Audi Celebrates quattro Division's 30th Birthday with Alpine Tour

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By Henny Hemmes
Senior European Editor
The Auto Channel

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INTERLAKEN, Switzerland. October 2, 2013. To celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Quattro GmbH division, as well as the success of the Quattro models, Audi organized a long distance tour with the "Land of quattro Alpine Tour 2013"

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International automotive journalists drove two days as part of the 12 day event through six countries, over 44 Alpine Passes and covering 4,440 kilometers (2,759 miles). To be honest, I would have made a little detour to make the trip 4,444 km long; 4 times 4.

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The Tour started last week Monday in Austria and went from Klagenfurt to Kitzbühel. The second day, the group finished in Innsbruck, also in Austria. That is where I stepped in, together with a "fresh load" of colleagues. On day 1, we drove through Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany to Meran, Italië, across the Fern-, Brenner- and Jaufen Pass and covered a distance of nearly 200 miles. With my roots in a completely flat country, I have always been intrigued by the Alpine countries. The lakes and mountains offer spectacular views and most of the roads are well built and well maintained. With a good car it is a joy to take the hairpins. In the Audi SR A3, it was more than that!

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The next day took us from Meran for 231 miles via the Ofen-, Julier-, Oberalp- and Süsten Pass to Interlaken, Switzerland. We started to drive the RS 5 Convertible and the weather was exactly perfect for driving topless. The sun still hanging low in the clear blue September sky started to warm up the mountains.

We made it to St. Moritz, the famous ski resort and changed cars again for the afternoon drive to Interlaken. And no, we did not feel guilty when enjoying the cable car ride from the town up to the Trütz mountain to the lunch hut, overlooking the lake with the same name and with a view on the Jungfrau, a main summit in the Alps.

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The last pass on our way to Interlaken was the Süsten Pass and it felt like a real one to conquer. It looked like the road had not been touched in many years: it is still narrow and no metal guard rails are disturbing the views. To add to the feeling that you had to work to reach the top, the weather changed quickly and from mid-afternoon rain showers made us aware, that on the height of 2,224 meters we could have had snow as well. At 6 pm the temperature had dropped to several degrees above the freezing point.
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When all teams sat down in the hotel that night, it was obvious many people were tired, but very happy as well. My team mate and me were looking back at a gorgeous trip, a perfectly organized event and two fun days at the wheel of various quattro models.

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The new group had already arrived. The next day, they were going to drive to the French ski resort Mégève and then on to Monaco. That is where the 45 Audi employees got a day’s rest, however short, as everything had to be prepared for the start of the return trip across the same 44 passes to Klagenfurt, where the "Alpen Tour 2013" will finish next Saturday, October 4.

Besides the 25 latest RS quattro's , there are also two Ur quattro’s that can be driven in the Tour during a couple of hours and under the guidance of an Audi engineer.

Some 300 automotive journalists from all over the world are participating in the Alpine Tour. Audi organized also long distance drives in 2008, 2009 and 2011 through the US, Europe and China respectively.

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In 1980, Audi was the first car manufacturer that introduced a volume-produced sports car with four-wheel drive. Of course, the idea to drive all four wheels was not new. In 1893 the Brit Joseph Diplock patented a four-wheel drive system for a traction engine, while six years later Ferdinand Porsche built an electric vehicle for the Austrian company Ludwig Lohner. The first real 4WD car, however, was the Spyker 60 hp, presented in 1903 by the Dutch Spijker brothers. History tells us that quite companies used four-wheel drive. From the Twyford Company and the Four Wheel Drive Auto Company in the early nineties, to Mercedes and BMW in the pre twenties and thirties, to Willys and Ford, that jointly produced the best-know four-wheel drive car during World War II, later to be developed into the Jeep. But Audi developed the first permanent all-wheel drive system for passenger cars and unveiled the Audi Quattro at the Geneva show in 1980.

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But is was Audi that made all-wheel drive, the more sophisticated technology of distributing power to the wheels that need it most, into an ongoing success. It started when Audis chassis engineer Jörg Bensinger after noticing that the Volkswagen Iltis was superior to all other vehicles in the snow, started development of an Audi 80 with four-wheel drive system. Audi combined it with a turbocharged 5-cylinder engine and introduced the new model in 1980 as Audi Quattro. First it served as a development prototype and soon after it was entered in rally in Austria. A year later, Audi driver Hannu Mikkola won two rallies the world Rally Championship, while Michele Mouton took the victory in the San Remo Rally.

In 1983, Audi founded quattro GmbH, a new division exclusively dedicated to quattro automobiles. The Sport Quattro and Audi Quattro were instrumental in the popularity of the all-wheel drive models of which Audi has sold more than 5 million units to date.

As the Tour was the first opportunity for the media to drive the RS Q3, you can expect my first report on the sporty compact SUV anytime soon, followed by my first drive with the Audi RS 5 Convertible. Please stay tuned!

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