It seems lately the title of "tuner" has become confused with what we'll call an "automotive specialist." A specialist is a shop that can install a few aftermarket parts or perhaps even make a shift knob or exhaust.
"Tuner" denotes a company that can improve on a vehicle's design and manufacture parts to tune every aspect, from engine to suspension and everything in between. An example of a true tuner is Neuspeed, which for more than 30 years has been designing and manufacturing high performance parts for VW and Audi vehicles with a focus on durability, longevity and performance.
Aaron Neumann, partial owner and lead engineer, is a perfectionist. OK, let's be honest-he's downright anal. And as such, Neumann didn't want to preview his latest project until it was perfect. Over the past year he has kept us updated with cryptic hints, and eventually I got the call that the mystery project-an Audi TT it so happens-was complete and available.
My attempts to acquire the Neuspeed TT, dubbed Project TT-N, for an extended two-week test drive were denied due to "prior obligations"-maybe a nice way of saying "I don't trust you or your cohorts to return the vehicle in one piece." That only heightened my interest, so I trekked to Neuspeed headquarters in Camarillo, Calif., for a more in-your-face approach.
When I arrived I was greeted by Aaron and his father (and company founder), Bill. If you've ever had the pleasure of meeting a Neumann you would know that even after decades of being immersed in the car industry, customizing vehicles is one subject that still puts a glimmer in their eyes.
After exchanging pleasantries, I was escorted around back to their latest creation. The first thing I noticed was the color. The TT-N is Ibis white in lieu of the brilliant reds of projects past. Aaron explained that for his TT-N, white was a perfect blank canvas to give the project a "reverse stealth" appeal, inconspicuous yet striking, where at first glance it blends in, but on second glance it really does stand out.
As we walked around the car, Neumann rattled off his extensive modifications. Instead of a hand fabricated one-off, Neuspeed has created a masterpiece attainable by the average Joe. The parts can be added all at once or in stages, allowing customers to tailor the level of customization to their driving needs. Using the TT-N as a model, you can build your own TT with Neuspeed's off-the-shelf parts.
When it came time to paint the body kit, there was no way a $99 Earl Scheib paint job would suit a man whose car wash arsenal consists of Q-tips and baby diapers. The award winning Palmers Custom Paint and Body Shop in Camarillo was given the delicate task of color-matching the panels and adding the satin black accents. The perfect paint coupled with the aggressive visual elements of the Caractere body kit gives the car an R8 appearance, sans hefty price tag. An OSIR dry carbon grille was also added to increase airflow to the engine bay.
The TT-N's 335 hp and 340 lb-ft of torque (on 91 octane) was achieved by combining parts ransacked from Audi's Euro-spec S3 and Neuspeed's performance add-ons. I questioned the choice of S3 cams and why they didn't source something bigger than a K04 turbo. "We chose a K04 for several reasons," Neumann says. "First, it's factory, requiring zero modifications to install, and it was able to produce the power we were looking for. The S3 had better top-end power, so after noticing it was equipped with different camshafts, I thought I'd give them a try. They worked out brilliantly."
Neuspeed envisions each project car as having a split personality, one that's comfortable for the everyday stop-and-go but also one that can handle some serious g-forces. The TT-N was outfitted with four-piston Brembo calipers and 355mm full floating rotors in the front and OEM S3 assemblies (310mm rotors) with Neuspeed stainless steel lines in the rear. For the suspension, the Neumanns used a multi-pronged approach with Bilstein PSS10 coilovers, Neuspeed tubular anti-roll bars, Neuspeed forged wheels, and Michelin Pilot Sport Cup tires to address any and all shortcomings in the factory configuration.
I finally snatched the TT-N's key from under Neumann's eagle eyes when he left to get the detailer spray and baby diapers to erase evidence of my fingerprints. On ignition, it introduced itself with a raucous exhaust blip. Making my way out of the driveway onto the uneven road surface, I was impressed with the suspension's comfort. Past the pothole-laden frontage road, I reached the freeway onramp and really got on it. Having a K04 turbo on my A3, I readied myself for massive wheel-spin on throttle, but surprisingly, it did not happen. The massive 265/30 Michelin Pilot Sport Cups just dug in and propelled the TT-N off the line without so much as a stutter. By the time a looked at the speedometer, I had quickly crested triple digits and was quickly coming up on traffic-a good time to test the big Brembos. A push of the pedal brought me from the back of the seat to the front as I went from close to 100 to 20mph instantly without hesitation. Navigating the urban Camarillo streets back to Neuspeed HQ, the suspension remained comfortable and held the line all the way through the corners.
The Neumanns have built what you might call a tuning dynasty, combining their passion for cars and their passion for perfection, thus earning a reputation for continually creating outstanding product under the Neuspeed name. In the TT-N moniker, N stands for Neuspeed, of course-and the Neumanns are proud to attach the family name. A name that has become synonymous with the word "tuner."
Transverse front engine, front-wheel drive
Engine 2.0-liter I4, dohc, 16-valve. Neuspeed K04 turbo upgrade, Neuspeed turbo back exhaust with 200-cell HJS catalytic converters, Neuspeed Hi-Flo air charge pipe, Neuspeed Hi-Flo air discharge pipe, Neuspeed front-mount intercooler, Neuspeed P-Flo, Neuspeed Power Pulley, OEM S3 cams, OEM S3 DV relocation kit
Transmission Six-speed S tronic, Neuspeed urethane torque arm insert
Suspension Bilstein PSS10 coilovers, Neuspeed 25mm front anti-roll bar and Neuspeed race series 25mm rear anti-roll bar with Neuspeed billet end-links
Brakes Brembo four-piston calipers with 355mm rotors (f), 310mm OEM brake conversion with slotted rotors, Neuspeed stainless steel braided lines
Wheels and tires Neuspeed RS6, 19x9.5 Michelin Pilot Sport Cup, 265/30
Exterior Caractere front and rear bumpers, Caractere rear wing, OSIR dry carbon fiber front grille, OEM Euro-spec head- and taillights, Neuspeed dry carbon-fiber engine cover
Interior DEFI boost gauge, OSIR gauge O-Pod
Performance* Peak Power: 335 hp @ 6450 rpm Peak Torque: 340 lb-ft @ 3000 rpm 0-60 mph: 5.3 sec. Top Speed: 160 mph *Neuspeed data est. at the crank on 91 octane fuel