Audi: Untethered Versatility

By: Joshua Levinstone

We are two snow days into this year, with more to come.  With countless new transplants on the road who’ve never driven in snow (like my fellow Texans), many of you might be thinking about getting a vehicle more suited for Colorado weather, but may not know all of the options available.

Spend any amount of time on Colorado roads and you’ll quickly spot a few trends.  Coloradans love Subarus, Jeeps, and Audis. It’s no coincidence that these three brands are also known for their 4/all-wheel drive setups and all-weather versatility.  But reputations typically last longer than facts. And only one of these manufacturers can call itself a luxury brand. So, is Audi still the king of all-wheel drive?

Let’s explore.

BMW and Mercedes have incredible all-wheel drive systems which operate very similar to Audi’s legendary Quattro system.  But, while BMW and Mercedes build their vehicles on a rear-wheel drive platform, Audi does things a bit different. This isn’t surprising considering Audi is owned by Porsche, a brand made famous for putting their engines–and most of their buttons–in the wrong place… yet, somehow making some of the best cars of all time.  (See: every 911).

The reason most luxury sedans and coupes focus on rear-wheel drive is for performance.  When a car accelerates, its weights gets shifted onto the back wheels, pushing into the ground and providing traction.  It also helps distribute the weight evenly around the car. But this only works if the wheels already have traction to begin with, as anyone who’s ever been stuck in the snow can attest to.

While their rivals work meticulously to keep all of their vehicle’s weight balanced in the middle of the car, Audi has stubbornly ignored their competition and focused on the front wheels.  If you ever open the hood to any Audi model you’ll see that their engines are placed almost completely in front of the front axle.

And while this is great for traction in slippery conditions, it’s often a recipe for disaster when it comes to performance.  So, how has Audi stayed competitive with this unusual approach? Well, the answer is engineering. Lot’s of engineering. Like their parent company Porsche, Audi has always thought outside the box.  And this stubborn defiance of the norm has yielded some amazing results.

The forward-mounted engines sit lower in the car, keeping the weight as close to the ground as possible.  The 8-speed automatic transmission and 7-speed S-Tronic dual clutch can shift through gears in microseconds.  Combined with Audi’s cutting edge technology in their traction control, Audi continues to create truly special feats of uncompromising performance, safety, and versatility.

Personally, I am a die-hard BMW fanatic.  But, my love of the Bavarian sports sedan can’t take away my appreciation for what Audi has achieved.  The unusual design of their cars doesn’t just translate into incredible traction, it also frees up space in the cabin.  While BMW and Mercedes have an engine and transmission to build around, all of that is under the hood in an Audi, leaving the cabin for, well… people and things.