The Crazy Engineering That Made Volkswagen's V5 Engine Work

A narrow-angle five-cylinder engine sounds like it would tear itself apart with imbalance. Here's how VW made it work.

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YouTubeEngineering Explained

For a piston engine to run smoothly, it has to be balanced. That's why most engines have an even number of cylinders, either arranged straight in a line or split down the middle, each piston balancing out the effect of its twin. You look at a traditional engine with this type of layout, and it makes perfect sense.

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And then you look at Volkswagen's V5 engine and it tears apart your brain.

Developed in the 1990s, Volkswagen's five-cylinder vee engine is an offshoot of the narrow-angle VR6, with a mere 15 degree angle bringing the cylinders close enough that they can share a single head. With three cylinders on one side and two on the other, the VR5 required a whole bunch of complex engineering to keep it balanced, and innovative design decisions to get it to breathe.

Jason Fenske, founder and host of YouTube's Engineering Explained, is here to reveal to us exactly what kind of voodoo is going on inside that narrow-angle engine. As he points out, Honda had lots of success with V5-powered racing motorcycles, but VW (and its many sub-brands) was the only automaker to use a five-cylinder vee in production automobiles. Sadly, the engine never made it into a US-market VW product, and in Europe it was replaced by the ubiquitous turbo four-cylinder in the early 2000s.

Here's exactly what goes into making this lopsided weirdo run:

And if you're thinking that a five-cylinder vee probably sounds goofy and amazing, friend, I have good news for you: It does.

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