A picture is worth a thousand words. This is one of the reasons why good photographers go to great lengths to capture the elusive shot that tells the whole story with little or no words.
The moment I laid eyes on MTM’s gleaming, polished aluminum R8 V10 Biturbo at the Geneva Motor Show, I just knew we had to find a location for some “omigod” pictures that would do justice to the hundreds of hours of hard graft that went into its mirror finish.
A couple of weeks after Geneva, and with Northern Europe drenched in unseasonably warm and sunny weather, I made the pilgrimage to MTM’s headquarters in Wettstetten, near Ingolstadt, for the photo shoot and first drive.
The challenge was to find a suitable location nearby. Speaking to a few of the staff at MTM, I quickly established that a nearby industrial park might offer some possibilities.
After only a couple of minutes of driving around the industrial park, I spotted a timber processing plant. With their rough and ready texture, the huge piles of logs were the perfect counterpoint to the glass-smooth aluminum finish of the nuggety R8.
Asking for permission from the plant’s owner threw up a pleasant surprise. It turned out that he was an Audi R8 owner himself, and was delighted to see the spectacular looking MTM car. Handing out reflective jackets, he then took us on a tour of possible locations within his massive yard. We could not have asked for better treatment.
After the R8 had been positioned, I walked around it to ponder some potential overall and detail shots. One of the first things that struck me was the sheer amount of work it obviously took to get the car to this stage.
Audi lovingly assembles its R8 at its Neckarsulm factory, in a labor-intensive process whose leisurely pace is the antithesis of the speed benchmarks normally aimed for in our mass production age.
“We have around 500 man hours in the bodywork alone, around 500 hours in the mechanical modifications and 500 hours in the ECU and CAN-BUS system reprogramming,” said MTM boss Roland Mayer. This must be a record for the longest R8 buildup ever!
“The wet-sanding and polishing process was done by hand as aluminum is too soft for machines to be used,” he continued. “Even so, we did have a few scratches at one point due to some microsand particles in the water.”
“We started with 400-grade sandpaper and progressively moved through 1,000-, 4,000- and 5,000-grades,” Roland explained. “Most people assume that there is a coat of clear lacquer, but in fact it is bare aluminum. No matter how ‘clear’ the lacquer is, it will never deliver as shiny a finish as bare polished aluminum, and also makes it harder to repair small scratches.
“We learned a lot from the polished A8 we did for a client in Dubai five years ago,” he continued. “Its bare aluminum finish has stood up well till today, so we know there are no major issues, at least not in a hot, dry climate with no salt on the roads.”
With an exterior finish as pure and eye-catching as this, the interior trim has to be quite a contrast if it is not to be overwhelmed. “Orange is more modern than red, and is as extrovert as the exterior. The orange leather interior also gives off a warmth and fun factor that balances the cold, hard, technical exterior,” said Roland.
The seats are ultra-light, carbon-fiber backed Recaros, with MTM’s trademark leather trimmed seat cushion style. As a first for MTM, quilted leather replaces the carpet on the floor, and is also used on the bulkhead and door panels. This plush floor covering definitely needs protective mats to keep it from being scuffed.
The adjustable carbon-fiber rear wing is MTM’s own, and can be set all the way from neutral to adding 20 percent more downforce at speed. It is counter-balanced by the carbon-fiber air splitter in front.
MTM’s carbon-fiber side skirt extensions are modeled after the ones on the Audi R8 V12 TDI concept car. They visually flesh out the car’s flanks, helping the aerodynamics by extending the flat bottom effect and reducing air spillage.
“Our wind tunnel testing confirmed that with the rear wing in its neutral position for top speed at Nardo, we have a good balance with nearly no lift at both ends,” Roland explained.
“In actual fact, you don’t need much downforce at Nardo as no corners are involved, and the banking generates centrifugal force that pushes the car down anyway,” he continued. “We also set the suspension up like a race car, with slight reflex camber to improve braking and turn-in.”
Up until now, every aftermarket tuner who has extracted more power from the R8 V10 has either strapped on a supercharger or a pair of turbochargers. MTM has broken the mold by doing a complete engine transplant instead, substituting the Lamborghini V10 for the V10 biturbo motor from the RS6.
Using 2.15 bar of boost, the MTM-tuned RS6 engine produces 777 hp at 6900 rpm and 655 lb-ft of torque from 2750 to 6280 rpm. Thanks to the R8’s packaging with more space for a larger intake and intercooler systems, this is around 30 hp more than the same engine makes in their RS6 Clubsport.
“When we started the project in 2009, I weighed up the cost and time of doing all this work versus using the RS6 engine, which fits straight in,” Roland explained.
“The engines on which these two Audi V10 motors are based are quite different. The 5.0-liter Audi V10 motor was designed to be turbocharged from day one, whereas the 5.2-liter V10 that the R8 shares with the Lamborghini Gallardo was not.
“Thus, if you start with the R8 V10 motor, you have to strip it down and change the pistons and rods, strengthen the crank and so on,” he continued. “You end up with an expensively modified engine to which you then have to strap bespoke hardware like the new intake system, plenums, turbochargers, manifolds, intercoolers, larger injectors and so on, and finally remap the ECU and CAN-BUS system to suit.
“In addition, owners in Germany tend to drive flat out on the autobahn, and we know that the RS6 engine is bulletproof in that respect,” he continued. “We could never give that kind of warranty with a turbocharged Lambo-based engine. Also, our RS6 motor already has full EU emissions approval.”
The bespoke stainless steel MTM exhaust has two high-flow 200-cell catalytic converters built into the silencer. Since the turbochargers help to muffle the sound, this silencer is smaller than the stock R8 V10 unit and so it radiates less heat into the engine bay.
The factory six-speed Graziano gearbox is stripped and its ratios changed to make overall gearing about 30 percent taller to match the enhanced power, and the fact that the RS6 V10 motor is a lower revving unit than the Lamborghini one.
While apart, the gearbox was also finished to F1 standards, with shot-peened internals ensuring there will not be any issues with the massive output of the MTM-modified engine. The driveshafts are stock, and Roland says he has never had any problems with Audi 4WD components in 20 years of tuning these cars.
While the paddle-shift operated R tronic is a nice idea on paper, like the Lamborghini equivalent that shares the same Magneti Marelli clutchless manual transmission, its execution is so 20th century. But as a manual, with that gorgeous gear lever gaiter, this R8 is a car that you have to consciously drive to get the best out of, and is all the more rewarding for it.
To handle the massive power boost, the factory suspension was replaced by KW coilover suspension made to MTM’s specification. These use smaller diameter coil springs than usual, allowing MTM to pair their 9x20-inch front Bimoto-style forged alloy wheels with 12.5x20-inch rears, rather than the 11x20 size they normally use on the R8.
These ultra-lightweight, forged alloy wheels are shod with 245/30ZR20 and 325/25ZR20 Michelin Pilot Sport Cup tires, and the uprated MTM brakes feature 380mm cross-drilled and vented discs all round, clamped by eight-pot calipers.
For sheer quality, the beautifully made R8 cabin already leaves most of its rivals in the dust. With its bespoke trim, the MTM R8’s cabin is simply a wonderful place to be.
This is one of those cars you just want to sit in it on the occasions when you want to escape from the madness of real life. Of course if you do want to go somewhere, and quickly, then it is the focal point of some pure driving magic.
The MTM-tuned RS6 motor has two sides to its nature. It is so docile and tractable around town you would never guess it was anything but factory standard.
The V10 soundtrack is similar to the R8 V10 motor’s, but the turbochargers tend to muffle the induction roar and shrill aural peaks that owners of the naturally aspirated car are used to.
The freer breathing MTM exhaust partially makes up for this at the other end of the acoustic chain, but when this car is accelerating for all it is worth, the mechanical sounds behind your head will not be your main priority.
Drop the hammer on the open road, and the fury unleashed as the motor climbs through its wide working range, gives you religion the first time you experience it. This engine feels like it has big lungs, and breathes very deeply, hurtling the car down the road like a silver bullet as it exhales.
The bald performance numbers are as dazzling as the bodywork’s shine in bright sunlight. When the car ran at Nardo late last year in performance testing, it was clocked at 216 mph. Ironically, MTM’s slightly less powerful RS6 achieved 225 mph because it is aerodynamically more slippery and the R8 had some intercooler airflow issues at the time.
“This was the car’s first outing, and we had airflow problems with the intercooler,” Roland explained. “We initially thought that the vented Makrolon from the R8 GT3 race car rear window would draw in enough air for the intercooler, but when we did the wind tunnel testing afterwards, we found that there was over-pressure above the window.”
“We overcame this by changing the internal ducting so that ram air for the intercooler comes only from the two enlarged side intakes. Air is now drawn downwards through the top of the intercooler and out through the open rear grille. This has given a significant boost to top-end performance, and the car should now be able to achieve its calculated 224 mph Vmax.”
As this car is a prototype, many components were specially fabricated, and in many cases, each unique installation involved a steep learning curve. “If I did it all over again, I would use a water-cooled intercooler, which is more efficient in a mid- or rear-engined arrangement,” said Roland.
The MTM R8 V10 Biturbo tips the scales with a similar curb weight to the standard car since the turbochargers, intercooler and larger brakes are counterbalanced by the savings made in the carbon-fiber race seats, lighter coilover suspension, Makrolon rear window, exhaust manifolds and silencer.
Being significantly lighter than the RS6 Clubsport, the R8 Biturbo achieved some extremely impressive acceleration figures at Nardo. The 0-62 mph sprint took just 3.0 seconds, with 0-124 coming up in 9.37, and 0-186 in 19.42 sec. It was not that long ago when a car capable of reaching 100 mph in under 20 seconds was deemed quick.
Thank goodness then that the R8 has the gift of Quattro, especially when the road is a bit slippery. Even so, with this level of power, you can feel the four big rubber contact patches do their lively dance with the clever differentials and their electronic masters as you leave the line in a hurry. But it all hooks up in an instant, enabling this mercurial apparition to deploy all its horses and reel in the horizon with unerring stability.
When it comes to the even more important business of stopping quickly, the big brakes work a treat, washing off big speeds with conviction. And the KW suspension makes the R8 feel like a big go-kart in the bends. With this uprated suspension and 20-inch rubber, the ride is noticeably firmer than stock, but still manages to miss the uncomfortable tag by a fair margin.
With the knowledge that it cost over 480,000 euros plus tax and was due to be transported to the Top Marques Monaco Show within days, I call time on my latest MTM adventure and canter back to base. I did not push it too hard, Roland, honest.
On the face of it, the R8 V10 Biturbo is probably more of a one-off exercise in MTM’s expertise in all things Audi than a realistic sales proposition. Even so, Roland says that he is prepared to make a small run of four polished R8 V10 Biturbos to individual order.
One thing I have learnt in nearly three decades in this industry is that special cars like this are often bought on impulse. Surely there must be at least four wealthy and impulsive R8 lovers out there.
MTM R8 V10 Biturbo
5.0-liter V10, dohc, 40-valve, biturbo. 200-cell catalytic converters
6-speed manual, 30 percent taller ratios, shot-peened internals
KW coilovers, smaller diameter coil springs
380mm cross-drilled, vented discs, 8-pot calipers
Wheels and Tires
Bimoto-style forged alloy 9x20 (f), 12.5x20 (r)
Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 245/30 (f), 325/25 (r)
Carbon-fiber front air splitter, side skirt extensions, adjustable rear wing
Carbon-fiber backed Recaro seats w/ leather trimmed seat cushions; quilted leather carpet, bulkhead coverings and door panels
Peak Power: 777 hp @ 6900 rpm*
Peak Torque: 655 lb-ft @ 2750 rpm*
0-62 mph: 3.0 sec.
Top Speed: 224 mph (est)
* 2.15 bar boost