1981 Audi 200 5E C2 road test

2015 / 2016 Drive-My

Audi 200 5E lightweight contender. Logical successor to the turbocharged 200 5T C2 (Typ 43) models announced September 1979, the normally aspirated 200E was introduced into this country in February 1981, and uses Audi’s normal 2,144 c.c. Bosch K-Jetronic injected undersquare five-cylinder engine which produces 136 bhp (DIN) at 5,700 rpm. 200 models are based on 100 series bodyshell, and have the same 105in. wheelbase. They feature additional front spoilering, four headlight treatment, wide cast alloy wheels and low profile tyres.

It is over two years since the 200 series Audi first appeared. The introduction of a normally-aspirated version dubbed the 200 5E to this country seems an entirely logical move, and should not only increase the model’s penetration into the executive car market, but widen its appeal for those who do not require the extra power of the turbo version, and who may also be put off by the extra complication turbocharging involves.

Apart from badging both the 5E and 5T appear identical, sporting the same cast alloy wheels, 205/60HR15 low profile tyres (Continentals on test car), four headlights, and spoilered front end treatment. Like the 5T, the 200E comes trimmed in check cloth. Instrumentation is also identical except that an economy driving gauge replaces the boost gauge.

With the 200 series based on the Audi 100 body shell it is no surprise to find the 200E the lightest car we have weighed in its class. The test car tipped MIRA’s scales at 25.2 cwt distributed 61/39 front to rear, making it around 801b less nose heavy than 5T models. There have been no alterations to Audi’s by now extremely well proven 2.2-litre sohc five cylinder engine. Bore and stroke dimensions are a significantly undersquare 79.5×86.4 mm. On Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injection this delivers 136 bhp (DIN) at 5,700 rpm and 127 lb. ft. torque at 4,800 rpm.

Presently, the 200E is available only with Audi’s own (but quite conventional) three-speed automatic transmission. On a 3.37 to 1 final drive overall gearing is 21.1 mph per 1,000 rpm. Suspension follows normal Audi practice with a MacPherson strut front end and a coil sprung, twisting beam rear axle located by trailing arms and a Panhard rod. The 200E comes in one specification with such items as a stereo VHF radio/cassette player, electric windows, central locking, rear door mounted cigar lighters, internally adjustable door mirrors, spare cushions and rear reading lights as standard, and if required a plethora of extras – ABS brakes, air conditioning, self-levelling suspension and leather upholstery can be added.



The overriding impression when driving a five-cylinder Audi is of the engine’s flexibility, its eager response, this in spite of the fact that there is an engine of little over 2-litres driving through an automatic transmission and pulling along a relatively large car. The straight line acceleration figures speak for themselves. Zero to 30, 60 and 100 mph in 4.2, 10.5 and 36.8 sec is respectable enough and around par for the class. On the test car the rev limiter cut in at 6,400 rpm (100 rpm before the red line) and clearly the engine is producing plenty of power beyond the quoted peak because these acceleration times were achieved by holding Low and Intermediate to an indicated 6,300 rpm. Left to its own devices upchanges occurred lower down the range at 5,600 rpm (46 and 82 mph) but still ideally close to peak power.

Gear mph kph rpm
Top (mean) 110 177 5,200
(best) 113 182 5,350
2nd 93 150 6,400
1st 53 85 6,400


During performance testing we also noted an interesting and repeatable phenomenon (which has appeared in other cars with automatic transmission) where the car accelerates initially slightly better in Drive. In this case our 200E got to 30 mph in 3.9 sec, but was half a second slower at 60 mph, the gap increasing until the car was a full 2 seconds behind at 100 mph, all of which was sufficient to add 0.2 sec to the quarter mile and kilometre times.

Standing ¼-mile: 17.9 sec, 79 mph
Standing km: 33.3 sec, 97 mph


That said, it would be difficult to criticise Audi’s automatic for change quality. Full or part throttle upchanges occur smoothly, and the gearbox is particularly responsive on both part and full throttle downchanges. Kickdown into Low is available up to 40 mph and up to 78 mph from Top to Inter. Indeed such is the transmission’s sensitivity, there are occasions when throttling up and down at just below 40 mph (a shade below the maximum kickdown point into Low) can cause the gearbox to hunt rather desperately for the correct gear, yet this minor quirk seemed a small price to pay for the trans-mission’s virtues which allowed quick and sure overtaking without the driver having to resort to manual selection of gears.

True Time Speedo
mph (sec) mph
30 4.2 34
40 5.8 44
50 7.6 55
60 10.5 65
70 14.1 75
80 18.2 84
90 24.5 94
100 36.8 105


As normal, a button on the driver’s side of the centrally mounted T handle selector operates the detents protecting Low and Reverse. However like many other similar shifts, the 200E’s could do with a stop to prevent free selector movement between Drive and Neutral, which during manual upchanges could allow the insensitive to inadvertently select neutral on the “push through”.

mph  Top 2nd 1st
0-20   2.2
10-30 2.8
20-30 3.2
30-50 3.5
40-60 6.0
50-70 6.7
60-80 7.8
70-90 10.8
80-100 21.2


In almost ideal conditions the 200E pulled a mean maximum of 110 mph with the engine revving at 5,200 rpm, some 500 rpm below peak power, a slight degree  of overgearing which seems to have affected neither acceleration nor top speed compared with the lower and theoretically Audis better geared road test Audi 100 5E.

As we have come to expect of any Bosch L or K-Jetronic fuel injected engine, start up from hot or cold was immediate, and driveability during an extremely short warm up period was beyond criticism.


A disappointment

Although the test mileage was fairly short by Autotest standards, much of the driving involved long and not especially hard ’ driven runs. Though it should be possible to average around 24 mpg, we could not better 22.4 mpg during brim to brim checks while performance testing dragged consumption down to 18.9 mpg, leaving the overall figure at 20.7 mpg (200 5T Auto 17.7 mpg). One particularly pleasing feature (presumably dictated by the Turbo’s greater thirst) is the 200E’s 16½ gallon fuel tank giving it a touring range of at least 300 miles and still leaving a decent reserve. Moreover such generous tankage prevents the driver ever feeling the need to fully brim the car by squeezing in the last half gallon or so which takes several painstaking minutes. For the rest of the time the filler happily accepts full pump flow, and a welcome feature on the 200E (and most other Audis) is its ignition key operated lockable fuel killer cap. Oil consumption during the test period was negligible.

Overall mpg:  20.7 (13.7 litres/100km)  
Constant speed
30 31.0
40 30.6
50 29.0
60 27.6
70 26.1
80 24.3
90 22.2
100 20.5
Manufacturers figures 25.9 

Drive-MY formula:

Hard 18.6 mpg

Driving Average 22.8 mpg
and conditons Gentle 26.9 mpg
Grade of fuel: Premium, 4-star (97 / 100 RM)
Fuel tank: 16.5 Imp galls (75 litres)
Mileage recorder: 1.0 per cent short
Official fuel consumption figures (ECE laboratory test conditions; (not necessarily related to Autocar figures)
Urban cycle: 20.9 mpg
Steady 56 mph 30.1 mpg
Steady 75 mph: 23.3 mpg
(SAE 20W/50) 560 miles/pint


Mainly road induced

The Audi five cylinder may not possess quite the ultimate smoothness of the better sixes. It remains acceptably refined emitting a purposeful and rather pleasing growl on wide open throttle. At high cruising speeds this dies away to a very acceptable degree, and it is then one be-comes rather too aware of the relatively high degree of tyre roar and the car’s noise sensitivity to the coarser road surfaces. Since this particular test car was not fitted with a sunshine roof, wind noise proved somewhat better supressed than on the road test 5T. There is some evident from the pillar area at around 70 mph, and it becomes quite strong at higher speeds.

Our mention of road noise should not be taken as special criticism of the Continental tyres fitted to the car, more of the pattern noise characteristics that seem to be inherent in all block tread pattern ultra low profile tyres. They are also liable to transmit rather more road shock and thump over potholes and road joints than taller tyres do. Thus the 200E also suffers – more than the average taller tyred car in this respect also.

Road behaviour

Not quite quirk free

When it comes to front-wheel-drive steering quality, the Audi range and the 100/200 series in particular, take some beating. A simple test was to wind on nearly full lock, floor the throttle and let go, of the wheel. Impressively one finds almost no extra selfaligning torque effect (snatch), likewise, little tendency for the steering to self centre at more than the normal rate. In fact in everyday driving it would be hard to tell the 200E was front wheel drive until a front wheel spins during an over-enthusiastic get-away on a wet surface, when there is also a momentary tug at the wheel. With less power and a torque converter to cushion the drive, front wheelspin is certainly nothing like the wet weather problem it is on the 170 bhp 200 5T. The power steering is geared according to the German motor industry norm with 3.5 turns covering a tolerably good 351/2ft turning circle. Besides ease of parking, one of the nicest aspects of the 200 series cars is their wonderfully crisp initial steering response. We felt however that on this particular test car the steering lacked weighting and feel around the straight ahead position at high speeds, something not previously noticed on the slightly more nose heavy 5T.

Fade (from 85 mph in neutral)
Pedal load for 0.5g stops in lb
  start/end   start/end
16-20 6 55-35
25-23 7 50-35
30-25 8 50-30
40-30 9 45-30
50-30 10 45-30
Response (from 30 mph in neutral)
10 lb 0.16 188 ft
20 lb 0.40  75 ft
30 lb 0.55  55 ft
40 lb 0.75  40 ft
60 lb 0.95  31.7 ft
Handbrake 0.30  100 ft
Max gradient 1 in 3  
Kerb, 25.2 cwt/2,828 lb/ 1.284 kg
(Distribution F/R, 61/39) 
Test, 27.9 cwt/3,126 lb/1,420 kg
Max payload 1,113 lb/505 kg 


The ride is firm and will appeal particularly to those who appreciate a taut closely controlled feel. They should happily accept the previously mentioned higher than average degree of tyre thump and the occasional sharp input. The ride never becomes hard or harsh and the car takes to long undulations particularly well.

When cornered hard, roll is well controlled, however one suspects this very roll stiffness (howsoever achieved) leads to a rather irritating transverse rocking motion – so called “roll rock” – usually noticed when driving along perfectly straight roads with minor surface imperfections, also if there are undulations in the middle of a long corner. Also, this particular test car suffered from a previously-un-noticed and mildly upsetting momentary feeling of instability from the rear as one turned into a corner at high speed; the sort of characteristic that could have been due to the car having the incorrect rear tyre pressures, but was not.

Quirks apart, the abiding feeling was of a car that cornered quickly without fuss. Ultimately the 200E is an understeerer of course, with a mild and gentle restoration of front end grip if the throttle is suddenly released in mid-corner. With so much of the vehicle’s weight over the front wheels natural straight line stability is good, though we felt not as good as the 5T’s if only because of this particular 5E’s initial rear end uneasiness, which sometimes made itself felt in stiff cross winds.


Spongy but good

The 200 5E is fitted with conventional vacuum servo braking, unlike the right hand drive 5T whose underbonnet installation dictates a power hydraulic system. The pedal feel in both systems is much the same, their sponginess not initially conveying much braking confidence especially as all but the hardest braking is done in this soft and lighter than average regime. In the event, the 200E’s response curve progressed nicely from the light 10lb load required to attain a gentle 0.22g retardation to the 50lb needed for quite respectable 0.95g crash stop – a better rate of emergency deceleration than could be obtained on either 5T road test cars with their seemingly greater inclination to lock up at the front.

Disc brakes are fitted front (vented) and rear, and as expected fade resistance is first rate. Towards the end of the later stops (10 at 0.5g from 79 mph in this case) pedal pressures rose somewhat but consistently so without the driver feeling any actual fade was near.

The handbrake works on the lightly laden back wheels, and while it managed a reasonable 0.3g retardation in the flat, and held the car facing up MIRA’s test slope there was insufficient traction between tyres and tarmac to prevent the car proceeding gently down the 1 in 3 with rear wheels locked. The 200E treated the res- tart facing upwards with contemptuous ease.

Behind the wheel

Well equipped

The position of the pedals and steering wheel will almost certainly dictate the driver selecting a fairly upright driving position. The driver sits high with a commanding view of the road ahead. The really tall driver may find headroom a little restricted, but he is particularly well served for longitudinal adjustment. The seats are firm. Most testers found them comfortable for long stretches at the wheel. Another felt they had rather too much support in the lumbar region and too little for the shoulders.

Instrumentation is the usual very neat Audi set up – subtly lit at night – and contained in a binnacle and all visible through the top half of the wheel. The speedometer (0-150 mph with push to reset trip) is flanked on the left by the rev counter with an inset fuel consumption indicator (marked with gradations rather than actual figures), and on the right by a dial containing the water temperature, fuel contents, and oil temperature gauges, Audi engineers making the point, that in the extraordinarily rare event of sudden oil pressure loss it is even more unlikely that the driver would notice the fact in time to save the engine, so this function is dealt with by the usual warning light.

Audi stalk controls work positively, and deal with wash/wipe and hazard warning lights on the right, indicators, and main lights on the left. Horn operation is in its rightful position – from the crash pad in the centre of the wheel. The electric window rocker switches placed in the forward face of the centre armrest fall naturally to fingertip.

One minor niggle on such an otherwise well turned out right hand drive version is that the left hand drive wiper pattern has been retained leaving a fairly large unwiped portion in the driver’s quarter, which taken together with the Audi’s relatively thick pillaring leaves quite a more than usually serious obstruction to front right quarter visibility. Otherwise the view out is generally good with the car’s squared off bonnet line making it a particularly easy’ car to judge widths in. The door mirrors adjust manually via a toggle arrangement. These are appreciated as is the four jet screen wash system linked to wipers which automatically run for six strokes as the washer is switched.

The heating and ventilation system is one of the Audi’s best features. It earns praise for both temperature and directional control, also output which can be prodigious if the heat control and fan are turned up fully. There are five facia vents (all can be individually closed), including one under the steering column, and two more on the facia top for side window demist. With little ram effect fan assistance is usually required to maintain flow but this is no hardship as it is almost inaudible on the first speed and relatively quiet on the other two. If any criticism is to be levelled at the system it is that the directional control does not provide for an independent source of face level fresh air, face level ventilation temperature being pre-deter- mined (Granada and Escort-like) as the temperature is reduced. Or to put it more succinctly, you cannot have a cool face and toasting feet.

Living with the Audi

Over recent years Audi have become adept at producing light cars, that are also extremely well finished and kitted out. Always impressive are the trim fits, and detail work. The moulded headlining is colour keyed and check cloth faced. The sun visors are neatly recessed either side of a digital clock. Moreover there are very few in this or any other class that can compete where oddment space is concerned. Complementing a good sized glovebox there is deep shelving running either side of the centre console, plus generous and substantial front door pockets, a centre armrest locker, spring back pockets in the front seat backs, and a small bin under the radio in the centre console. Access to the rear is straightforward. Rear passengers will find a centre armrest, door mounted ci-gar lighters, ashtrays, reading lights and cushions. The rear seats are comfortable though taller passengers may find headroom rather restricted.

In view of our comments on the wipers it is pleasing to see the bonnet pull on the right, and lady drivers will particularly appreciate the way the bonnet springs open with assistance from a gas strut.

The inclined five cylinder engine comes right forward with its radiator mounted to the left, and fuel injection equipment on the right. Daily service items are simple to check, while more thorough service attention will be best left to the expert.

The boot is carpeted, illuminated, cavernous, and uncluttered since the jack is clipped to the offside under wing and the spare wheel hides in a well under the boot floor. When locking or unlocking the car one always appreciates the Audi’s inaudible pneumatic type central locking system.

The Audi 200 Range

At present the normally aspirated 200 5E comes with automatic transmission only and at £10,851. Both the automatic and manual 1981 Audi 5T turbo versions cost £13,860.


Others worthy of consideration would be the BMW 528i E12 (131 mph, 0-60 8.7 sec and 23.3 mpg), Volvo 264GLE (£11,498,10.8 sec and 18.7 mpg) the Alfa 6 (£11,900,11.4 sec and 18.7 mpg), Toyota Crown (£10,007,113 mph, 10.4 sec and 24.8 mpg), the yet to be tested Talbot Tagora 2.6SX Automatic (£11,300), the Mercedes 280E W123 (£12,775,116 mph, 11.0 sec and 16.9 mpg) or even the manual Lancia Gamma (£8,195, 118 mph, 10.1 sec and 19.1 mpg).

Of those here the Opel is clearly the most powerful, the fastest – also the least economical. Ford Granada, Rover and Peugeot figures would obviously be less favourable with automatic transmission bringing them much nearer the Audi on performance.

Although the Audi is more powerful than the Citroen (the heaviest car here), the difference in top speed is an apt comment on the CX’s excellent aerodynamics.

For its part, the Audi has the smallest engine. It drives like a bigger engined car, with middling levels of mechanical refinement, the Opel, Granada and Peugeot faring somewhat better here, with the Rover and Citroen about as fussy when worked hard. On the other hand the Citroen CX Pallas IE Automatic rates near the top (with the Opel, Ford and Peugeot) for its cruising refinement.


The CX Pallas’ self levelling suspension still easily beats the opposition for the superb ride it offers. On the minus side the suspension can be caught out of phase on the late side of a severe bump or in a long undulating bend (where the Rover’s self levelling rear suspension is also apt to get confused).

The Citroen’s very high geared power hydraulic steering may also take some getting used to – a comment that applies to a lesser extent to the Rover.

All but the Peugeot have air blending heating and ventilation. The most effective systems are in the Granada, Audi, Rover, Opel and Citroen (in that order) with the Peugeot earning low marks for its comparatively lacklustre temperature control.


If spaciousness and load carrying versatility be the requirement, then the five door Rover is a hard car to beat. Of the rest there is little to choose between them on overall legroom, the Audi being the best choice if one is taller than average.

All provide plenty of room for four the Peugeot and Citroen having seating in the French idiom – soft – while the Audi, Opel, Granada and Rover have upholstery in descending order of firmness.

Boot space (if figures are to be believed the Peugeot has the smallest luggage carrying capacity) on all cars here is generous, the one drawback on the Citroen being its rather low and awkward boot lid opening.


It seems that even the “£10,000” class is hotly contended nowadays. One’s choice (more likely the company’s) could depend on so many factors outside individual qualities. But if we are to make dispassionate judgement, the Rover’s virtues are its hatchback spaciousness and simplicity. The Opel (Vauxhall equivalents) and Ford have no significant faults, and the latter has by far the biggest service network behind it.

The technically sophisticated Citroen seems excellent value for money. It is nevertheless a complex car with a small dealership; about the size of Peugeot’s, and both organisations are a little smaller than VAG – Audi’s service network.

On finish (regrettably still a Rover weak point), most aspects of handling and performance, the Audi stands up well especially considering its engine size, yet without any very significant price advantage in this car, one wonders it the company buyer is not going to be just that bit more influenced by the availability and cost of spares and service – the private buyer perhaps even more so. If that is the case, the arguments for looking hardest at this Granada or a somewhat cheaper versions are all too powerful.

Interior is fully carpeted and doth trimmed. Generous door bins are provided. Far left: Front seat backs have ‘spring back’ pouches. Below left: Electric window switches are centre armrest mounted. Left: Rear occupants get door mounted reading lights, cigar lighters and cushions.

Above: Boot is cavernous, uncluttered, and carpeted. A small tray on the nearside is useful for holding oddments. Spare wheel is housed under boot floor.

Underbonnet installation is complex but beautifully laid out. Fuel injection equipment dominates offside, while the radiator is mounted on the nearside. Access to daily service items is good.

Plain and simple: Crash pad in centre of wheel operates horn. Instruments comprise (from left to right) revcounter with inset. “Econometer,” speedometer and dial containing oil temperature, water temperature, and fuel contents guages. Stalk controls (hidden) are indicators and main lights (left), hazard warning md wash/wipe on right. Heater controls are centre facia mounted. Note generous shelving and ventilation outlets.

Far left: One of Field Aviation services’ fan jet Falcons provides a suitable background for Autocar staff member and road test 200E.

Deep rubber faced bumpering side bump strips (containing indicators and sidelamps at the front), four headlights and a deepish front air dam distinguish the 200s series Audis.

PRODUCED BY: Audi NSU Auto Union AG, 8070 Ingoldstat West Germany

SOLD IN THE UK BY: Volkswagen (GB) Ltd, Yeoman’s Drive, Blakelands, Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire MK14 5AN


Car 1981 Audi 200 5E C2
Made in Germany
Number built 1979-1982 /
Car type Front engine, front wheels drive
Type Audi R5 WC
Head/block Light alloy head / cast iron block
Cylinders 5
Main bearings 6
Cooling Water
Fan Electric
Bore, mm (in.) 79.5 (3.13)
Stroke, mm (in.) 86.4 (3.40)
Capacity, cc (in.)  2.144
Valve gear OHC
Camshaft drive Toothed belt
Compression ratio 9.3-to-1
Ignition Breakerless
Fuel injection Bosch K-Jetronic
Max power 136 bhp (PS-DIN) at 5.700 rpm
Max torque 127lb ft at 4.200 rpm
Type Three speed epicyclic automatic transmisson with torque converter
Gear Ratio mph/1000rpm
Top 1.0 21.12
2nd 1.45 14.59
1st  2.55 8.28
Final drive gear / Ratio Hypoid bevel / 3.37 to 1
Front location MacPherson struts
springs Coil
dampers Telescopic
anti-roll bar Yes
Rear location Twisting beam axle, trailing arms, Panhard rod 
springs Coil
dampers Telescopic
anti-roll bar Yes
Type Rack and pinion
Power assistance Yes
Wheel diameter 15.25 in.
Turns lock to lock 3.5
Circuits Dual split diagonaly
Front 11.02 (282.9mm)  in. dia. ventilated disc
Rear 9.65 (263.9 mm) in. dia. ventilated disc
Servo Vacuum
Handbrake Centre lever, rear disc
Type Aluminium alloy
Rim Width 6J
Tyres make Pirelli
type Radial ply
size 205/60HR 15
pressure F26. R24 psi (normal driving)
Battery 12V 63 Ah
Alternator 75A
Headlamps 110/220W
Reversing lamp Standard
Hazard warning Standard
Electric fuses 21
Screen wipers Two-speed plus intermittent
Screen washer Electric
Interior heater Water valve
Air conditioning Extra
Interior trim Leather or cloth seats, pvc head-lining
Floor covering Carpet
Jack Screw pillar
Jacking points Two each side, under sills
Windscreen Laminated, tinted
Underbody Paint system.
protection bitumastic. pvc

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