More than 30 years ago, Audi introduced its quattro all-wheel-drive system. And now that competitors are beginning to understand the benefits of AWD and pitch them to American luxury consumers, Audi of America and Audi AG are extending their lead in the technology.
That is one conclusion of a recent piece on AWD by Joe White of the Wall Street Journal, who examined how all-wheel-drive is going from “novelty to necessity” in the premium car market.
Of course, Audi substantially created the AWD market in the luxury segment in the U.S., and worldwide, while Subaru was a leader for the technology in the mass market. The AWD attribute created a significant technological advantage, and marketplace niche, for Audi which helped attract Americans to the brand over time.
And as Audi became the fastest-growing premium brand in the U.S. market over the last several years, the advantages of quattro helped build and have helped sustain that momentum.
Even this year, the brand has introduced a new version of the Audi allroad with quattro all-wheel drive, a venerable nameplate that drew many Americans to the Audi lineup several years ago and which now is reappearing in the market after a several-year absence.
Audi is launching a new version of quattro that is “lighter and able to react faster than ever before. The newspaper said that the newly designed crown-gear center differential that sends power to the wheels weighs 11 pounds, down from 15 pounds in the previous generation.
Barry Hoch, Senior Product Manager for Audi of America, told Audi progress that the new system is able to mechanically transfer more power between the axles than the previous generation of self-locking center differential.
Audi also is “experimenting with hybrid all-wheel-drive systems that use electric motors instead of gears,” the paper said, “and fiber optics instead of driveshafts.”
The Journal noted that quattro and systems used by some Audi rivals don’t send an equal amount of power to all four wheels at all times. They can “continually shift the flow of power from front to back and side to side, responding to data from the car’s brakes, steering or other systems,” it said.
The system can send “a touch of extra power” to the wheels on one side of the car to guide it through a sharp turn even if the road isn’t wet.
“The Audi Quattro system gives the average driver peace of mind in all weather conditions and the performance enthusiast an added advantage when the road twists and turns,”Hoch told Audi progress.