The third-generation sports-sedan and mega-hatch twins (the latter not sold in the US) will be powered by a 2.5-liter turbocharged five-cylinder engine sending 401 hp through a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox to both axles. It promises supercar-like performance, with a 0-62mph sprint delivered in under four seconds, off to a top speed of 174mph.
To celebrate the arrival of the new RS3, we’ve pulled together a list of some of our favorite five-pot cars. There are plenty of Audis and Volvos on our list, along with one or two surprises. Which famous five would you add to our shortlist?
The forthcoming RS3 can trace its lineage back to the original RS3 Sportback of 2011. The outgoing RS3 arrived in 2015, before a facelift in 2017 coincided with the launch of the first RS3 sedan.
Peak power is rated at a barmy 400 hp, which is enough to propel the RS3 from zero to 62mph in just 4.1sec – that’s quicker than the original Audi R8. The engine is magnificent. In our words, ‘it’s too good, probably, to be considered appropriate for a car like this by almost any other manufacturer’.
An early RS3 Sportback could cost less than the price of a new Ford Fiesta.
Ford Focus ST and RS
Launched in Europe in 2005, the second-generation Ford Focus ST (the ST170 was the Mk1) drew its power from a tuneful 225 hp 2.5-liter five-cylinder turbocharged engine sourced from Volvo. It came with a ‘sound symposer’ to make the most of the five-pot warble.
In 2009, the Focus ST was joined by the Focus RS, complete with a comprehensively reworked version of the 2.5-liter engine. With 305 hp and 325 LB-FT on tap, the Focus RS would hit 62mph in 5.9sec. A year later, the 350 hp Focus RS500 arrived.
Volvo 850 T5
Few British motorsport fans will forget the sight of a pair of Volvo 850 wagons lining up on the start line on the Thruxton circuit at the beginning of the 1994 British Touring Car Championship. They may have been powered by a 2.0-liter engine, but they sparked an interest in the five-cylinder road cars. Race on Sunday, sell on Monday, etc.
The T5 was the first hot Volvo 850. It launched in 1993 with a 2.3-liter turbocharged five-pot producing 225 hp. This was replaced in 1994 by the T-5R, co-developed with Porsche, with its overboosted 240 hp engine capable of propelling the hot estate to 62mph in just 6.9sec. Finally, the 850 R boasted a larger turbo to increase the output to 250 hp.
Fiat Coupe 20v Turbo
With exterior penned by Chris Bangle and an interior styled by Pininfarina, the Fiat Coupé certainly looked the part. Based on a strengthened Fiat Tipo platform, launch cars were powered by normally aspirated and turbocharged four-cylinder engines. But the five-cylinder versions are the pick of the crop.
The Fiat Coupé could hit 62mph in just 6.5sec and on to a top speed of 155mph when powered by the 223 hp 20-valve Turbo engine. A five-pot engine in a sports coupé is a rare thing, so grab one of these Fiats while you still can.
Seat Toledo V5
Seat tried to convince us that the Toledo would become VW Group’s equivalent of the Alfa Romeo 156. It wasn’t to be, but there are plenty of reasons why the ‘Leon saloon’ could make more sense than a 156 in 2021. Elegant Giugiaro styling, VW underpinnings and the option of a 2.3-liter 10-valve V5 engine, to name three.
The engine, essentially a VR6 with a cylinder removed, was first seen in the VW Passat, and later in the Golf and Bora. It launched in the Toledo in 1999 with 152 hp, before the addition of double camshafts increased the power to 172 hp.
The Audi Quattro (officially Audi quattro) is the car most people think of when discussing the five-pot engine. This 200 hp, turbocharged four-wheel drive coupé offered the pace and grip to keep up with any contemporary supercar, making this the ultimate all-weather weapon.
Its 2.1-liter five-cylinder engine produced the most soulful soundtrack; close your eyes and you could imagine being stood next to a Welsh gravel track as this rally hero hurtles by. The engine was modified to a 2.2-liter 10-valve, before the 20-valve version saw the Quattro into retirement.
Land Rover Defender Td5
The decision to switch from the trusty 300Tdi to the Td5 was highly controversial. Land Rover purists saw the introduction of a diesel engine with ECU engine management and electronic injectors as a retrograde step. The end of an era.
Available from 1998 until 2007, the five-cylinder Td5 was the last Land Rover-derived diesel engine, with the company replacing it with a four-cylinder TDCi shared with the Ford Transit. The Td5 is a torquey and largely reliable engine, with owners loving its low-end torque.
Volvo C30 T5
The thinking person’s Ford Focus ST? Not exactly, but if you want to enjoy the 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine in a more mature package, the Volvo C30 T5 could be the answer. The styling is ageing incredibly well, especially on the pre-facelift model (pictured).
At launch, the C30 was available with a choice of three five-pots: a naturally aspirated 2.4 producing 170 hp, a D5 2.4 diesel with 179 hp, and the 220 hp turbo in the T5. The latter is the one you want, although it’s marginally less powerful than the Focus ST and slightly softer in, er, focus.
Fiat Stilo Schumacher GP
The Fiat Stilo Schumacher GP is one of the cheapest F1-inspired cars you can buy. Just 200 copies of the Stilo Schumacher Limited Edition made it to the UK, and the GP version is the rarest of the lot. Prodrive added 18in OZ Superturismo alloys, sports suspension and a stainless-steel silencer.
There were no performance upgrades, so both cars get the same 172 hp 2.4-litre five-cylinder engine. This meant the hot hatch could sprint to 60mph in 8.5sec while making a nicer noise than the Ford Focus ST170 and Vauxhall Astra SRi Turbo.
There’s more to the five-cylinder engine than performance and an intoxicating soundtrack. The 300D five-cylinder diesel was one of the most popular variants of the Mercedes-Benz W123 saloon and station wagon, and it even found its way into the elegant coupé.
The W123 diesel is widely acknowledged as one of the toughest and most reliable cars of its era, with the engine capable of achieving a seven-figure mileage with little more than regular maintenance. Once retired from service in Europe and USA, many made their way to Africa for an extended life.
Cupra Formentor VZ5
The Formentor VZ5 is Cupra’s most powerful SUV yet, with its turbocharged 2.5-litwe five-cylinder engine producing 390 hp. Production is limited to 7000 units, all in left-hand drive.
We said: ‘The five-cylinder engine is as brawny and muscular as its power and torque figures suggest, providing great urge at the bottom end and a hugely robust mid-range.’ We also said the five-pot gives the VZ5 ‘a rich character’.
The Volvo C70, on sale from 2006 until 2013, offered the best of both worlds. A coupé for when the weather was decidedly ‘British’, and a convertible for those rare days of sunshine. Its three-piece folding roof was designed by Pininfarina, while the platform was sourced from the Ford Focus.
For five-cylinder goodness, you need the T5, with its 2.5-liter 20-valve turbocharged petrol engine from the Focus ST. The C70 is too heavy to offer ST-like performance, but you’ll enjoy the five-pot warble with the roof down.
Volkswagen Golf V5
It’s that 2.3-liter V5 engine again, this time in the slightly more familiar surroundings of the Mk4 VW Golf. In common with the Seat Toledo, it launched with a 152 hp 10-valve engine, before the 172 hp 20-valve version arrived around the turn of the millennium.
It doesn’t give the Mk4 Golf the pace of a performance car – it’s no Golf GTi – but it works well as a more upmarket grand tourer.
Audi TT RS
The Mk2 Audi TT RS saw a welcome return to the five-cylinder engine, but the 340 hp sports coupé was a little underwhelming. Even the launch of the Plus model in 2012, which saw power increased to 360 hp, failed to right the wrongs. Fortunately, the current TT RS feels more like a ‘baby R8’.
Lightened and retuned to produce 399 hp, the five-pot now delivers the pace to match a six-figure supercar. Forget rivalling the Porsche 718 Cayman S, the TT RS can live with a 911 Carrera 4S. If you’re after the style and soundtrack, don’t rule out the cheaper predecessor.
Fiat Bravo HGT
Time has been really kind to the styling of the Fiat Bravo. Unfairly overlooked when new, the Bravo HGT is arguably more interesting than many of its contemporary rivals, so it’s a shame so few have survived.
Launched in Europe in 1997, the Bravo HGT used a naturally aspirated five-cylinder engine derived from the Fiat Coupé. It wasn’t the quickest hot hatch, but it made the nicest noise. We should give an honourable mention to Fiat’s 2.4-liter five-cylinder diesel engine, which found its way into the likes of the Alfa 156, Fiat Marea and Lancia Thesis.
Land Rover Discovery 1 and 2
Land Rover’s German bosses were less than impressed with the Td5 engine when BMW took the reins in the 1990s. The same could be said of the British Army, which voiced its concerns about difficult repairs when running Defenders in the field of duty. Neither BMW nor the British Army should have been concerned, because the Td5 proved its worth.
It’s great for off-roading and towing, with the Discovery offering greater comfort than the more utilitarian Defender. When rust forces a Disco off the road, the Td5 engine often finds its way into a willing Defender.
Volvo, Audi, Ford and Fiat are probably the first names that spring to mind when you consider the five-pot engine, but what about Honda? Its G-series engine was used in a handful of saloons in the 1980s and 1990s, with the 2.5-liter making it to the US to power the Acura Vigor.
Honda hoped that the G25A engine would combine the performance of a six-cylinder engine with the economy of a four-pot. Customers failed to embrace it, bringing a premature end to Honda’s experiment.
Ford S-Max 2.5T
It’s a rare old thing, but the Ford S-Max 2.5T is the closest thing to owning a Focus ST with seven seats. A ‘hot’ S-Max makes more sense than you think, because it’s always been the best handling minivan you could buy. Why not add an engine to match?
Less ‘in-yer-face’ than a Vauxhall Zafira VXR, it was more interesting than its larger Galaxy siblig. Europeans might want to download a gas station loyalty app before taking the plunge, however.
Donkervoort D8 GTO-JD70
The Donkervoort D8 GTO-JD70 is based on the regular D8 GTO and built to celebrate Joop Donkervoort’s 70th birthday. Only 70 will be built, each one powered by Audi’s 2.5-litre five-cylinder engine. A mighty 421 hp in a car weighing just 680kg (1496lb)– where do we sign?
Our Matt Prior called it ‘a beautifully finished, raw, stripped-out supercar alternative, with power to spare, involvement overload and one of the world’s most charismatic engines’.
Our cover star, and where it all began for Audi’s RS badge. The RS2 was essentially an Audi 80 powered by a Porsche-tuned 2.2-liter five-cylinder 20-valve turbocharged engine producing 315 hp. It meant that it could hit 60mph in just 4.8sec.
It produced some of the most remarkable figures in an Autocar test. We discovered that it could hit 30mph in just 1.5sec, enough to outpace a McLaren F1. Don’t spend too long thinking about the time when you could buy a used RS2 for the price of a new city car. Sadly, it was never sold in America.