RAC Cars News


All Wheel Performance

By raccars Published

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At one time, four wheel drive powertrains were strictly for vehicles that had difficult terrain to traverse, such as Land Rovers used for agricultural work or Land Cruisers in desert sand dunes. Performance came from two, probably rear wheel, drive machines. However at some point, someone realised that four wheel drives offer the kind of grip that allows performance car drivers to mush their metal just a little bit further before disaster strikes. Attempts were made in the Sixties, but in the Eighties, Audi brought four wheel drive performance cars into the mainstream with the legendary Quattro system.

Audi Qauttro

The start of a legend, Audi released the Quattro in the Eighties with a 400 unit production run, to comply with homologation regulations and remain eligible for racing. By the time the last Quattro rolled off the production line in 1991, the hugely successful and brutally poweful car had sold 11,000 units. Since then, the Quattro system has been applied to the other cars in the Audi range and set the standard for other manufacturers to follow.

Ford Sapphire RS Cosworth 4x4

The boy racer favourite was more commonly found in rear wheel drive format but, in 1988, Ford updated the Sierra with the Sapphire, in an attempt to refine and dignify the car's image somewhat. The 4x4 version in 1990 saw the Cosworth come of age in magnificent style, with all wheel drive lifting its superb handling and 220bhp to new heights.

Jensen FF

One of the first performance cars to experiment with the 4WD format, the 1966 FF was revolutionary at the time. This was the first time a car designed for road use was fitted not only with four wheel drive but also with ABS. The results were spectacular but with only 320 Ffs ever built, survivors are thin on the ground.

Lancia Delta Integrale

Taking its lead from Audi, the Lancia Delta Integrale arguably surpassed its German rival with its incredibly tenacious grip adding some stability to a ferocious power output. Nothing else in the rally world could keep up and the Lancia retains a reputation as an Eighties legend.

Peugeot 205 T16

Another homologation effort to enable the 205 T16 to compete in Group B rallying, only 200 road legal T16s were built in the Eighties. Adding four wheel drive to the ultimate in hot hatches was a stroke of genius. While the road going versions were far more civilised than their rally track counterparts, they're still a massively entertaining machine and a fabulous icon of what turned out to be a decade of motoring high points.

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