Like Audi models, there are different versions of quattro.
We drive a new S3, RS 6, and RS e-tron GT around Circuit Mecaglisse to sample the systems.
Not all all-wheel-drive systems are equal – this is a fact. Above all of them is quattro which, for all intents are purposes, is the one that started it all. Be it for safety or, let’s face it, performance, AWD is key and if you own an Audi, you understand exactly what I’m saying. And no matter if you drive an A3, an A7, or an all-electric e-tron model, there’s a quattro system for your vehicle.
AWD is often taken for granted as, for the most part, when driving conditions are ideal, despite the system working, it operates in complete transparency. While is certainly an advantage, it belies how complex the technology is which is why Audi invited members of the automotive media to the glorious Circuit Mecaglisse in Northern Quebec in the dead of winter. Here, on slippery, icy, snow-covered surfaces, we’d tangle with three versions of quattro built into three very different Audi vehicles.
2022 Audi S3
You’d be forgiven to think that the A3 and S3 have a lesser system given where they sit in the product line-up. You’d also be wrong. The new 306-horsepower S3’s quattro layout features a multi-plate clutch ahead of the rear axle-mounted differential. Via the standard 7-speed S tronic dual-clutch transmission, the power and torque can vary between the front and rear axles. Power distribution is influenced by Audi’s Drive Select drive modes or the amount of grip available.
Under most normal driving conditions, the front wheels drive the car however the clutch pack will engage immediately based on as little as steering angle or, obviously, wheel slippage and throttle application.
Thanks to its size and weight, the S3 turned out to be the most controllable and enjoyable car to push on the circuit. Nimble, agile, and powerful, the S3’s quattro layout delivers instant highly-predictable traction in all conditions. Taming this car is completed in only a matter of moments as confidence quickly sets in. This is a great car.
2022 Audi RS 6
I referred to this car as “the one” and still stand by this statement. The twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 and its 591 horsepower are as addictive as ever and thanks to the standard quattro permanent all-wheel drive, it cannot be stopped. Well, that is as long as you don’t plunge too deep into the throttle and forget to release it during an exercise…
The RS 6’s system provides constant power to both the front and rear wheels. Out of the box, quattro splits power 40:60 between the front and rear axles. Depending on driving conditions again, or driver inputs, quattro will distribute torque as needed up to 70% upfront or 85% to the rear wheels. The all-mechanical centre differential sees to this.
Through the mostly narrow portions of the circuit, the RS 6 requires more attention and restraint. On the oval or wider sections, full throttle is a must if mostly to bask in the V8’s melody. The RS 6, despite its size and weight, is far more communicative via its mechanicals and commands than one expects. Managing the weight and how it transfers as the car rotates can be intimidating as your right foot makes it happen, keeps it going, or not, as I discovered…
2022 RS e-tron GT
This car is about hyper-efficiency is every sense of the term. As the absolute sportiest iteration of Audi’s all-electric e-tron offensive, efficiency here is about momentum. With up to 637 horsepower in boost mode, the RS e-tron GT is a formidable supercar-killer.
The GT’s brand of quattro continuously, constantly varies and manages power between the front and rear axles for the exact amount of traction required no matter the conditions.
Audi’s Drive Select drive modes impact all matters of driving controls in all Audi vehicles and in the GT, they play an important role in pre-setting the quattro system. In “efficiency”, the front motor is prioritized while in “comfort”, both electric motors work together to maximize energy conservation. Selecting “dynamic” mode, the focus is put on the rear motor. In any situation, torque can be distributed between the axles at a rate about five times faster than with a mechanical quattro drivetrain.
On the track at Mecaglisse, the RS e-tron GT showed its weight and sheer girth through the tighter sections of track where caution was required. The instant throttle response made it easy to get the rear to swing around however unless immediately countering with opposite lock through the rather numb-feeling steering, snowbanks got close fast. This one needs more room to stretch its powerful legs.
As can plainly be seen, there’s a quattro for every Audi and application. Our day at Mecaglisse for the Audi winter drive experience reminds us that all iterations of quattro have an answer for more traction.