12 Absolutely Insane All Wheel Drive Cars

Lancia Delta Integrale

Credit: Tony Harrison

Lancia’s may be met by ridicule by the general population, however real car enthusiasts will know that the Italian car maker produced some of the finest examples of motoring machinery ever produced, even if they did rust away on your dive way.

Following the ban of Group B after the 1986 season, Lancia showed that it was in the best position to capitalize on the rule changes. Utilizing the Delta HF 4WD and Delta Integrale, Lancia dominated the rally scene with a car that had the best balance of all round power, weight and 4WD system. Impressively, the Lancia Delta won four driver and six manufacturer championships between 1987 and 1992, making it the car with the most number of titles.

While the Delta S4 was the most mental of the Delta range (with its supercharged and turbocharged engine), the Integrale is perhaps the most fondly remembered version. Following on from the success of the Delta HF 4WD, the Integrale originally launched with an 8v 4 cylinder turbocharged engine that produced 185 hp.

A 16v Integrale was soon to follow and was developed specifically for the rally scene. This featured a 2-litre 16v engine that produced 200 hp. Following on from this Lancia produced the Evoluzione versions of the car, which were more capable, faster and aggressive.

The Delta Integrale has become a real classic, with the later versions of the Integrale fetching some eye watering sums.

Nissan GT-R R34

While the latest R35 GT-R is undoubtedly the a more capable machine than the R34 and its AWD system is certainly a cut above the previous model, we feel the R34 is a more iconic machine. Along with the likes of the Toyota Supra and Mazda RX7, the R34 GT-R is a real legend amongst the JDM scene.

The Nissan GTR dynasty stretches all the way back to the late 60’s, encompassing some of the best cars to come out of Japan. The R34 GTR was a late comer to the nineties, launching in 1999 and finishing production in 2002. As one of the most iconic Japanese cars of all time, the R34 certainly has a lot to live up to, and it delivers that in spades.

With a Twin-turbocharged 2.6 L I6 engine and a 6-speed transmission, the R34 was bound to be fast. Due to Japanese car industry norms at the time, the R34 was advertised as having 276 hp but in reality it had well over 330 hp. Not only was it a power car from the factory, when tuners got their hands on these they produced some real screamers, with some reaching 1000 hp.

The R34 GT-R has become somewhat of an icon and some models are now fetching supercar territory prices. A famous example of this was a Z-Tune GT-R up for sale in Hong Kong</a> for an eye watering $510,000.

Audi Quattro

How could we do this list without including one of, if not the most iconic rally cars of all time. The Quattro was first shown at the 1980 Geneva Motor Show and was the first car to take advantage of a four-wheel-drive system in the rally scene. To commemorate the success of the Quattro, Audi branded all subsequent four-wheel-drive cars in their range with the ‘quattro name.

While road going versions were available, the Quattro gained fame by mudslinging on rally tracks all across the globe. The first car had an engine that produced approximately 300 hp and in 1981, Michele Mouton become the first female driver to win a world rally event with the Quattro.

In response to the new Group B rules Audi introduced the A1 and A2 evolutions of the Quattro. It won its first title for the German manufacturer in 1982 and in 1983, Hannu Mikkola was the best driver with the car. In 1984 Audi took both the drivers and constructors trophies with Stig Blomqvist at the wheel. From the A1 and A2, Audi developed the Sport Quattro S1 and S2, with the most powerful making a staggering 591 hp.

Subaru 22B STi

Credit: Stephen Hynds

While rallying might not have been so exciting in the nineties as it was in the eighties, it did give birth to some of the greatest cars ever built. One of those is the Subaru Impreza WRX STi which burst onto the scene in 1992. With technology from rallying, all-wheel drive, uprated suspension and the much loved turbocharged boxer engine, the WRX has some serious real world speed.

The Subaru Tecnica International (STi) models are the most famous and were introduced in 1994. Improvements over the standard WRX included more powerful engines, improved transmission and suspension, and that STi badge. Nineties WRX STi’s are still seen bashing around rally stages today and the magic hasn’t worn off at all.

Subaru’s 22B STi still captures the hearts and minds of Subaru fans. It is widely considered to be the greatest Impreza ever made and it’s your best chance to feel like Colin McRae. Only 425 of these beauties were produced and sold out almost instantly in Japan.

The 22B was based on the two-door shell of the limited-run STi Version V, but with flared guards and a 2212cc turbocharged flat-four. Despite having a number of engine upgrades such as forged pistons, the 22B produced the same 206kW of power and around the same torque at 360Nm. The difference was that the 22B’s superior engine management produced peak torque 800rpm.

Subaru also gave the 22B wider front and rear tracks, unique 17-inch BBS alloys and made it longer due to the two-way adjustable wing fitted. It sat 15mm lower on Eibach springs and Bilstein shocks, and aluminium suspension components helped it shed 25kg from the STi’s 1295kg.

Put simply, the 22B remains the ultimate Subaru. It pushed the boundaries of rationality, marketing and budget for Subaru, along with a few supercars with it. The 22B pays homage to Subaru’s glory days of rallying, and we think it delivers in spades.

Bugatti Veyron

Credit Bugatti

Love it or hate it, the Bugatti Veyron become a motoring icon when it smashed its way up to 407km/h (253 mph), making it the fastest production car ever built at the time. It was named car of the decade by Top Gear and launched a new breed of hypercars that are more extreme than ever.

The Veyron’s enormous 8.0 L W16 quad-turbocharged produced approximately 1,000 hp. Incredible for a production car today, let alone when it was released. To tame all this power, Bugatti utilized a permanent all-wheel drive system and Haldex Traction System.

To stop the monstrosity, Bugatti utilized carbon ceramic brakes in conjunction with an air brake. This meant the Veyron could decelerate from 400km/h (250 mph) to a standstill in a mind boggling 10 seconds.

In the pursuit of even more speed, Bugatti launched the Super Sport which had a limited production run of 30 units. Power was increased to 1,200 hp and the top speed was official recorded as 431.072km/h (267.856 mph), although it was limited to 415km/h (258 mph) to protect the tyres from disintegrating.

Mitsubishi EVO VI Tommi Makinen Edition

Credit: Rutger van der Maar

Another brilliant car to come out of the rallying scene was Mitsubishi’s Lancer Evolution series of cars. The EVO series managed to cram six different generations into just 10 years. Mitsubishi’s EVO would go on to become the WRX STI’s arch rival in both the rallying world and on the street.

They were powered by a 2.0-litre turbocharged engine and were fine tuned for more performance as the generations progressed. The sixth generation was arguably the most iconic of all time with the launch of the Tommi Makinen Edition. This was named after the famous Finnish rally driver who won four WRC drivers’ championships for Mitsubishi.

The Makinen edition features white Enkei alloys, Recaro seats with ‘T. Makinen Edition’ stitched into them and a front bumper with a bigger intake. Like most Japanese cars of the time, the Makinen produced a stated 276 hp along with 275lb ft of torque, however the real power figure is probably more than that. Whatever was under the bonnet managed to get the 1365kg Makinen from 0-100km/h (0-62 mph) in just 4.5 seconds.

Mitsubishi’s Makinen edition is considered to be the high point of the company’s motor car range, with later EVO models unable to capture the magic of the Evo VI Makinen.

Porsche 959

Credit: Ed Callow

Another car that was born from the mental Group B era was the Porsche 959 which was considered the most technologically advanced car ever built at the time of its launch. It was also the fastest street-legal production car with a top speed of 314 km/h (195 mph).

The 959 can be considered the forerunner of all current supercars and was one of the first high-performance motorcars with all-wheel drive. It provided the basis for the first all-wheel drive Carrera and convinced Porsche’s executives to make AWD standard on 911 Turbos.

Powering the 959 was a twin-turbocharged six-cylinder boxer engine that was coupled with a unique manual gearbox that offered five forward speeds plus a “G” off-road gear, as well as reverse. Porsche managed to squeeze 444 raging horses from the compact boxer engine and combining that with a 1,450kg weight, meant that the 959 could go from 0-100 km/h (0-60 mph) in 3.6 seconds.

Unlike Porsche’s other production cars, the 959 featured an aluminium and Kevlar composite body with a Nomex floor. The technology cram didn’t stop there though, with Porsche developing specialized aerodynamics and an automatic ride-height adjustment system.

The Porsche-Steuer Kupplung (PSK) AWD system was considered the most advanced AWD system ever produced and gave inspiration to the engineers at Nissan who designed the R32 GT-R. The PSK system was capable of changing the torque distribution between the front and rear wheels in both slippery and normal conditions.

Porsche’s 959 set the standard for all supercars to come and compared to its much loved rival, the Ferrari F40, was much more advanced. Without the 959 we may not have had some of the incredible cars we have today. It was a true game changer.

Jensen FF

Credit: DeFacto

Here it is, genesis. The car that started the AWD/4WD craze was the Jensen FF produced by British car manufacturer Jensen Motors between 1966 and 1971. Not only was it the first production car to be fitted with a four-wheel drive system, the FF was also the first to feature anti-lock brakes. Those two features plus the traction control system were hailed as remarkable developments, solidifying the FF’s place in history.

The FF’s appearance was almost identical to the Jensen Interceptor, apart from the twin diagonal air vents on the front wing. It was also only offered in right-hand drive as there had been no consideration to making it left hand drive in the design process. This, plus the high sales cost meant that the FF was a bit of a lemon commercially, with only 320 models produced.

Power came from a front-mounted 6.3L V8 engine mated to a 3-speed automatic. An experimental FF was built in 1968 with a 7L Hemi engine from Chrysler, however was never brought to market as the suspension was not capable of handling the greater speeds. The cost of importing Hemi engines was also to great.

The FF may not be so greatly revered like some the other AWD cars on this list, but it was a game changer at the time of its launch.

Nissan GT-R R32

The R32 GT-R might not have started the GT-R namesake but it is responsible for bringing it up to legendary status. Nissan canned the GT-R name in 1973, but brought it back when they needed a new car for Group A racing homologation rules.

The R32 GT-R was a wildly different beast to the previous GT-R. It featured a sophisticated all-wheel-drive system, a powerful 2.6-litre twin-turbo engine that produced 276 hp, and a weight of just over 1,400kg.

A Nismo edition was launched in 1990 with a total production run of 560. This featured some aerodynamic changes, removal of the ABS system, and weight saving. It was also only available in a gun metal grey colour.

The R32 GT-R was branded with the Godzilla name when it dominated the Australian motoring scene. The car was so dominant in Australia it tore apart Group A racing in the country and got itself banned in the process.

Porsche 918 Spyder

Along with the Ferrari LaFerrari and the McLaren P1, the Porsche 918 Spyder were and still are considered the holy trinity of hypercars. All three launched at around the same time and all three had modern hybrid systems, beginning a new hypercar technology.

Of the three, many consider the Porsche 918 to be the most technologically advanced. The naturally aspirated 4.6L V8 engine with 608bhp was mated to two electric motors delivering an additional 279bhp. These combined meant the 918 had an insane power figure of 887bhp, which meant it could go from 0-100km/h in 2.5 seconds and on to a top speed of 340km/h (210mph)

The 918’s multi-link chassis has its roots in motorsport and is complimented by additional systems such as PASM adaptive shock-absorber and rear-axle steering. Like many other supercars and hypercars today, the 918 uses a carbon monicoque to keep the weight down, which was especially important due to the inclusion of a hybrid system that needs batteries.

The front electric motor drives the wheels at a fixed ratio and provides around 127bhp in power. A decoupler decouples the electric motor at high speeds to prevent the motor from over-revving. Drive torque is independently controlled for each axle, which allowed for immense levels of traction and grip.

Like the 959, the 918 Spyder continues the trend of Porsche pushing the boundries of automotive technology. It heralded a new era of exciting performance cars and we can’t wait to see more from the German automaker.

Ford RS200

Credit: Vauxford

The RS200 was born and bred in the mental world of Group B rallying. It was short lived with production only running from 1984 to 1986 before it was succeeded by the MKV Escort Cosworth.

Ford’s RS200 was the result of the abandoned Escort RS1700T project. Rather than leaving the Group B scene all together, Ford decided to make use of the lessons they learnt from the RS1700T. This lead to Ford developing a new four-wheel-drive rally car that could compete with the likes of Audi and Peugeot.

Ford enlisted the help of British automaker ‘Reliant’ to help with the fiberglass composite body and the chassis was the work of former Formula One designer Tony Southgate, and Ford’s John Wheeler. A double wishbone suspension setup with twin dampers on all four wheels aided handling and helped give the car what was often regarded as being the best balanced platform of any of the RS200’s contemporary competitors.

A 1.8L turbocharged Ford-Cosworth engine producing 250bhp was mounted in the middle of the car. In race trim, the RS200 put out an impressive 450 raging horses and one even managed to hit 750+bhp with a 2.0 litre turbo BDTE Cosworth Evolution engine.

Despite the unique design of the RS200, it had limited success in the Group B scene before the rally series was banned. It was also involved in some of the most dramatic accidents in WRX history, with it claiming the lives of three spectators during the Rally de Portugal.

Peugeot 205 T16 

Credit: Brian Snelson

Another insane creation from the Group B era, the Peugeot 205 T16 only competed in two full seasons, but it certainly showed why it was one of the greatest rally cars ever produced in that short time. Appearing in 1984, the T16 won 2 manufacturers and 2 drivers titles with Timo Salonen and Juha Kankkunen in the cockpit. The 205 T16 ended its WRC career with 16 wins after Group B was banned.

With well over 400 hp, the Peugeot 205 T16 was one of four cars (Lancia Delta S4, Audi Quattro, Ford RS200) that set the performance standard for rally cars. The T16 was so successful the car was used to win the Paris Dakar rally, not once but twice.

Despite the appearance being similar the T16 had almost nothing in common with its sibling, the 205 GTi. The T16 featured a 1.8L four-cylinder turbocharged engine that could find its roots in the diesel variant of the XU engine family. It also featured a complex all-wheel-drive system and weighed in at under 1000kg.

While the Peugeot 205 T16 is almost comical with its massively flared wheel arches and short stature, it remains a truly significant piece motorsport history. We think that the 205 T16 is about as cool as they come (and nearly as rare).


  • Ben

    From his early days playing the original Gran Turismo and with his Hot Wheels car set, Ben has had a long interest in all things automotive. His first foray into the world of automotive journalism was way back in 2009 and since then he has only grown more interested in the industry. Ben also runs and heads up the video production side of Garage Dreams, focusing on small informative documentaries about some of the world's most legendary cars.

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