Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Supercar status

MTM's customised Audi RS4 certainly packs a powerful punch

Published on December 26, 2007

Supercar status

MTM (Motoren Technik Mayer)

MTM (Motoren Technik Mayer) is a German tuner that does customisation work for a variety of brands including Ferrari, Lamborghini, Porsche, Bentley, Skoda and Seat but is best known for turning your everyday Audis into supercars.

It all started in 1990, when MTM was founded by Roland Mayer, who as a young engineer was involved in the development of the five-cylinder Quattro engine at Audi.

Two years later the company developed a legendary five-cylinder Audi Quattro engine with various upgrades that took the maximum output to well over 400 horsepower. This was the first street-licensed Audi worldwide to break the 300kph sound barrier.

Today MTM products are present in Thailand through MTM (Thailand), including the RS4 featured this week. The car is based on the Audi RS4 but is almost totally rebuilt to make the original feel pretty boring.

Among the upgrades are the following:

l MTM exhaust system cat-back with four pipes (80mm), two of which have throttle valves.

l Remapped ECU to unlock speed limit (from 250kph to 282kph).

l Carbon-fibre bonnet with air outlet (optional at no charge).

lMTM Bimoto wheels

9.5 x 19 inches (Available in titanium/polished titanium/silver/chrome).

I was never a big fan of Audi, not because Audi cars aren't good - they are all superbly engineered and built and come with good performance and state-of-the-art technology - but because they have always lacked that special feeling and enthusiasm, as well as driving pleasure, that a BMW M3 offers.

So when someone at MTM (Thailand) called me to arrange a test drive, I wasn't so excited. Despite the high engine-output numbers, I suspected that the handling would still be like a regular Audi, which is pretty dull, and it would be a car good just for straight-line driving.

But what do I know?

After arriving at the MTM showroom on Sukhumvit Road, which was previously a Citroen showroom - MTM Thailand is run by the Yontrakit Group, which is the distributor of Audi, Citroen, Peugeot, Kia, Skoda Seat and Volkswagen cars in Thailand - I was pretty impressed with the looks of the black RS4, silently waiting for someone to take it out for a spin.

I got to drive the car for one day along with another auto journalist from Krungthep Thurakij, and we decided to do a quick lap to Pattaya and back. We didn't get much briefing on the car, just being given a small brochure about the RS4 and the keys.

The MTM RS4 looked special at first glance, especially when compared to the regular Audi A4. I walked around the car, admiring its beasty looks, which have been enhanced with spoilers and an air-diffuser, and the huge red brake callipers front and rear, which can be seen through the 19-inch MTM Bimoto wheels wearing huge 275/30 high-performance tyres.

Then I opened the door and sat down in the driver's seat. "Wow! This is definitely a sporty car," I thought. As you can see, the seats are so sporty they look as if they have been taken from a racing car, while the interior, although having traces of the normal Audi, is truly spectacular, with a carbon-kevlar trim, a sporty three-spoke steering wheel (leather/aluminium) and aluminium sports pedals and gear lever.

Then it's time to open up the bonnet to have a look at the 4.2-litre FSI (fuel stratified injection) V8 engine, which is one of the best-looking engines I've seen in years.

Once the engine is started, you notice that this is no ordinary Audi. Instead of the Audi purr, there is a nasty growl hinting at the character of this car. Maximum power is claimed to be 420 horsepower and maximum torque 430Nm. Most importantly, it comes with a six-speed manual gearbox rather than an automatic transmission, giving another hint that this is no car for kids.

At this moment I am knocking myself on the head for not having applied to use the Bira circuit in Pattaya. This is a car that deserves to be driven on a closed track in order to deliver its full performance. So without Bira, my next target is the Bang Na-Bang Pakong elevated expressway, which is another nice 50km strip that allows you to get to some pretty high speeds safely. The strong winds up there allow you to test the aerodynamics of any given car as well.

According to MTM, the RS4 accelerates from standstill to 100kph in just 4.8 seconds and is capable of reaching a top speed of 282kph, putting it in the supercar neighbourhood. With power being sent to all four wheels via the quattro system, it is also easier to put the power onto the ground, since each tyre has less power to deal with.

From the showroom to the Bang Na intersection, the car felt a little stiff, which was good, considering its performance. Yet it was driveable, even when going over cracks and bumps in the road, and not once did it get stuck on the Sukhumvit section under construction.

The gear shift is pretty slick, and the steering felt beefy, while the clutch was soft enough that a woman wouldn't have trouble with it.

The engine also felt a little quiet in traffic, but once I got up on the expressway heading to Chon Buri I had to see for myself what the RS4 had to offer.

On the way to red-lining the second gear, the powerful roar of the V8 showed up and raised my adrenaline level further. This was more like it, I thought. Acceleration was awesome, and even though I was driving in a straight line, it was so exciting to red-line the second, third and fourth as the car bulldozed through the wind ahead.

Once there was a sight of any traffic in the fast lane like, say, 300 metres ahead, I would ease off the accelerator and overtake slowly: you never know if they will suddenly come out, and in fact one did, and I had to brake hard to avoid crashing into that commuter van's rear end. Then when there was an opening, I'd blip the throttle, shift down and floor the gas.

It was a wonderful sensation to manage such a large amount of power through your hands and feet.

I didn't time the drive with a stopwatch, but it was one of the quickest drives on that expressway - the other occasions included a Nissan Skyline GT-R, a BMW M3 and a Lamborghini Gallardo - and at one point I was crazy enough to get the RS4 up to 270kph. At that speed the car started to feel a little light, but not enough to frighten me, and I had enough confidence to even glance at the speedometer.

The hard braking behind that van showed the excellent braking performance of the RS4, and the steering was solid through the long high-speed curves on the expressway.

And all the time during the hard driving, the temperature needle didn't move a bit. With the Skyline you'd need to back off the throttle for a while after hard driving - the temp needle really shoots up - but with the RS4 there was no such thing: even the air-conditioner performed normally. It's an indication that you can use it as an everyday car, driving it through traffic, or blasting out on the highway without having to fear that the engine will overheat.

There are also two full-sized seats in the rear, so you can take your friends along, something you cannot do with two-seater or two-plus-two sports cars.

The MTM RS4 retails at Bt7.95 million, which I'd say is a big discount when considering its supercar performance.

And for those who have never really liked Audi cars, like me, I suggest you book a test drive and see whether it changes your mind.

Specifications: MTM RS4

Engine: V8 32-valve

Displacement: 4163cc

Bore and stroke: 84.5mmx92.8mm

Compression ratio: 12.5:1

Max power: 420hp/7,800rpm

Max torque: 430Nm/5,500rpm

Transmission: Six-speed manual

Gear ratio: 3.667/2.211/1.52/1.133/0.919/0.778

Final-drive ratio: 4.111

Front suspension: Independent four-link front suspension with virtual-steering axis, anti-roll bar, single-tube shock-absorbers and coil springs, radius link

Rear suspension: Double-wishbone rear

suspension, anti-roll bar

Steering: Powered rack and pinion

Turning-circle diameter: 11.1m

Brakes: Dual-circuit brake system with

diagonal split, anti-lock brake system, brake servo, electronic brake-force distribution, ventilated and perforated brake discs at front and rear; front: eight-piston high-performance brakes

Fuel economy

City: 20 litres/100km

Highway: 14 litres/100km

Combined: 16.7 litres/100km


0-100kph: 4.8 seconds

Top speed: 282kph (limited)


Length: 4,586mm

Width: 1,816mm

Height: 1,415mm

Wheelbase: 2,648mm

Track (f/r): 1559/1569

Wheels: 9.5x19 inches

Tyres: 275/30

Weight: 1,680kg

Fuel-tank capacity: 63 litres

Price: Bt7.9 million

Distributor: MTM (Thailand)

Tel (02) 332 7576-9

Kingsley Wijayasinha

The Nation

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