Audi's Five-Cylinder Engine Boasts A Legendary Heritage

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Born from winning race cars.

Name a new car with a five-cylinder engine. If you live in the United States, there's only one: the 2022 Audi RS3. The other two sold in Europe, the Audi RS Q3 and Cupra Formentor VZ5, have the same 2.5-liter turbocharged mill. Not only does this engine boast a unique configuration, but it also comes from legendary origins. Audi created the original five-cylinder engine in the 1970s after being tasked with creating more power than a four-cylinder while retaining minimal size and maximum efficiency. The 2.1-liter engine debuted in the 1976 Audi 100 boasting 136 horsepower, and the legend grew from there.

Most car enthusiasts know Audi's five-pot from its 1980s race cars, specifically Group B Rallying. From 1982 to 1986 World Rally Championship cars were allowed unlimited boost with no weight restrictions, meaning the Audi Sport quattro could deliver a whopping 450 hp from its five-cylinder turbo unit. The Sport quattro went on to win four WRC titles.

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Audi
Audi
Audi

After dominating WRC, Audi went on to win the Pikes Peak Hill Climb in 1987 with a 598 hp Sport quattro S1 (E2) driven by Walter Rohr. Towards the end of the '80s, Audi then dominated North American sports car racing in the IMSA GTO and SCCA Trans Am series. The Audi 200 quattro Trans-Am produced 510 hp from a tiny 2.1-liter five-cylinder while the Audi 90 quattro IMSA GTO obliterated that figure with a staggering 720 hp.

These cars were so successful in these series, Audi took home eight wins out of 13 events. The series later banned quattro all-wheel-drive because it was seen as an unfair advantage. "My mind races thinking about the countless victories and successes Audi has had with the legendary five-cylinder engine," says racing driver Hans Stuck. "The combination of the five-cylinder paired with quattro was not only unique, but it was unstoppable."

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Audi
Audi
Audi
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In 1994, the Porsche-developed Audi RS2 debuted with a 2.2-liter five-cylinder producing 315 hp, an unheard of number for a wagon. Audi's next five-cylinder RS car didn't appear until 2012 with the TT RS, developing 360 hp. Though the TT RS will be discontinued in the US after 2022, the model will live on in other markets. That engine has been improved since then, now pushing out 401 hp in the 2022 RS3, the highest output of any production five-cylinder Audi model.

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Audi
Audi
Audi

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