Five-cylinder engines

The fantastic five

A gruff, off-beat sound usually accompanied by a whistling turbo charger can only mean one thing: five cylinders. With even numbers being the preferred stencil for engine manufacturing, the five-pot is just as quirky and potentially unbalanced as those little three-cylinders.

In recent times, big capacity and relatively dirty engines have been mercilessly killed off and replaced by something featuring less capacity, forced induction and possibly fewer cylinders. Ford’s Focus ST is an example as the legendary five-pot thumper has made way for a four-cylinder.

Does this spell the end of five cylinders?

Does this spell the end of five cylinders? We sincerely hope not and take comfort in the fact that Volvo still produces an impressive number of turbo-Diesel fives. The days of a naturally-aspirated Audi or Kombi straight five may never return though. For this reason, we list a few examples from the last few years.

Alfa 156 / 159 2.4 JTD

We were just as surprised as some of you may be right now – we had a vague idea that Alfa made a Diesel (eek!) and just discovered that it had five cylinders, long strokes and impressive compression.

2387cc i-5 turbo-diesel sohc 2vpc / 82.0 x 90.4 / 18.5:1
110kW@4000 / 305Nm@1800 (156 up to 2003)
2387cc i-5 turbo-diesel dohc 4vpc / 82.0 x 90.4 / 18.5:1
129kW@4000 / 385Nm@2000 (156 from 2004)
2387cc i-5 turbo-diesel dohc 4vpc / 17.0:1
147kW@4000 / 400Nm@2000 (159 from 2007)

Ford Kuga

This is the first of what seems like thousands of iterations the Ford/Volvo 2.5-litre turbo-Petrol straight five came in. In the previous generation of Ford’s mid-size SUV it had comparatively mild power outputs to probably aid longevity.

2521cc i-5 turbo-petrol dohc 4vpc / 83.0 x 93.0 / 9.0:1
147kW@6000 / 320Nm@1600

Ford Ranger (from 2011)

Yup, those giant Ford Ranger bakkies which are popping up all over our (and neighbouring) country are mostly powered by a 3.2-litre inline five-cylinder turbo-Diesel. The impressive 147kW translate to 200 horsepower but it’s this engine’s almost ½ thousand Newton-meters of torque which are astounding.

3198cc i-5 turbo-diesel dohc 4vpc / 89.0 x 100.0 / 15.7:1
147kW@3000 / 470Nm@1500

Ford Focus ST (2006 – 2012)

Ahh, the old brawler on the street corner. If you hear a dark grumble and turbo wastegate, chances are good that you shall witness the imminent arrival of a Focus ST. On three wheels. In orange.

Many current Focus owners delight in this motor’s incredibly wide torque curve and the fact that it can be tweaked quite easily. Most of them did just that and finding an unmodified Focus ST will require lots of patience and sheer luck.

2522cc i-5 turbo-petrol dohc 4vpc / 83.0 x 93.2 / 9.0:1
166kW@6000 / 320Nm@1600

Ford Focus RS (2010)

We tested the limited-edition Focus RS a few years ago and found that it bordered on insane and overpowered. Comparing the engine’s essential specifications with the regular Focus ST above only reveals lower compression but that’s not the only change.

Ford fiddled with almost every component to reduce the motor’s friction and weight while increasing its boost and ability to breathe. We’re sure this engine can deliver even more clout but its durability should start to nose-dive after you pass 300 horsepower.

2522cc i-5 turbo-petrol dohc 4vpc / 83.0 x 93.2 / 8.5:1
224kW@6500 / 440Nm@2300

Hummer H3 (2007 – 2010)

Another unexpected find. Turns out the H3 came with a pretty huge inline five-cylinder petrol engine which must’ve had consumption to match the American car’s bulk.

3653cc i-5 petrol dohc 4vpc / 95.5 x 102.0 / 10.0:1
180kW@5600 / 328Nm@4600

Land Rover Td5

Somewhere during its multiple ownership changes from BMW (1994) and Ford (2000) to current bosses Tata (2008), the 2.5-litre straight five td5 motor was developed to replace the older Tdi (four cylinder) engines in the Defender in Discovery vehicles. Beginning in the late nineties, the engine was produced for roughly ten years before being phased out in favour of the td4 and other power plants.

2498cc i-5 turbo-diesel sohc 2vpc / 84.5 x 88.95 / 19.5:1
90kW@4200 / 300Nm@1950 (Defender)
2498cc i-5 turbo-diesel sohc 2vpc / 84.45 x 88.95 / 19.5:1
101kW@4200 / 300Nm@1950 (Discovery MkII)
2498cc i-5 turbo-diesel sohc 2vpc / 84.45 x 88.95 / 19.5:1
101kW@4200 / 340Nm@1950 (Discovery MkII Auto)

Mercedes-Benz 270 CDi (2002-2004)

Now this engine we’re familiar with, purely because Mercedes used it in many of its models at the turn of the century. The 2.7-litre CDI engine first turned the C and E-Class into fast oil-burners before they were replaced by today’s brawny straight fours and V6’s.

2685cc i-5 turbo-diesel dohc 4vpc / 88.0 x 88.3 / 18.0:1
125kW@4200 / 400Nm@1800 (C-Class & M-Class)
2685cc i-5 turbo-diesel dohc 4vpc / 88.0 x 88.3 / 18.0:1
130kW@4200 / 425Nm@1800 (E-Class)
2686cc i-5 turbo-diesel dohc 4vpc / 88.0 x 88.4 / 18.0:1
115kW@3800 / 330Nm@1400 (Sprinter 416 CDi)

Audi RS3 & TT RS (2011)

Rejoice, for Audi still makes a straight five. Their Ur-Quattro and eighties line-up relied on the legendary 2.2-litre in normal and turbo form which lived on in South Africa for quite some time. VW’s Passat and the hugely popular Kombi (T3 Microbus) 2.5i / 2.6i all used versions of this engine.

More recent Audis to thump off into the distance are their ferocious RS3 and TT RS, powered by a 2.5-litre turbo-Petrol engine which spits out an incredible 250kW or 340hp. Good thing both those cars come with four-wheel-drive…

2480cc i-5 turbo-petrol dohc 4vpc / 82.5 x 92.8 / 10.0:1
250kW@5400rpm / 450Nm@1600

Fiat Stilo Abarth (2004-2006)

Do you remember the Fiat Stilo Abarth? OK, what about the Fiat Stilo? Never mind. If it weren’t for a friend who actually won this car in a competition, we would’ve been in the dark as well. It had a 2.5-litre inline five-cylinder petrol engine but without turbocharging it “only” managed 170 horsepower.

2446cc i-5 petrol dohc 4vpc / 83.0 x 90.4 / 10.5:1
125kW@6000 / 221Nm@3500


Here we go again – in a good way. What follows now is irrefutable proof that Volvo fell in love with the straight five and used it to power just about everything. We wouldn’t be surprised if their office paper shredder is connected up to one of these gems.

1984cc i-5 turbo-diesel dohc 4vpc / 16.5:1
120kW@3000 / 400Nm@1400 (2004 – 2007 S60 / S80 d3)
1984cc i-5 turbo-diesel dohc 4vpc / 16.5:1
130kW@3500 / 400Nm@1750 (2011+ d4)
1984cc i-5 turbo-petrol dohc 4vpc / 81 x 77 / 9.5:1
132kW@5300 / 240Nm (2004 – 2009 S60 2.0T)
2319cc i-5 turbo-petrol dohc 4vpc / 81.0 x 90.0 / 8.5:1
176kW@5100 / 330Nm@2400 (2003 – 2004 C70 T5)
2319cc i-5 turbo-petrol dohc 4vpc / 81.0 x 90.0 / 8.5:1
184kW@5100 / 330Nm@2400 (2003 – 2005 S60 2.3T T5)
2400cc i-5 turbo-diesel dohc 4vpc / 81.0 x 93.2 / 17.3:1
132kW@4000 / 350Nm@1750 (2007+ d5)
2401cc i-5 turbo-diesel dohc 4vpc / 81.0 x 93.2 / 18.0:1
120kW@4000 / 340Nm@1750 (2003 – 2005 d5)
17.3:1 / 136kW@4000 / 400Nm@2000 (2006 – 2009 d5)
81.0 x 93.1 / 16.5:1 / 151kW@4000 / 420Nm@1500 (2010 d5)
81.0 x 93.15 / 16.5:1 / 158kW@4000 / 440Nm@1500 (2011 – 2012 d5)
2435cc i-5 petrol dohc 4vpc / 83.0 x 90.0 / 10.3:1
125kW@6000 / 230Nm@4400 (2004 – 2009 S40 / S60 2.4i)
2521cc i-5 turbo-petrol dohc 4vpc / 83.0 x 93.2 / 9.0:1
147kW@4800 / 300Nm@1500 (2006 – 2009 S80 2.5T)
154kW@5000 / 320Nm@1500 (2005 – 2007 T5, 2003 – 2006 S80 2.5T)
162kW@5000 / 320Nm@1500 (2006 – 2008 T5)
169kW@5000 / 320Nm@1500 (2008 – 2012 T5)
170kW@4800 / 340Nm@1500 (2009 – 2010 S80 2.5T)
2521cc i-5 turbo-petrol dohc 4vpc / 83.0 x 93.2 / 8.5:1
220kW@5500 / 400Nm@1950 (2005 – 2007 S60 R)

Volkswagen V5

So we’re cheating a bit here because this isn’t a true inline/straight five-cylinder but something very close and equally interesting – a VR5 or staggered bank five-cylinder. Available locally in VW’s Jetta and Passat for only a few years, the compact engine bore a slight resemblance to the iconic VR6 motor.

By offsetting the cylinders slightly, the VR engines were shorter than an in-line motor and narrower than a V equivalent, something that must’ve fitted in with VW’s engineering and design of the time. An older version was available overseas but all our V5’s had twin cams and 20 valves.

2324cc V5 petrol dohc 4vpc / 81.0 x 90.2 / 10.8:1
125kW@6200 / 220Nm@3300 (2003 – 2006 Jetta & Passat)

Volkswagen T5

Hiding somewhere in a corner of the Volkswagen price list is their version of a 2.5-litre inline five-cylinder turbo-diesel powering the accomplished modern T5 Kombis and a lonely Touareg. Perhaps their steep prices are the reason few people know about these busses and their 10-valve engines.

2459cc i-5 turbo-diesel sohc 2vpc / 81.0 x 95.5 / 18.0:1
96kW@3500 / 340Nm@2000 (2005 – 2009 VW T5)
128kW@3500 / 400Nm@2000 (2007 – 2010 VW T5 & Touareg R5 TDi)

Have we forgotten your favourite Five?
We glossed over older examples which include Audis and Mercs from the seventies and eighties, as well as Fiat’s five-cylinder Coupe and a whole battalion of earlier Volvos which include those deceptively quick 850 boxes. Let us know which ones you remember best!

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