Nardo is a wonder of the automotive world. It's a proving ground in southern Italy, and nowadays it's owned by Porsche. The great thing about it is the perfect circle of a banked test track, nearly 8 miles in circumference. At most vehicles' top speeds, it seems like an infinite straight. It's only in really quick stuff like Koenigseggs does it ever begin to feel like a curve. Add this to the "fast" list: the MTM RS6 R, clocking in a top speed of 205 mph. MTM has nothing to do with Mary Tyler Moore, at least not as far as we know. As our regular readers are aware, it stands for Motoren Technik Mayer, a tuning house in Wettstetten, Germany, conveniently just north of Ingolstadt, where the Audi marque makes its base.
In that magical land of unrestricted autobahns and gorgeous, high-powered Teutonic machines, MTM will gladly accommodate customers who want their Porsche, McLaren, Bentley, Lamborghini, or Audi turned into something even more special. The Mayer in MTM is Roland Mayer, the boss, and he's the one pushing this four-ringed wagon past 200 mph on Nardo's renowned super-loop. Incidentally, the stock Audi RS6 Avant tops out at 189 mph.
The regular model is a meaty piece of kit, blessed with 560 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque coming from its 4.0L twin-turbocharged V-8. The beauty of turbocharged engines is how easy it is to make more power. Manufacturers always launch a car with plenty of headroom left in the motor for updates at face-lift time, yet still with a big enough safety margin to deal with high temperatures and poor quality fuel in some places.
This EA824 V-8 uses a pair of IHI twin-scroll turbochargers running at peak boost pressure of 33.4 psi. The key to its efficiency is a configuration that places the exhaust manifold and turbos in between the cylinder banks. This makes the exhaust path as short as possible, eliminating pumping losses and maintaining full boost pressure. Using its Cantronic ECU to remap the fuel, ignition, valve timing, and boost curves, MTM raises the output to 722 hp between 5,700 and 6,600 rpm, underpinning it with 649 lb-ft of torque from 1,750 to 5,500 rpm.
Apart from improved throttle response, the design's other main advantage is a significantly smaller and lighter engine package compared with one sporting exhausts and turbochargers on the outside. MTM's stainless steel high-performance exhaust system and free-flow metal catalytic convertors lower back pressure, which not only releases more power, but also lessens the thermal load on the engine and cooling system. Maintaining full power in high ambient temperatures is another issue. This is where the intercooling capacity and choice of materials come in. There are also numerous oil coolers for the engine and gearbox.
The banking at Nardo is designed so there is no lateral force up to 150 mph. Over that speed, the onset of lateral g-force adds stress on the suspension, wheels, and tires. With a car capable of 185 mph, 6 mph can normally be factored in for tire scrub.
On a flat stretch of autobahn, the MTM RS6 R has recorded 211 mph, which makes it faster than the Ferrari 458, Lamborghini Huracan, McLaren 650S, and Porsche 911 Turbo S. As impressive as this is, it's actually the raw acceleration that's so remarkable, considering it weighs between 880 and 1,323 pounds more than these supercars.
Give a big, heavy car enough power and torque, and providing it has sufficiently tall gearing and a decent drag coefficient, a high top speed is a given. The MTM RS6 R's terminal velocity is already remarkable, but the acceleration test is something else.
The combination of all-wheel drive and the massive slug of turbocharged torque propels the wagon down the tarmac to hit 62 mph from a standstill in just 3.4 seconds. It then passes 124 mph in 11 seconds, rocketing on to 155 mph in 18.7 seconds. To put this into perspective, it was not so long ago when a car was considered quick if it could reach 100 mph in under 20 seconds.
Where numbers count more than anything else, the Nardo session is a far cry from what most owners would consider such a car is all about. So my second meeting with the MTM RS6 R in Germany a month later is the flip side of the coin. After all, if a car goes really fast on a test track but is an absolute misery to drive in normal traffic, then the whole point of tuning it has been missed.
For progress around town, the throttle metes out its power in a sedate, limousine-like fashion. For greater thrust, there's that feeling of awe that happens every time serious mass gives way to supreme power. Despite the self-leveling abilities of the air suspension, the nose rises visibly in the first two gears as it launches hard under the onslaught of a massive torque curve. The eight-speed automatic transmission glides from one ratio to the next, giving the impression of one long, solid blast of acceleration.
Thanks to its classic Ur Quattro-style fender flares, the current RS6 Avant looks muscular straight from the factory. MTM complements this tough image by filling those big fenders to the brim with proprietary 10x21 Bimoto-style alloys. Wrapped in sticky 295/30ZR21 Michelin Pilot Supersport rubber, these forged wheels are much lighter than the optional 21-inch cast alloy factory rims (the stock RS6 comes on 20-inch lightweight forged wheels).
Nine spokes allow plenty of air to circulate around the huge MTM/Brembo brake kit that replaces the factory stoppers on the front axle. Measuring 16x1.4 inches, these massive front discs, clamped by six-pot calipers, are the biggest anchors MTM has in its warehouse. They're pretty much obligatory to rein in that big stable of horsepower, which could easily overpower the stock 15.4-inch rotors. The factory option of 16.5-inch carbon-ceramic brakes is even more expensive, albeit lighter.
The fact that the current C7 iteration of the RS6 is produced only in Avant form speaks volumes for how Audi and its clientele view the original RS6 concept of a big station wagon with supercar performance. To purists, the Avant is the defining version of the RS6. Across its first two generations, starting in 2002 and 2008 respectively, the Audi RS6 Avant carved out a legend for itself that has assured its place in performance car history. The formula of roomy wagon with massively powerful engine, permanent all-wheel drive and unimpeachable build quality is appealing on many levels. So it's amazing that rivals have taken over a decade to respond, even as the third- generation RS6 firmly makes its own mark on the performance car landscape.
The MTM RS6 R takes this illustrious formula not just to the next level, but more likely two levels up. The fact that it has the sheer straight-line performance to not just beat but actually annihilate most of the junior-league supercars is merely icing on an already rich cake. A cake that costs the equivalent of $211,000.