Smallest Audi is big on abilities
MONT TREMBLANT, Quebec – Thanks to sub-zero temperatures and a lack of insulating snow cover, the road track at Mont Tremblant’s Mecaglisse testing facility is an undulating circuit of glistening ice.blog comments powered by Disqus
So challenging is the surface, that one of two world-class drivers in championship Quattro Rallye cars executes an impromptu 360 degree spin during media ride-alongs.
We’re here for Audi’s “Fascination of Quattro” event, a showcase of new quattro technology as experienced through some of the latest models.
Imagine our surprise that not only would the elusive compact A1 be present in the flesh (so to speak) but that we’d also have a chance behind the wheel. After making its debut at the Geneva Auto Show, the premium hatchback left the public’s curiosity whetted, and its questions unanswered.
Although it’s based on the Volkswagen Polo, 2010 World Car of the Year, that is reportedly destined for North America, it’s highly unlikely that we’ll get the entry-level Audi. We North Americans have a hard time wrapping our heads around luxury cars in small packages and the Germans think it would be a tough sell up here – particularly since the A1 made its debut without the revered Audi Quattro system.
The two available testers are prototypes – and surprisingly – we’re allowed to take them on the track. A copper-coloured model sports a contrasting black roof and rear c-pillars.
I learn that my black-on-black 6-speed manual is the personal vehicle of Audi AG President, Rupert Stadler, who’s here for the event. No pressure there.
Resembling a shrunken A3, roughly the size of a Mazda2, the A1 has the swoopy LED headlights of the premium, upper-range models. Although the footprint may be that of an economical budget hatch, inside, all resemblance ends. The cockpit is typical Audi – featuring premium soft-touch materials, the familiar MMI interface and well-bolstered leather seats. Pedals are sporty, drilled aluminum – all three of them.
We’re happy to confirm that the A1 is indeed equipped with Audi’s celebrated quattro all-wheel-drive. The A1’s quattro system (much like the A3 and TT coupe), uses an electronically controlled hydraulic multi-plate clutch at the rear axle, which redirects power normally channelled through the front wheels to the rear when needed.
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