2008 MTM Audi R8 Supercharged - First Drive Review
Un-civilizing the eminently civil R8.
We don't think that we go too far in stating that the Audi R8 is a near-perfect supercar. It looks great, with the inimitable proportions of a mid-engine sports car topped off with Audi's trademark styling language and attention to detail. Fit and finish are top-notch—and it’s comfortable enough to gobble hundreds of miles without ever wearing out the driver. Moreover, given the mid-mounted engine placement, it behaves in a forgiving and benign way. In fact, it feels so planted to the road that it could easily handle more than the 420 horsepower it serves up.
More Power? Yes, Please
This leads directly to the sole complaint we have about the R8—its relative lack of power in the exalted world of supercars. Even so, its acceleration is good, right up there with the Porsche 911 Carrera S, and it will cut through the lofty 300-km/h (186 mph) barrier, if barely. But other mid-engine cars like the R8’s Lamborghini Gallardo sibling or the Ferrari F430, are significantly faster. Even high-powered sedans and station wagons, such as the Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG wagon, can out-accelerate the R8.
If there's a power issue with an Audi, German enthusiasts have long known where to find the cure: at Roland Mayer's MTM tuning house in Wettstetten, Bavaria, just a few kilometers down the road from Audi's headquarters in Ingolstadt. Mayer is a former Audi engineer who took part in the development of the legendary first-generation Quattro. He founded MTM (Motoren Technik Mayer) in 1990 and has gained a reputation for offering a wide range of tuning options, from reprogramming turbo-diesels to extreme vehicles like the Bimoto, a first-generation Audi TT with two engines rated at over 500 horsepower each. That car has broken 244 mph at the Papenburg test track in northern Germany, and Mayer aims to go even beyond that.
Give It a Little More Air
Mayer's cure for the R8: supercharge it. The MTM R8 Supercharged uses an intercooled, twin-screw Lysholm unit bolted onto Audi's high-revving 4.2-liter FSI V-8. Operating with a maximum boost of 8 psi, it pushes horsepower from 420 horsepower at 7800 rpm to a claimed 560 at 7750. Maximum torque is improved from 317 lb-ft at 4500 rpm to 413 lb-ft at 5500 rpm.
The chassis and Quattro four-wheel-drive system, which favors sending power to the rear wheels, remain unchanged. But MTM offers 20-inch wheels, a high-performance braking system, and some aerodynamic enhancements, such as a front lip and a diffuser. It all looks quite sophisticated and could have been done by Audi itself. The interior is transformed with two carbon seats, padded with separate cushions. They look futuristic and are far more comfortable than we expected.
We drove the car on its home turf in Germany, and it will be available to U.S. customers via Hoppen Motorsport of Sarasota, Florida—although it must be said that Roland Mayer doesn't expect a lot of U.S. takers.
Pay Attention to This One
The power and torque boost completely transforms the R8. Docility and good manners go right out of the window while this white monster disappears on the horizon, leaving rubber strips and an incredible carpet of sound behind—the optional exhaust system is so loud that you'd better have the papers with you all the time to prove to the incredulous officers that it is actually legal. The quadruple pipes, which jut out provocatively, emit a menacing, deep tone reminiscent of an American V-8. Mayer plans to develop a variation with a higher, more "mechanical" pitch to it.
The MTM R8 Supercharged is still very drivable, as the chassis can easily handle the extra power. But it demands more attention. It's a good thing the R8 comes with the full package of driver assistance and stability control systems, but know that they get less rest in the supercharged R8. It remains a very balanced and essentially forgiving car, but you definitely get to the limits a lot more quickly.
You may want to skip the uplevel stereo, as the blaring composition of engine, supercharger, and exhaust sound is just about impenetrable. You are also well-advised to watch the speedometer far more closely than in the standard R8. The 0-to-62-mph sprint takes an estimated 3.9 seconds versus an Audi-quoted 4.6 seconds for the standard R8, and 125 mph is settled in 12.5 seconds, according to MTM. (U.S.-spec R8s we’ve tested have reached 60 mph in as quick as 4.0 seconds and 120 mph in 14.3 seconds.) The MTM R8 will pull up to a claimed 196 mph, 9 mph more than the standard R8.
It's not just numbers. With MTM's enhancements, this practical, everyday supercar becomes a serious contender, out to run with the best. At city and highway speeds, it seems virtually impossible to stay within the speed limit. Throttle response is exceptionally aggressive, and you merely need to look at the gas pedal to make the MTM R8 leap forward. On the autobahn, the feared Merc AMGs and BMW M cars lose their clout entirely. Push the pedal down at 120 mph, and you get a kick in the back, not a smooth massage like in the standard R8. Very few cars have impressed us more with their acceleration, and none with the sound—you’ll get to enjoy the MTM R8's shout of triumph after it has left you behind.
An Affordable Tuner Car? Not This One
This car is not cheap. The supercharger kit from Hoppen runs $57,900, and four exhaust options start from $1350 for a set of stainless tips and go to $9345 for the full MTM exhaust with black ceramic-coated tips. Twenty-inch Bimoto wheels add $7860 and upgraded brakes cost yet another $4275. U.S. pricing isn’t yet available for the aero package or carbon seats, but you can be sure they’ll cost a bundle, too. While the expense is likely partly due to the unfavorable dollar-to-euro exchange rate, it all adds up to a big chunk of change; a standard 2009 R8 starts at $115,800 in the U.S., for reference.
A factory alternative is around the corner: a V-10–powered version of the R8, which we've seen testing, will have well over 500 horsepower and share its engine architecture with the Lamborghini Gallardo LP560-4, which now has an Audi-derived engine. (The Gallardo Spyder carries on with the previous, Italian-engineered 513-hp V-10 for now.) The identifying feature of the V-10 version will be huge twin exhaust pipes and jutting side air intakes to replace the V-8's quadruple pipes and svelte side profile. The factory V-10 will enhance the R8's performance, no doubt. And it will be far more civilized that the MTM R8 Supercharged.Perhaps too civilized—but that’s where Roland Mayer comes in