The 5E CD marked Volkswagen's entry into the luxury market. The designation “CD” stood
for 'Corps Dipiomatique', a term used to indicate the very high level of equipment offered as standard
on this particular model.
The CD was fitted with just about every available luxury feature as standard.
The equipment offered included air-conditioning, automatic transmission, power-assisted steering,
AM/FM radio/cassette stereo, central locking, electric windows, metallic paint, and halogen lights.
With a 1981 sticker price of around $23000, the 5E CD was not a cheap car. However, it did compete
well with its German rivals from BMW and Mercedes-Benz.
Powered by the same 2.2-liter fuel-injected engine that is found in the lower priced 5E GL, the unusual
in-line five-cylinder engine produced a maximum of 85 kW at 5300 rpm and 165 Nm of torque at 4000 rpm.
The performance through the three-speed automatic gearbox was good but not inspiring, the 5E CD being
happier at cruising speed than accelerating through the gears.
Front suspension was by MacPherson struts and lower wishbones, while the rear suspension was through
a beam torsion axle and coil springs. The front suspension incorporated negative-offset steering geometry.
Audi claimed that the main advantage of this system was that, under braking, a self-restoring torque is applied
to the steering to prevent the car from skewing if one wheel is on a low-adhesion surface.
Very few manufacturers of the time adopted such a system, at it lacked the self-centering effect that most
cars have on exiting a corner. The Audi 5E CD’s steering also featured variable rate power-assistance.
The functional and elegant body only came into existence after many hours of testing at Volkswagen's Wolfsburg
wind tunnel. Audi claimed the aerodynamic drag factor for the 5E approached that of the unique Citroën
Interior space was excellent, both front and back, and the low waistline and high percentage of
glass area gave excellent all-round visibility. The luxurious appointments of the CD were complemented
by the plush velour trim on the seats and doors. Luggage space was also excellent for a car of its
Although the 5E CD suffered from a lack of initial acceleration, and some commentators of the day noted
that the transmission was far from smooth and progressive, all in all the 5E CD, when viewed as a complete package,
was hard to beat. Above all, the engineering refinements of the Audi set a new standard among family cars.
And as for all the standard kit, well there was plenty of it, including alloy wheels; cassette; laminated
screen; rev. counter; cloth or vinyl trim; headlamp wiper/washers; fog-lamps; metallic spray; central
locking; electric windows; int. adj. ext. mirrors; air conditioning. Gauges included: Temp.; vacuum;
battery; oil Pressure lights Optional: Load adj. headlights; rear wash/wipe; sun roof.