The Audi five-cylinder turns 40

In 1976, Audi presented its first five-cylinder petrol engine in the second-generation Audi 100. Since then, all enhancements and developments such as turbocharging, four-valve technology, rally engines and five-cylinder diesel units have followed to make the Audi engine the powerhouse it remains today.

Dynamic engines such as the 2.5 TFSI in the Audi TT RS Coupé and Roadster continue the tradition of exceptional five-cylinder engines, while their success in motorsport has achieved cult status for Audi on account of their reliability and economy. Their characteristic sound and superior driving experience have been instrumental in defining what Vorsprung durch Technik means to the modern driver.

At the beginning of the 1970s, Audi engineers wanted to introduce a higher option to the market, but this just couldn’t be done with the four-cylinder engines at the time. Five-cylinder and six-cylinder options were therefore discussed, with the latter being ruled out because it would cause an undesirable weight distribution, as well as taking up too much space. Thus the five-cylinder was born, based on the new EA 827 engine concept.

The Audi 100 5E was the first to feature the 2.1-litre five-cylinder engine, which could produce 136PS, and deliveries of the vehicle began in March 1977. The very next year, Audi presented the first diesel version of the engine, and only one year after that came the turbocharged five-cylinder petrol engine that changed the face of Audi for generations to come. 

Then came the Audi ‘Ur-Quattro’ in 1980 that offered even more; turbocharging, an intercooler and permanent four-wheel drive, delivering 200PS. Finn Hannu Mikkola won the drivers’ title in the World Rally Championship in 1983 with the same car. Later that year, Audi introduced yet another pioneering race-car – the wide-track Sport Quattro, which gave an output of 306PS, making it the most powerful car built to date by a German marque for use on public roads. This car was only the beginning of an illustrious history of rally cars that sent Audi higher and higher into legendary status.

While the 1990s saw the engine phased out in favour of the new V6, 2009 marked a comeback for the five-cylinder in the form of the turbocharged Audi TT RS, which produced a hair-raising 340PS. Today, the 2.5 TFSI growling within the TT RS can muster 400PS, and a jury of motoring journalists from all over the world have voted the five-cylinder powerhouse ‘Engine of the Year’ every year since 2010.

The first Audi with a five-cylinder engine is currently on display at the Audi Forum in Neckarsulm, part of a classic car exhibition called ‘From zero to 100’, featuring a number of exhibits that illustrate the incredible history of the renowned brand. For something a little closer to home, why not explore the entire current Audi collection available at Jardine Motors Audi today?