A puller, not a pusher, this big Audi found many fans…
This second generation of big front-wheel-driven Audis was developed by a team headed by the famous ex-chairman of the Volkswagen Group board, Ferdinand Piëch. Although the initial entry-level C2-generation 100 models used a familiar four-cylinder 1,6-litre engine, this body was ideally suited to a larger unit in the shape of the five-cylinder (developed from the four), with a longer stroke and an extra cylinder. It was christened the 100-5E.
Audi must have been ecstatic when this model was a massive sales success and the brand soon revised the range to include only five-cylinder versions. At the entry point was a less expensive five with a twin-choke carburettor in place of the injection, thereby reducing the price by 11 percent. You would expect the switch from fuel injection would have an adverse effect on its fuel consumption but this was true only up to 100 km/h; after that, the two engines were on a par.
One disadvantage of the straight-five was its location far forward in the engine bay. This affected handling somewhat because the centre of mass moved forward. This also influenced the braking, where a fair deal of nose-dive was evident.
The steering was rack and pinion but lacked power assistance. To counter this, the ratio was high at nearly five turns lock to lock, leading to vagueness in a straight line.
The boot could swallow 400 litres of luggage but, in those days rear seats were fixed, reducing versatility. Interior space and comfort were impressive.
The five-cylinder had a 2,1-litre capacity. The German manufacturers hit on a winner when they adopted the Bosch K-Jetronic mechanical fuel-injection system. It and the later L-Jetronic paved the way for efficient combustion. The engine had a cast-iron block with an aluminium cylinder head using a single o-h-c with belt drive. A feature of Audis was their inline engine mounting.
The auto transmission back then still used three forward ratios. The manual had four speeds up to 1980, after which an extra gear was added. In 1982, the fifth ratio was over-geared in an effort to aid economy and the model rebranded 100-5E (4+E). Unfortunately, it didn’t quite work and there was no noticeable fuel saving to be had.
Which one to get
Look for decent mileage and minimal rust. The cloth upholstery may be difficult to match and repair, so well-kept condition is key.
The most economical petrol version was the 100GLS 5E with a five-speed manual that we tested in February 1980, which showed an efficiency improvement of 22 percent over the four-speed AT. Our fuel index at the time (the manufacturer’s figure plus 40 percent) would have come to 10,96 L/100 km. These days, we add 20 percent because carmakers’ figures are a little nearer reality.
What to watch out for
Rust and missing trim are the biggest problems for restoration; mechanical parts should not be an issue. There are still many powertrains doing admirable service in the ubiquitous VW Microbuses that remain a common sight on our roads.
Availability and prices
Thanks to the good sales figures for a large car, there should be a few decent offerings available. Scrapped models will also have been stripped for use as replacement spares.
The diesel models sold in small numbers compared with the cheaper and more powerful petrol versions, so these may be difficult to locate. They will also be much more expensive to overhaul.
The VW Group bought the Audi brand (mostly from Daimler Benz) in 1963. In the majority of our road tests, the headings would say “Audi [with model number] by VW”.
It’s always interesting to look at tests of the earlier diesel cars and compare fuel-consumption figures with the petrol versions. The GL-5 tested in October 1979 returned 7,2 L/100 km at a steady 100 km/h, which would give the car a cruising range of 1 042 km.
The final version of the 100-5E was named the Victory to celebrate Audi’s first WRC championship with the Quattro in 1983.