4 quattro. Image by Audi.
 

2016 Audi A4 quattro. Image by Audi.
 

2016 Audi A4 quattro. Image by Audi.
 

2016 Audi A4 quattro. Image by Audi.
 

2016 Audi A4 quattro. Image by Audi.
 






 

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