What is Audi Quattro with Ultra Technology?

Jack R. Nerad | Jul 07, 2021

The Audi brand was a pioneer in popularizing all-wheel drive (AWD), which is very common today. With that background dating back to Audi's successful rally participation more than 50 years ago, the brand has continued innovating and refining its "quattro" AWD systems. The most recent example of that evolution is Audi Quattro with Ultra Technology. This article will tell you what Audi Quattro with Ultra Technology is, how it works, and why you should care.

2021 Audi Q5 55 TFSI e quattro Front Quarter View

What does Audi Quattro with Ultra Technology Do? - Find the best Audi deals!

All-wheel drive is an excellent drive system. Compared to other typical drive systems, such as rear-wheel drive (RWD) and front-wheel drive (FWD), it has significant advantages. They include:

  • Enhanced traction
  • Better driving "feel"
  • Adaptation to varying weather conditions
  • Adaptation to varying road surfaces

But AWD comes with a price. First, an AWD system is significantly more complicated to engineer and manufacture than a front-drive or rear-drive system. Second, an AWD system adds weight. And finally, an AWD system adds friction and mechanical losses that aren't present in a simpler drive system.

This means to the typical driver that a vehicle with AWD will typically cost more than a front-drive or rear-drive vehicle. Added weight and friction also suggest that an AWD vehicle will likely not be as fuel-efficient as a similar-sized vehicle with another drive system.

While it won't address cost directly, Audi Quattro with Ultra Technology addresses the fuel-efficiency issue. Its goal is an AWD system with all the advantages of such a system but with as minor a fuel economy penalty as possible. In accomplishing that goal, the system will also help Audi vehicles lessen the amount of carbon dioxide they release when being driven.

What is the Audi Quattro with Ultra Technology Strategy? - Find the best Audi deals!

Audi Quattro with Ultra Technology recognizes the simple fact that the typical vehicle is more fuel-efficient, operating in front-drive mode than it is in AWD. Audi engineers developed a system that makes AWD almost instantaneously available when it is advantageous and immediately disengages it when it is not. Doing this retains all the benefits of AWD while at the same time it significantly reduces the fuel-consumption difference between front-drive and permanent AWD. The premise is simple to understand, but achieving the goal is a tricky proposition.

To achieve their goal, Audi engineers realized the system must predict the need for AWD before it is necessary. Therefore, the system must have the ability to sense the onset of wheel slip instead of just recognizing it when it happens and then compensating for it by shifting torque to the opposite axle.

To achieve predictive activation, the Quattro electronics are networked with several onboard control units, enabling them to tap into a variety of sensors. Among the various parameters viewed by the system are steering angle, lateral and longitudinal acceleration, and engine torque. Every 10 milliseconds, the Ultra Technology control unit analyzes the data to determine if a transition to AWD would be beneficial.

For example, if the control unit senses that one of the front tires will reach the grip limit during fast cornering, it will know before that happens—even if just half a second before—and AWD will activate. To make these predictive activations of AWD, the Quattro control unit considers data from the vehicle's electronic stability control, the driving mode that the driver has selected, and the operator's driving style.

Enabled by the split-second gathering and crunching of data, the Audi Quattro with Ultra Technology enables the optimal distribution of power between the front and rear axles at all times. All the parameters are computed continuously when the system is active. Ambient conditions, road-surface conditions, the driving situation, and the driver's assumed intentions factor into the calculations.

By doing this, the driver gets all the driving dynamics advantages of AWD. At the same time, the vehicle can operate as a fuel-efficient FWD vehicle when appropriate…and that is appropriate for the vast majority of the time in normal driving conditions. Add rain, snow, or other conditions that compromise the friction of the road surface, however, and all that can change in a literal heartbeat.

How does Audi Quattro with Ultra Technology Work? - Find the best Audi deals!

As we've spelled out, enabling a very rapid transition from FWD to AWD and back again is desirable from a theoretical perspective. Operating in front-drive mode allows the vehicle to limit the friction and mechanical losses involved in actively driving the rear wheels. For this reason, many on-demand AWD systems cut power to one axle or the other at the center differential. On the other hand, Ultra Technology takes this idea farther by adding steps to limit unnecessary friction from the rear driving components. To do this, it employs two clutches.

When the system changes to FWD, the front multi-plate clutch disconnects the prop shaft to the rear wheels. At the same time, an integrated decoupler—the second clutch—in the rear differential opens, disengaging it. By doing this, Ultra Technology effectively shuts off the primary causes of drag losses in the rear of the drivetrain.

Disconnecting AWD requires a technical tour de force, but enabling the near-instantaneous re-engagement is an even more difficult task. Audi Quattro with Ultra Technology does it by anticipating the need to transition. The required stationary components accelerate in fractions of a second via the controlled multi-plate clutch to reactivate AWD. When the appropriate speed occurs, a clutch closes, engaging the prop shaft and rear axle.

Interestingly, all of this would essentially be for naught without accompanying transmission technology. Audi engineers say a key to achieving the significant efficiency gains they sought with the Ultra Technology could only be realized if the vehicle's transmission enabled the driving axle—in Audi's case, the front axle—to be driven directly. Happily, Audi has both manual and S tronic automatic transmissions that allow this.

Summary - Find the best Audi deals!

Because of all these efforts, Audi vehicles equipped with Audi Quattro with Ultra Technology are more fuel-efficient and produce less CO2 than they otherwise would. They offer all the benefits of AWD but don't require their owners—or the planet—to pay the typical penalties it entails.

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