Audi has revived one of the most illustrious names from its rich motorsport history for its latest high-performance road cars.
The S1 Sport Quattro was Audi’s World Rally Championship contender in the fearsome era of Group B in the mid-1980s.
In the hands of Walter Röhrl, Stig Blomqvist, Hannu Mikkola and Michele Mouton, it helped Audi to win the 1984 championship and finish runner-up in 1985. In 1987 Röhrl also drove it to victory in the Pikes Peak hillclimb in America.
Now the S1 badge has been applied to the sporting flagships of the Audi A1 and A1 Sportback ranges. The new S1 models are the most potent superminis on the market, the only cars in the class with four-wheel drive and the smallest quattros ever released by Audi – although they were preceded by the limited-edition A1 quattro, of which only 333 were ever made, with 19 coming to the UK.
The S1s are powered by a detuned version of the 2.0-litre turbocharged engine from the larger S3, delivering 228bhp and 370Nm of torque – another best-in-class figure.
They have a new version of Audi’s quattro all-wheel-drive system incorporating a hydraulic multi-plate clutch mounted on the rear axle for better weight distribution. They also feature independent rear suspension rather than the beam axle of the mainstream A1 and A1 Sportback.
They take the number of body styles to be given the S treatment to 12. S models typically claim around 5 per cent of sales of their respective ranges.
Audi has now sold more than five million all-wheel-drive cars since the introduction of the Quattro in 1980. The company’s first pure road-going S model was the S Coupé of 1992, although 200 versions of the mid-80s S1 had to be built for road use to satisfy Group B regulations.