Every car enthusiast has this sound ringing in its ears. The roaring sound of the high revving rally engine, the raw 5 cylinder staccato when the combustion efficiency bites above 4000 rpm, the growl, the flames in the exhaust, the “pop” explosions on gearchanges, we all know it. It is the symphony of Vorsprung durch Technik, and indeed, it has been going on for decades now.
It brings also sweet memories to your servant, when as a young journalist I sat behind the wheel of the 80 Quattro saloon, with this 5 cylinder engine roaring under his right foot. It is all magic. And indeed, here, it calls for a small celebration in these columns.
Hans Knol ten Bensel
It all started out of necessity. No room for six cylinders. No room for extra weight for the impressive, but efficient Audi. So the designers went for five. It was in 1976. The second generation Audi 100 was a car, built with state of the art solutions for lightness. Also for the engine. But it was also understood that superb performance was to be immediately achieved for the top Audi. And this was done, with this first petrol engine developing not less than 136 HP. In fact, the unit was based on the new EA 827 engine concept. This four-cylinder inline engine was used throughout the VW Group in the 1970s – in the Audi 80 and the lesser powered versions of the Audi 100, for instance. The derived 2.1-liter five-cylinder engine produced 100 kW (136 hp). A modern injection system increased efficiency and power development. Delivery of the Audi 100 5E began in March 1977. And the triumphal story begins…
Hans Knol ten Bensel
In 1979, the first turbocharged five-cylinder gasoline engine made its debut – another pioneering feat from Audi. With an output of 125 kW (170 hp) and 265 newton meters (195.45 lb-ft) of torque, it powered the new top model, the Audi 200 5T.
The five-cylinder gasoline engine in the 1980 Audi “Ur-quattro” had even more to offer. With turbocharging, an intercooler and permanent four-wheel drive, it constituted a powerful technical package for the racetrack and the road. Initially, it delivered 147 kW (200 hp). In 1983, the Finn Hannu Mikkola won the drivers’ title in the World Rally Championship in this car. In the same year, Audi introduced the wide-track Sport quattro, which was 24 centimeters (9.45 inches) shorter. It was powered by a newly developed four-valve five-cylinder unit made of aluminum with an output of 225 kW (306 hp). It made the Sport quattro the most powerful car built to date by a German company for use on public roads. The model formed the basis for a new Group B rally car, with the four-valve powerplant delivering 331 kW (450 hp) from the very start. It was used for the first time in the penultimate race of 1984, the Ivory Coast rally… and made the legend heard to anyone who just had ears…
Even after Audi withdrew from rallying in 1986 there were other racing highlights: in 1987, Walter Röhrl won the Pikes Peak Hill Climb (USA) in the Audi Sport quattro S1 (E2). The racing car developed 440 kW (598 hp). And the IMSA GTO excelled on the US touring car scene in 1989, delivering 530 kW (720 hp) – from little more than two liters of displacement.
Audi presented another milestone in automotive history at the International Motor Show in Frankfurt am Main in 1989: the Audi 100 TDI. It was the first production car with a five-cylinder direct-injection turbocharged diesel engine and fully electronic control. The powerplant generated 88 kW (120 hp) from a displacement of 2.5 liters.
1994 saw the five-cylinder units bow out of the B segment, when the Audi A4 (B5) was introduced. They were gradually replaced in the mid-1990s by the new V6 engines. The last five-cylinder engines, the 2.5 TDI in the Audi A6 and the 2.3 Turbo in the Audi S6, were phased out in 1997.
Then in 2009 there was a big comeback – with turbocharging and gasoline direct injection in the Audi TT RS. The transverse-mounted engine developed by quattro GmbH produced 250 kW (340 hp) from a displacement of 2.5 liters. It also offered outstanding performance in the RS 3 Sportback and in the RS Q3. The TT RS plus, which Audi presented in 2012, mustered up an impressive 265 kW (360 hp). Today, the 2.5 TFSI in the Audi TT RS produces 294 kW (400 hp). An international jury of motoring journalists has voted the five-cylinder powerplant “Engine of the Year” seven times in a row since 2010.
Those who would like to see the first Audi with a five-cylinder engine can currently do so at the Audi Forum in Neckarsulm. The classic car exhibition entitled “From zero to 100” features numerous exhibits, which Audi uses to look back at the eventful history of its successful model. One of the first five-cylinder TDI units from a 1989 Audi 100 is also on display. The exhibition runs until November 6, 2016.
We just invite you here to look at some iconic pictures…
Hans Knol ten Bensel