Audi A1 quattro first drive

Audi A1 2.0 TFSI quattro Faced with such a huge range of the latest Audi models to try at their annual end of year media range review, what to drive was the question?

 Having driven most of their cars in one form or another there was one model in particular which stood out as a must-do.

This would be my one and only drive in the exclusive limited edition A1 quattro because just 20 of the left hand drive, all wheel drive, three door, high specification A1s are destined for the UK and all of course are already spoken for out of a production run of 333 units. No more are planned.

This £41,035 ultra-exclusive model is not only the first A1 to enter production with quattro all-wheel-drive but is also the first to adopt a larger capacity petrol engine. It has a turbocharged and directly injected 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine which delivers its maximum 256PS output at 6,000rpm, and its punchy 350Nm torque peak between 2,500 and 4,500rpm. It enables the very hot hatch to power from rest to 62mph in 5.7 seconds and on to a top speed of 152mph and delivers up to 32.8mpg in the Combined Cycle. C02 emissions are 199g/km so the road tax is £460 for the VED First Year rate reducing to £250 for the second year onwards.  

Power is channelled via a quick-shifting six-speed manual transmission to the quattro permanent all-wheel drive system, the heart of which is an electronically controlled, hydraulically operated multi-plate clutch located in an oil bath for durability.

During normal driving, the clutch sends most of the engine’s power to the front wheels. If traction decreases there, the clutch can transfer torque steplessly to the rear axle in just a few milliseconds by forcing the package of plates together.  If a wheel on one of the axles starts to lose grip it is braked by the electronic differential lock. The electronic stability program also includes a sport mode which sets a higher threshold for intervention and can be switched off completely for track use.

The chassis of the Audi A1 quattro has been adapted to suit the dynamics of the drivetrain, and the multi-plate clutch has also been positioned on the rear axle in the interest of optimum weight distribution. The front suspension is a McPherson strut construction, while a four-link set-up is used at the rear. Responsive and efficient electro-hydraulic power steering with a direct 14.8:1 steering ratio complements this taut and well balanced configuration.

Audi A1 2.0 TFSI quattro Finished exclusively in Glacier White metallic body paintwork, complemented by 18-inch alloy wheels, also in Glacier White, and a high-gloss black roof, the A1 quattro stands out as something special. It is also distinguished by the unique design for the front and rear bumpers, the grille and its frame, red painted ‘wings’ within the headlights, a large two-colour rear spoiler and two sizeable, 100-millimetre diameter polished exhaust tailpipes.

Finishing touches such as tinted LED rear lights, tinted rear windows and a contrasting black colouring for the rear hatch and rear diffuser will also mark out the top-ranking A1, as will quattro badges on the grille, roof arch and rear hatch which bear testament to this car’s unique position as the first ever all-wheel-drive production A1.

At 3,987mm in length, the A1 quattro is 33mm longer than the ‘standard’ three door car on which it is based. It matches its counterparts for width and height at 1,740mm and 1,416mm. Luggage capacity is 210-litres with rear seats up rising to 860-litres with them folded.

Purposeful black dominates the interior of the Audi A1 quattro, from the high gloss finish for the lower section of the centre console to the seats and door armrests finished in black Silk Nappa leather with contrasting red stitching. The multi adjustable front S sport seats have pronounced bolsters, integrated head restraints and quattro insignias on their backrests. The footrest and the pedal caps are made of brushed stainless steel. Red stitching frames the floor mats, and the door sill trims bear A1 quattro badges.

The instrument cluster incorporates a number of eye-catching features, including white needles, a red-faced speedometer, a quattro logo and a colour Driver’s Information System. The multifunction sports steering wheel is flat-bottomed, trimmed in leather with contrasting red stitching and sports the car’s serial number. The gear lever knob is made of aluminium, and many other controls have an aluminium-look finish. As befits its standing at the pinnacle of the A1 range the quattro is suitably lavishly equipped with many features taken directly from the luxury class. Xenon plus headlights, the high-beam assistant, adaptive brake lights, an LED interior lighting package, light and rain sensors, the acoustic rear parking system, automatic air conditioning, electric front windows and cruise control all feature.

The infotainment kit includes a CD changer, DAB digital radio, Audi Music Interface, hard disk based MMI navigation plus, a 465-watt 14-speaker Bose sound system with illuminated woofers in the doors and mobile phone preparation with online services. This feature enables a Bluetooth-equipped online car phone to connect to the Internet and deliver special web services, including Google Earth, to the car. Passengers can also connect their mobile devices to the integrated Wi-Fi hotspot.

Audi A1 2.0 TFSI quattro The only thing missing from this special hot Audi are the desirable RS badges. But the A1 quattro does not come from Audi’s RS performance arm, it is built off-line in the same factory alongside production A1 models. I am delighted to say that is no detriment to the car’s very real performance capabilities.

Indeed it is one of the few smaller quattro equipped models from Audi that doesn’t seem weighed down by the all wheel drive system. It is less sanitised so you can actually feel what the car is doing and how it is coping with extreme cornering speeds on surfaces that are not predictable so the feedback to the driver is most welcome.

The car felt well balanced with no sudden changes from understeer to oversteer. The steering is sharp and precise and thankfully the suspension is not so firm that the high speed ride becomes too uncomfortable and unsettled.  Yes it is a true race car when needed but it also coped easily with normal driving conditions on the open road or in stop and start traffic.  The petrol engine, although it produces its maximum power at 6,000rpm, is not peaky because the wide spread of torque gives immediate and excellent response right through the rpm range. The petrol unit does not have to be revved furiously, just put your foot down and go.

The only downside for the UK market is its left hand drive configuration which makes over-taking a bit more difficult but the surge of acceleration does mean getting past slower vehicles is less hazardous. Having the A1 three door supermini body does mean of course, as with the standard car, rear quarter visibility is not very good. Oh and there is the small matter of fuel consumption – just 21.2mpg and that was driving enthusiastically but legally on public roads.

In all other respects this is a notable car, one for collectors and my driving archives.

MILESTONES. Audi A1 2.0 TFSI quattro 3-Door. Price: £41,035. Engine/transmission: 2.0-litre, four cylinder, petrol direct injection with turbocharger and intercooler, 256PS (252bhp) 350Nm (258lb ft) of torque from 2,500rpm, 6-speed gearbox with multi-plate clutch with quattro drive to all four wheels. Performance: 152mph, 0-62mph 5.7 seconds, 32.8mpg (21.2mpg on test), CO2 199g/km, VED road tax £460 First Year rate then £250 per annum, BIK company car tax 30%. Insurance group: tbc. For: Extreme exclusivity with only 20 units for the UK, hard-core performance, good feedback from the quattro system – not over sanitised, well equipped, a collector’s car. Against: Fuel consumption, poor rear quarter visibility, left hand drive only, no more production is planned.

  Miles Better News Agency
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