A few raindrops falling on the derestricted A9 autobahn weren't the only things to spoil the good mood of a certain BMW M3 driver. While cruising at around 125 mph in the outside lane, a big VW Transporter appeared in his rearview mirror. Its left turn signal was flashing, claiming its right to overtake. The M3 pilot's attempts to defend his badge's honor were futile—after a few miles of failing to get away, he finally surrendered, leaving me clear to finally floor the throttle of this 16-foot-long supervan. There was a good reason. The maker, the legendary Motoren Technik Mayer (MTM) tuning house, claims this seven-seater can do 174 mph, which had to be verified.
The man behind the van is Roland Mayer. As head of MTM, probably no one in the world knows more about boosting Volkswagens and Audis. After he created the fabled inline-five 2.1L engine that propelled the revolutionary Sport Quattro to two World Rally Championship titles, Mayer decided to split from Audi to pursue his own vision, setting up his workshop just a stone's throw from Ingolstadt.
Many amusingly fast Audis, Volkswagens, Bentleys, and McLarens ensued. MTM's lineup now reaches 90 distributors around the world. Although a big part of the business consists of simple ECU tweaks or swaps to MTM wheels, Mayer still likes to work on madder projects. Remember his Audi TT Bimoto one-off with a pair of 510hp engines sitting at each end of the car? And it's mostly this man we should thank for creating the 700hp-plus mod so popular among RS6 Avant drivers. Bearing all this in mind, the most recent effort from MTM can be regarded not as insanity, but a logical addition to his burgeoning version of the Addams Family.
On his mission to make the fastest of the 10 million Transporters that left Volkswagen's factories, Mayer had to find an engine potent enough for the job. Once again, he chose his favored inline-five arrangement, this time the 2.5 TFSI that powers the Audi TT RS and RS 3. Playing the usual set of ECU, turbo, and exhaust tricks, MTM turned it up to 472 hp, achieved at 6,900 rpm and 457 lb-ft of torque at 4,100 rpm. That's more than twice the power and nearly twice the maximum torque of the fastest of the stock Multivans available. Along with this hike came some precautionary measures like more effective Brembo brakes with 16-inch discs, stiffer KW Street Comfort coilovers, and stickier 275/35 Michelin SuperSport tires stretched over 20-inch MTM Bimoto rims.
For a car with such significant modifications, the van now known as MTM T500 stays surprisingly relaxed under normal load. The stock seven-speed dual-clutch DSG transmission and Haldex-based 4Motion all-wheel-drive system remain unmolested, so this Bulli on steroids sets off without drama and can be handled with hardly any effort. Only after the driver pushes the right pedal to the metal does he get to know the sports car lurking beneath.
The speedo needle zips past 120 mph with surprising ease—and way too often. The T500 accelerates to 62 mph in 5.6 seconds and shows even more impressive performance at greater speeds. It's not far off being a bigger version of the Audi RS 6. MTM's van never lacks traction and builds up speed relentlessly through the auto-shifted gears to hit some serious numbers. On the autobahn, that distinct five-cylinder noise is hardly perceptible because of the huge masses of air colliding with the upright front end. This direct-injected unit is working hard trying to make a 2.8-ton refrigerator go head to head with sleek coupes. The only thing resonating is the hooligan MTM exhaust throughout the whole length of the vehicle.
It's a funny sensation to be sitting high above other road users, feeling like a truck driver, but the van always feels well planted. The suspension limits body roll. It's stiff, but not to a point where it's uncomfortable. The steering remains light, in typical VW Transporter fashion, but doesn't lack precision. So there's pleasure to be had in driving the T500 on an empty twisting road.
The rest appears to be ordinary T5 Multivan, which is a good thing. Ergonomics are spot on, the fit and finish of the cabin are perfect, and there's a lot of interior space. It accommodates seven people comfortably and pampers them with conveniences like heated and turning seats, folding tables, cruise control, and air conditioning.
Mayer built this van and painted it the colors of the German flag to go with his friends to international football (soccer) matches. For those in constant need to travel at 130 mph with six friends and with $200,000 to spend for the purpose, it's a perfect choice. The only one, really. It's a properly fast vehicle that never tires, munching miles at a scary pace.
After we pass the grim M3 driver, the speed still rises. The speedo shows 140, 150, 153, 155 mph. My passenger in the third row asks if we really have to do this. But then I have to slow down again because of some unsuspecting traffic blocking the left lane. Eventually, we weren't able to reach the promised top speed, but Mayer proved his point: it's the fastest people carrier money can buy.