Image: Engineering Explained (YouTube)

Most automotive enthusiasts are familiar with Volkswagen’s long-lived VR6 engine. It is a 6-cylinder engine with fifteen degree offset cylinder bores so that it is more compact than a traditional inline six engine and less expensive to produce than a V6 engine (thanks to a shared cylinder head and manifolds). This engine has a unique sound, a unique power-delivery, and has served a long list of Volkswagen AG cars. You may not have known, however, that Volkswagen built a 5-cylinder version of this VR engine.

The V5 engine found its way into MK4 Golfs and Jettas (Boras), B5-generation Passats, New Beetles, and Spain’s second-gen SEAT Toledo as a less expensive option with more power, slotting in somewhere between the naturally aspirated fours and the optional 1.8T. The V5 engine was built as a 2.3-liter with around 150 horsepower when it launched as a 10 valve, and was later upgraded to 170 horsepower when each cylinder gained an extra pair of valves.

In traditionally excellent Engineering Explained form, Jason Fenske explains how the Volkswagen V5 engine works, from the engine’s internal balancing system to what it looks like inside the engine. This is an incredibly interesting video about an incredibly interesting engine. Check it out.

With a shared cylinder head, some intake runners are longer than others, and some exhaust manifold runners are longer than others. In the VR6 model, there are the same number of long runner cylinders as there are short runners, which makes the flow more intrinsically balanced. But in the VR5 engine, there are three long-runner exhaust outlets and two long-runner intake tracts, which makes for a strange engine pulse. The sound of a VR5 is truly unique, and sounds like no other engine out there. Here is a video of a V5 Golf with a Milltek aftermarket exhaust to really bring out that strange bubbly exhaust note.