6. AMC Eagle
Conceived in the late ’70s, the Eagle was AMC`s answer to the rising popularity of AWD vehicles and SUVs. They decided to combine their compact sedan and wagon lineup with the tough and proven Jeep AWD system. The result was a surprisingly good and capable vehicle with the comfort and luxury of a sedan.
It came with compact dimensions, relatively low weight and extremely good off-road characteristics. The Eagle was one of the first, if not the first crossover model in the world and only today can people see how important and influential this car was. As expected, the Eagle was a relatively popular car, especially in areas with harsh climate and long winters.
AMC even produced a coupe, wagon, compact, and convertible version of the Eagle, all with AWD systems as standard. Unfortunately, AMC was losing money elsewhere and was forced out of the business in 1987, which meant the death of the Eagle, as well.
Audi Sport Quattro
Back in the early â80s, Audi was just an upgraded Volkswagen with not much to offer. Then, the motorsport department proposed entering the rally championships with an innovative all-wheel-drive model they named the Quattro. All of a sudden, Audi had a championship-winning car at the forefront of two new technologies: all-wheel-drive systems and turbocharging.
This result was a rising interest in the company and Audi as people know it today had started. The Quattro Sport featured a 2.1-liter straight five-cylinder engine with a turbocharger and 306 HP in street trim. With a short wheelbase, light body panels, short ratio gearbox and 306 horses, the road-going Quattro Sport was capable of achieving 0 to 60 mph in just 4.8 seconds. And those numbers made it one of quickest cars of its era, showing how capable the Quattro all-wheel-drive system and turbos are.
The Porsche 959 is one of the fastest, most advanced and technologically complex supercars of the â80s. The 959 was a super Porsche in every way, and not only by design but also by performance and price. It was the perfect blend of racing experience, and the latest technology along with turbocharging.
Porsche put everything in one car: the 959. They presented it in 1987 with a 3.0-liter turbocharged flat-six engine delivering a whopping 450 HP. And all that power went to all four wheels over an intelligent AWD system, the first of its kind.
They equipped the car was with traction control, ABS and a host of electronic systems, which helped the driver. Despite the fact all this is standard in most new cars today, it was space age technology in the late â80s. The performance of this technological tour de force was also astonishing. In fact, a 0 to 60 mph sprint was possible in just 3.7 seconds.
After an immense success on and off the track with their Quattro Sport model, Audi decided to pursue the all-wheel drive layout as a top of the range option. So, in the late â80s, Audi introduced the V8. It was a premium sedan they designed to attack similar cars from Mercedes and BMW. They used a newly designed chassis, powerful V8 engine and permanent Quattro drivetrain.
Audi introduced the Quattro in 1988, selling it throughout 1994. However, the Audi V8 wasn’t the sales success they hoped for, but it was an accomplished model. The V8 was an extremely capable machine with superb road holding and driving dynamics better than similar Mercedes or BMWs. It proved the Quattro concept was solid and up to this day, almost all Audis have all-wheel drive systems.
Porsche 964 Carrera 4
In 1989, the Porsche 911 received the first major revision since the early â60s and a new chassis code: 964. The Turbo and convertible models continued, but there was an interesting addition to the mainline offer in the form of the Carrera 4. The Carrera 4 was the first 911 they equipped with all-wheel drive as standard.
The AWD system cured some of the handling problems all 911 experienced, but it added weight and affected the performance. Anyway, this was a big step forward and a big achievement of Porsche’s engineers, because the Carrera 4 turned out to be an influential, important model in 911 history.
In fact, the Carrera 4 was the first mass-produced sports car with four-wheel drive that opened doors to modern models and introduced customers to next level driving dynamics.
Nissan Skyline GT-R R32
Japanese manufacturers were reluctant to introduce all-wheel drive systems into passenger cars on a larger scale. But by the end of the â80s, Nissan decided to install this advanced system into its legendary Skyline. They revealed this model in 1989. However, they presented the best versions in the early â90s, which makes the GT-R version the quintessential â90s car.
For those who want the facts, the Skyline GT-R R32 is a two-door coupe with intelligent all-wheel drive. It’s powerplant is a 2.6-liter turbocharged engine with 276 HP stock and a ton of tuning potential. The R32 had big racing success, as well. As soon as it hit the track, it proved to be an extremely capable and victorious car. Unfortunately, all R32s are right-hand drive.
Lancia Delta HF Integrale
Lancia was always big in rallying. So, after the banning of their Group B model, the S4, they wanted something that could work well on the street and on the track. And that’s how the HF Integrale was born. The main features of this model were the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with, at first, 185 HP, and later up to 220 HP.
Also, it had a permanent and well balanced all-wheel-drive system. The Delta HF Integrale is an important hot hatch because it was the first with AWD. That marked the beginning of the transition from front wheel drive, simple hot hatches, to the high-tech, all-wheel drive performance monsters of today.
The combination of a powerful engine, sharp handling, great traction and low weight was intoxicating for magazine testers of the day. In fact, the Delta HF Integrale received nothing but praises. Over the years, the Delta HF Integrale proved to be a successful concept, and not only on the rally stages but all over the world.
Subaru Impreza STI
The Subaru Impreza made its name in the â90s thanks to an interesting, highly capable combo. First, it had a turbocharged flat engine, and the second was the all-wheel drive. And finally, the third was the fantastic power and torque. So, in 2008, they debuted the Impreza as a five-door hatchback.
And immediately, it set the hot hatch world on fire. This was a smart move from Subaru with the invading hot hatch class to attract more buyers to the Impreza. Yet they still managed to keep the performance and mechanical layout intact. Also, with 305 HP and intelligent AWD traction, the Impreza was one of the best and fastest hot hatches money could buy.
Mitsubishi Evo X
Despite being discontinued, the Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X is still a big legend among performance car enthusiasts. Surely, the automotive world misses the long-lasting series of four-door sedans with four-wheel drive and powerful four-cylinder turbocharged engines. But the success on the rally stages and brutally quick acceleration times didn’t translate to the general market despite the cult following.
The latest version they named the Evo X came with a 2.0-liter turbo engine with 291 HP. Experts say that the engine’s output was more likely around the 320 HP mark. However, Mitsubishi chose to market it with 291 HP. And the performance figures were astonishing. The 0 to 60 mph time was 4.5 seconds and the Evo X could almost top 160 mph.
When you see the RS badge on an Audi, you know that a special car is in front of you. For decades, since the legendary RS2 from the early â90s, Audi has been producing crazy fast wagons in the A4 and A6 range. They equipped them with the most powerful engines the company has at the moment.
Next, they add the renewed Quattro all-wheel drive for enhanced traction and performance. The RS6 wagon is important AWD car since it provides its owners with a unique blend of brutal performance, enormous power at 609 HP in the current model and superb road holding from its Quattro system.
Dodge Challenger AWD
What is the definition of a true muscle car? It’s a two-door coupe with a big V8 engine and rear wheel drive, right? Well, Dodge has a different vision. For decades, muscle cars were rear-wheel drive only vehicles. But in 2016, Dodge introduced a special model in its Challenger lineup they called the GT AWD.
For a start, it is a Challenger with recognizable coupe styling, retro charm and aggressive stance. However, underneath the cool-looking body, there is a V6 and intelligent all-wheel-drive system. There are no more smoky burnouts and rear wheels on fire. Instead, now there is tons of traction, even in the toughest conditions.
At this moment, the Dodge Challenger AWD is the only all-wheel drive production muscle car ever built. In fact, Ford and Chevrolet don’t have anything similar for the Mustang or Camaro. Unfortunately, Dodge offers the GT AWD with just the V6 engine. But despite the fact the V6 is fairly powerful with 305 HP, most fans would like to see it with a proper Hemi V8.
BMW M5 F90
For decades, the BMW performance division, M Power, was all about the perfectly balanced chassis and rear wheel drive. But modern times and a whole lot more power demanded innovative solutions. So they presented the newest generation of its legendary muscle sedan in the form of the M5 with the special all-wheel-drive system as standard.
The purists will attack BMW for abandoning its rear-wheel-drive roots but frankly, the new M5 needs this kind of system. With 600 HP coming from its twin turbo 4.4-liter V8, the rear-wheel drive system can’t cope. Simply, with so much power and torque, going four-wheel drive is the only way if BMW wants to remain on top of the performance sedan world.
Tesla Model S
The Model S is not the first car that Tesla produced but it is by far the most globally popular and influential. It is the first fully electric sedan they produced in significant numbers. In fact, this car singlehandedly created the electric car market. They introduced it in 2012. But since then, the Tesla Model S production has passed the 200,000-example mark.
And that makes it the most advanced and successful electric vehicle in the world. The Model S is not only famous for its pioneering construction, but also for its unusual features, many of the industry’s first. With its unbelievable performance, it was a controversial vehicle when they released it.
Also, the Model S is a symbol of progress and forward thinking. One of its most important features is its AWD system, which is totally different from its gasoline-powered competitors. Tesla’s AWD consists of four electric motors that independently power each wheel. Interestingly, they are controlled by a highly advanced system for perfect traction and road holding.
You now know about 18 of the most influential all-wheel-drive cars they ever made. Which one of these spoke to you? The best news is, the AWD will continue to evolve and become mainstream in modern cars.