The Audi 100 range has a particularly strong following in Britain, where its good looks, comfort, road behaviour and reliability are well appreciated. Now Audi NSU have totally revised the model and included at the top of the range the first production, 5-cylinder petrol engine in the world.
In essence the new Audi is a smallish-engined big car, of the same width and length as the new Rover, but designed with such thought for lightness and aerodynamics that even the smallest option 1.6-litre 4-cylinder engine can give excellent performance, while the new 5-cylinder car offers performance on a par with its large-engined, thirsty competitors from an engine of 2,144 c.c., 136 b.h.p. and exceptional economy.
Initially only the middle-of-the–range, 2-litre version will be available in Britain, from the end of the year. In LS form it would cost about £4,100 and £4,700 for the GLS at current exchange rates. Even today, the 5-cylinder GLS5E would be about £6,000, so it could be appreciably higher when it arrives in Britain in a year’s time. There is a possibility that the 1600 model might be imported next year.
All have in-line, cast-iron cylinder blocks surmounted by aluminium cylinder heads and single, toothed-belt-driven overhead camshafts. The 5-cylinder unit is based upon the 1,600 c.c. 4, with the same bore of 79.5 mm., but a slightly lengthened stroke, from 80 to 86.4 mm. While the 85 b.h.p. 1600 and 115 b.h.p. 2-litre engines run on carburetters, the 5 is fitted with Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injection. A four-speed manual gearbox is standard on all models, a ZF automatic being optional.
Front suspension is by McPherson strut, steering geometry is Audi-VW’s self-stabilising type and rack-and-pinion steering can have power assistance as an option on the two larger models. Audi’s torsion crank axle is used at the rear, now with a transversely-mounted Panhard rod. Brakes are disc front (ventilated on the 5), drum rear.
Safety features include a body structure incorporating the principle of regular folding deformation for ultimate impact absorption.
We drove three versions of the Audi 100 in Germany recently. All were immediately noticeable for almost total road noise insulation and lack of wind noise. The 0-60 m.p.h. in 13.4 sec., 100 m.p.h. manual 1600 lacked power in the hills and for rapid overtaking, but in general, its performance wasn’t too bad, though surrounding silence made the engine seem hard-worked at speed. Its steering and handling were excellent, neutral and with almost total lack of front-wheel-drive traits. The ride was excellent over some fairly bad surfaces, but the brakes lacked feel.
Next came an automatic 2-litre with brakes worse than those of the 1600 and oversensitive power steering. The engine had to work hard to compensate for the automatic losses and we longed for more torque. Torque is what we got with an LS5E manual; this five-cylinder unit is extraordinarily flexible and revs easily to about 6,500 r.p.m. Audi describe it as “better than a good four, better than a poor six”, and more viable than a six because of reduced friction, better economy, shorter length, lighter weight and lower cost. However, they haven’t eradicated all the balance problems inherent with a five-cylinder configuration (which. Graham Robson informs us in Autocar, was pioneered in petrol form by Rover, in the sixties) and there is some roughness and harshness at the lower end of the scale. It is at its smoothest between 4,000 r.p.m. and 5,800 r.p.m. This car had some peculiar handling characteristics, yawing in corners, but probably a fault of the car in question—journalists who tried other 5s had no complaints. A manual 5 will accelerate from 0-60 m.p.h. in 9.5 sec. with a 118 m.p.h. maximum against 10.7 sec. and 111 m.p.h. for a 2-litre manual. All the models are beautifully finished, roomy, ergonomically excellent, comfortable in both ride and with exceptional front seats. In fact. if they have a real fault it is that their general excellence leaves them almost boringly characterless. We concluded that the best buy would be a 2-litre manual without power steering and can’t see the 5 competing too well against the full-of-driving character Rover 3500.—C.R.