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The joy of thrashing Audis in the snow

By Andy Enright, 02 Mar 2021 Features

The joy of thrashing Audis in the snow

Enright reflects on the quattro antics of his younger days

Audi’s quattro story was already 14 years old when I bought my first. It was a Coupe GT quattro, narrow body, with an atmo 2.2-litre lump and finished in Lago metallic.

It had been impounded by UK customs as part of a drugs confiscation and offloaded to auction. Fortunately, I knew the security guard at the block who, for the price of a deep-pan Hawaiian, agreed to swap the plug leads round so that the thing went hiccupping and farting through the sale with no bidders other than yours truly.

Sorry, your Maj, won’t happen again.

It was the first of a few quattro models I’d end up owning, and it was undoubtedly my favourite.

With just 100kW at its elbow, it was no ball of fire, with a power-to-weight ratio much the same as a modern 1.5-litre MX-5; but when you spent as much of winter as possible over a mile above sea level in the Alps, with ready access to a Trophée Andros ice-racing circuit and a snowy road with 21 hairpins leading up to it (keen cyclists will be mentally geotagging me right now), it wasn’t far short of perfect.

MORE Best of Audi quattro: Ur-Quattro v RS2 Avant v RS4 v R8

I still recall the five-pot’s tappety thrum, the heady smell of petrochemicals denaturing from the dash, the diff lock switch set against a Tron-like grid and the way the leather gear knob had been burnished by many thousands of kilometres of hard driving.

Most of all, I loved what this $4K beater taught me: how to shift the masses of the car about to counter its inherent understeer, what the tyre friction circle meant in practice, how to properly position the car on the road in bad weather to maximise the quattro drivetrain’s purchase at the contact patch.

I learned more about vehicle dynamics while driving that old Audi in the snow than I ever did showing guys in supercars which way the Nürburgring went for a living.

Because I was young and had spent any available funds on skis and petrol I was largely penniless, and skimping on essential maintenance inevitably caught up with me.

MORE The 40 most incredible quattro moments

One night, while engaging in a spirited cross-country drive, the Audi’s cam belt snapped and I got to learn the meaning of ‘interference engine’, so E787DPD was dragged away to the local breaker’s yard and a hard lesson was taken on board.

Since then, I’ve had the opportunity to own and run quicker and more venerated quattro models - a V8 RS4 was a highlight - but, as is so often the case, the amount you spend on a car can be inversely proportional to the delight you take in actually driving it.

That old Coupe GT quattro was so much fun because it was such an enabling thing; a low-consequence way to learn while engendering a grin that you could post a wok into.

Let it be known that despite the prestige badging, there are plenty of ways into the quattro family. If you want to get in on the Audi action yourself, make sure to check out our comprehensive buyer’s guide here.