40 years of Audi five-cylinder engines​

In 1976 Audi presented the first five-cylinder gasoline engine in the second-generation Audi 100. As the years have gone by improvements have been made including turbocharging, emissions control and four-valve technology, rally engines and five-cylinder diesel units. Carrying on the great tradition of five-cylinder powerplants are the Audi RS 3 Sportback and the TT RS which both contain the 2.5 TFSI engine.

Audi's five-cylinder engines have achieved cult status due not only to their successful deployment in motorsport, but their reliability and economy. They have played a vital role in defining Vorsprung durch Technik and to this day provide an emotional driving experience with their characteristic sound.

The Audi 100 (C2) was the first to contain the five-cylinder gasoline engine in 1976. Known internally as the Type 43, the Audi 100 was to be positioned higher than its predecessor in the market. The four-cylinder engines were deemed not suitable for this plan according to the developers. Audi engineers then discuss the possibility of introducing five and six-cylinder inline engines, the latter was ruled out due to the installation space required and unfavourable weight distribution. The five-cylinder inline engine then went in to development, 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 Audi 100, for instance. The derived five-cylinder engine produced 100kW (136bhp) and a modern injection system increased efficiency and power development with delivery of the Audi 100 5E beginning in March 1977.

The first diesel version was presented in 1978 as a naturally aspirated diesel with a displacement of two liters and producing 51 kW (70 hp). The first turbocharged five-cylinder gasoline engine made its debut one year later powering the new top model, the Audi 200 5T.

Within the 1980 Audi "Ur-quattro" the five-cylinder gasoline engine had even more to offer with turbocharging, an intercooler and a permanent four-wheel drive along with the ability to deliver 147kW (200hp). In 1983, the same year the Finn Hannu Mikkola won the drivers’ title in the World Rally Championship in this car, Audi introduced the wide-track Sport quattro measuring 24cm shorter. Powered by a newly developed four-valve five-cylinder unit made of aluminum with an output of 225 kW (306 hp) it was 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. The other eleven rounds of the season were contested by the Swede Stig Blomqvist in the Group B Audi quattro A2 producing 265 kW (360 hp). In the end, he won the drivers’ title and Audi took the manufacturers’ title.

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.

Another milestone for Audi, and in automotive history, was the Audi 100 TDI, the very 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.​ 

Audi continued to refine its range of five-cylinder gasoline engines. In 1994, the Audi RS 2 with an output of 232 kW (315 hp) came on to the market. As an Avant with the power of a sports car, it established a new automotive class.

In 1994 the five-cylinder units bowed out of the B segment when the Audi A4 (B5) was introduced and were gradually replaced by new V6 engines in the mid-1990s. The last five-cylinder engines appeared in the 2.5TDI Audi A6 and the 2.3 Turbo in the Audi S6 but were phased out in 1997.

2009 saw a big comeback for the five-cylinder engine 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.