It all started in 1976 with the Audi 100 (C2).
Ingolstadt is in a festive mood today as it marks the 40th anniversary since the original introduction of the five-cylinder engine. It made its debut in the second-generation Audi 100 back in 1976 and was based on the VW Group’s EA 827 engine concept. Audi wanted to move the new model upmarket and decided that a five- or a six-cylinder inline engine would be more appropriate than a four-cylinder unit. Due to weight distribution concerns and space limitations, the company’s engineers did not to pursue the development of the six-cylinder unit and focused instead on the inline-five.
The fuel-injected engine with a displacement of 2.1 liters developed 136 horsepower (110 kilowatts) at 5,700 rpm and a peak torque of 136 pound-feet (185 Newton-meters) at 4,200 rpm. A carbureted variant was launched in April 1978 with a 1.9-liter displacement and an output rated at 115 hp (85 kW) at 5,400 rpm and 113 lb-ft (154 Nm) at 3,700 rpm.
Also in 1978, Audi premiered a naturally-aspirated 2.0-liter diesel for the 100 (C2) where it produced 70 hp (51 kW) and 90 lb-ft (123 Nm). The motor went on to receive a turbocharger in 1984 lifting output to 87 hp (64 kW) and 126 lb-ft (172 Nm).
Getting back to the five-cylinder gasoline engine, it gained a turbocharger in 1979 which allowed the Audi 200 5T to provide 170 hp (125 kW) and 195 lb-ft (265 Nm) of torque. Engineers continued to work on the engine and installed an intercooler bumping power to 200 hp (147 kW) and 210 lb-ft (285 Nm) in the famous quattro model unveiled at the 1980 Geneva Motor Show. In rally specification for Group B, the 2.1-liter engine produced 360 hp (265 kW) and 331 lb-ft (450 Nm), enough to enable Finn Hannu Mikkola win the drivers’ title that year, with Stig Blomqvist repeating the performance next season.
The Audi Sport quattro (B2) was introduced in September 1983 at the Frankfurt Motor Show with a four-valve, 2.1-liter engine generating a respectable 306 hp (225 kW) and 258 lb-ft (350 Nm). Only 214 units were ever produced of the special model, necessary to meet homologation requirements for rallying.
A 2.3-liter unit was launched in 1984 and it was the first five-cylinder engine to receive as standard a catalytic converter and a fully electronic map-controlled ignition system. It developed 136 hp (100 kW) and 138 lb-ft (188 Nm) of torque, but in some models it was slightly less powerful, at 133 hp (98 kW) and 137 lb-ft (186 Nm).
Driving an Audi Sport quattro S1 equipped with a 598-hp 2.1-liter engine, Walter Röhrl managed to take the win at the 1987 Pikes Peak Hill Climb after a run in 10 minutes and 47.85 seconds.
1988 saw the launch of a five-cylinder gasoline unit fitted with four-valve technology, two catalytic convertors, a diagnostic system, and a closed tank venting system. Launched originally in the Audi 200 quattro 20V (C3), the mill had a 2.2-liter displacement and delivered 220 hp (162 kW) and 227 lb-ft (309 Nm).
For the 1989 IMSA GTO series, the Audi 90 quattro received the world’s most powerful five-cylinder works engine with a massive output of 720 hp (530 kW) and 531 lb-ft (720 Nm).
The very same year, the company’s road-going division unveiled the Audi 100 TDI with the first turbocharged five-cylinder diesel featuring direct injection. The 2.5-liter unit produced 120 hp (88 kW) and 195 lb-ft (265 Nm), being upgraded from 1994 to 140 hp (103 kW) and 213 lb-ft (290 Nm).
Work continued and in 1991 the legendary S4 came out with a 20-valve, 2.2-liter turbo inline-five generating 230 hp (169 kW) and 258 lb-ft (350 Nm). Three years later, Audi launched the mighty Avant RS2 (B4) packing a 2.2-liter turbo with 315 hp (232 kW) and 302 lb-ft (410 Nm) of torque.
Fast forward to 2009, Audi took the wraps off a brand new 2.5-liter turbo for the TT RS which offered a meaty 340 hp (250 kW) and 331 lb-ft (450 Nm). Engineers tweaked the engine and managed to extract 360 hp (265 kW) and 342 lb-ft (465 Nm) for the TT RS plus launched in 2012. Three years later, the second-gen RS3 Sportback was launched with an evolution of the 2.5 TFSI packing a 367 hp / 270 kW & 342 lb-ft / 465 Nm punch.
In its latest installment, the turbocharged five-cylinder gasoline engine pumps out a massive 400 hp (294 kW) and 354 lb-ft (480 Nm) in the recently introduced TT RS Coupe & Roadster. The RS3 Sportback facelift will likely receive the updated engine as well in the months to come and will be joined by the U.S.-bound RS3 Sedan.