In 1976, Audi introduced the second generation Audi 100 and under its hood lay the engine that would come to power some of Audi’s most important cars.
The engine originally came as a compromise between Audi’s existing four cylinder engine and the six cylinder they wanted. With the updated 100, Audi knew they needed a bigger engine, but an I6 would have required too much space and would have worsened weight distribution.
The 2.1L I5 engine they made produced 136 hp, but that number got bigger in a hurry. Less than five years after the first I5, Audi was turbocharging its gas-powered five pot, which bumped power up to 170hp and 195 lb-ft of torque.
With the ‘80s, though, came rally domination, and even more power. The ur Quattro only made about 200hp, but by the time Walter Rohrl made his legendary ascent of Pike’s Peak, it was delivering nearly 600hp.
In 1997 Audi phased out the I5, but the layout made its triumphant return in 2009 under the hood of the TT RS. It has been such a hit that the 2.5L TFSI that featured in the TT has been voted Engine of the Year seven times in a row since 2010.
To celebrate Audi’s 40 years of pentacylindrical excellence we’ve decided to take a look back at some of the finer cars it’s powered. So here are our five favorite five cylinder Audis:
1981 Audi 200 5T
Shortly after the I5 debuted in the second generation 100, Audi made the 200 5T. It was to be the brand’s first luxury class car, another tradition that has followed them to this day. The 200 5T was Audi’s first gas powered engine and thanks to that it produced 170hp and 195 lb-ft of torque.
1987 Audi Sport quattro S1
Of course any ur quattro is worth celebrating, but this was the most extreme expression of the marque. Walter Rohrl took this 600 hp car up Pike’s Peak Hill Climb in 1987 in just 10 minutes and 47 seconds, setting a record in the process.
1989 Audi 90 quattro IMSA GTO
To compete in America’s IMSA racing series at the dawn of the ‘90s, Audi made their I5 out of aluminum and turbocharged the 2.2L motor until it produced 720 hp and 531 lb-ft of torque, which made it the most powerful five-cylinder works engine in motorsport.
1994 Audi Avant RS 2
When it came out, not only was this the first five-cylinder RS model, it was the most powerful five-cylinder production engine Audi had ever built. Thanks to turbocharging and fuel injection, the RS 2’s I5 produced 315hp and 300 lb-ft of torque.
2016 Audi TT RS Coupe
The latest expression of Audi’s five cylinder prowess, the 2016 TT RS has been an automotive media darling, earning the admiration of any number of journalists. The I5 now makes 400 hp and 354 lb-ft of torque.