Cure Your Diabetes

Friday, October 3, 2008

The Audi Supercar of the Future

By Nick Hall
Article file under

The 2008 Audi R8 MTM is a real Audi supercar, a raging, supercharged, 552-horsepower monster. We've been waiting to see if the R8 could evolve into something with enough brass to take on the Lamborghini supercars to which it owes its basic mechanical platform, and this car proves the R8 has the right kind of sports car DNA.

Until now we've only been able to guess at Audi's intentions for the R8 through a spy camera, as details and impressions of the Audi R8 TDI Le Mans, the R8 concept car powered by a 500-hp V12 diesel, have leaked out so slowly that the process is like water torture. Fortunately, Roland Mayer's Motoren Technik Mayer (MTM) outfit in Wettstetten, Germany, has taken up the challenge of improving the basic R8.

This is more than an imitation Lamborghini Gallardo. Thanks to supercharging, the 2008 Audi R8 MTM offers Lamborghini-caliber output from the 4.2-liter Audi V8, some 552 hp and 428 pound-feet of torque. The MTM-modified R8 is also more refined and even more comfortable than anything from the house of the Raging Bull in Sant'Agata, Italy.

Of course image is a curious thing, so spending $55,000 on extra hardware for an Audi of any kind would be a brave call. And this one in particular isn't the prettiest specimen. But for those who want the go without the full-on Italian show, you could just order up MTM's $26,000 engine conversion without the window dressing.

Supercar Surge
As we steer the 2008 Audi R8 MTM onto the track at Hockenheim, the 2.8-mile road-racing circuit used for the Grand Prix of Germany, the burbling V8 rips into life with a stab of throttle and the car explodes down the road like pipe-bomb shrapnel. If this is a glimpse into the future of the R8, then the Lamborghini Gallardo should be more than just scared — it should be rocking and crying in the shower.

Roland Mayer's people claim the MTM-modified R8 accelerates to 100 km/h (62 mph) in 3.9 seconds, but this car feels far faster than that, as if MTM is trying to be politically correct and not suggest that its car humiliates the standard Audi R8. But when MTM says its car gets to 200 km/h (124 mph) in just 12.5 seconds, then you realize just how powerful this car really is. The speed keeps coming all the way to 197 mph.

A twin-screw supercharger is the key to the power boost, and it delivers a wave of torque from tickover at idle all the way to redline. The result is the kind of surging accelerative force we've come to expect from upper-echelon supercars.

This bolt-on, Swedish-made Lysholm supercharger produces just 5.8 psi, so it does not require a lower compression ratio and the extensive engine rebuild that would ensue. Meanwhile, a Swedish-made Laminova intercooler is also a bolt-on proposition, a self-contained air-to-water system that's built into the intake manifold. Because the length of the intake ducts remains unchanged, there's minimal loss of boost pressure. The result is a compact system that's easy to package in the R8's already crowded engine bay, plus the twin-screw supercharger minimizes mechanical drag for the free-revving engine while the compact intake tract ensures sharper throttle response.

With 428 lb-ft of torque, the MTM-modified V8 pulls from any revs, and the exhaust note changes from a guttural rumble to the hollow bark of a racecar as the tachometer climbs the scale. While running the R8 MTM through town on the way to the track, unburned fuel in the exhaust catches and ignites with a pop. This particular R8 MTM has a six-speed manual transmission, so it's even more fun, although the R8's Lamborghini-sourced single-clutch automated manual transmission will make up the vast majority of R8 sales. That's a shame, because this manual transmission with its short throws and sharp, metallic clacks as the lever moves through the gates is as good as any manual transmission in the supercar business.