Unless you're a Euro-tuner devotee, a regular Fourtitude blogger, or an Old World expat, the name Motoren Technik Mayer may not ring a bell. The Wettstetten, Germany-based company was founded in 1990 by an engineer who cut his teeth helping develop the high-strung five-cylinder engine that powered the ground-breaking Audi Quattro. For almost 18 years, Roland Mayer's company has been tuning Audis along with VWs, SEATs, kodas, Lamborghinis, Bentleys, Ferraris, and Porsches. MTM markets a line of go-fast and look-sharp parts ranging from rims, brakes, suspension bits, and engine performance parts to vents, wings, and spoilers. The company hopes to break into the U.S. market selling complete vehicles (as well as parts) and become known as the Brabus or Alpina (tuner of choice) for Audi.
We sampled a rolling showcase of everything MTM can do for Audi's Q7 to turn it into the ultimate Q-ship -- a seven-passenger stealth bomber. Up front the 4.2-liter FSI engine inhales through a supercharger and air-to-water intercooler, then exhales through a new stainless low-restriction exhaust, moving enough air to provide a nice round 500 horsepower. Reversing that thrust are MTM-badged Brembo six-piston front and four-piston rear calipers chomping upsized rotors (15-inch front/14-inch rear), framed nicely by giant 21-inch nine-spoke MTM-Bimoto rims shod in Dunlop Sport Maxx tires, size 295/35R21. The electronic air suspension is reprogrammed to ride a bit lower and handle a bit crisper, and the bodywork is dressed up with new fascias, side skirts, and gently flared wheel lips. Inside, blue-suede inserts adorn all seats and door panels, and the front headrests each house a 10.2-inch DVD or gaming monitor. All in, the upgrades on this full-catalog 'ute would add roughly $50,000 to the $62K-77K price of a Q7 4.2.
So how does it work? Considerably better than many of the amped-up 'utes some tuners have inflicted on the idle rich. The extra 150 horses are instantly felt as a lag-free surge from rest or a warp-jump from cruising speeds. In the latter case, the six-speed automatic abets with instantaneous downshifts from sixth to third or second, as appropriate. (On a couple occasions, the downshift felt a bit harsh, however.) Equally important, when the adrenaline subsides, the blown 4.2 is willing to step off smoothly and gently, shifting comfortably. This is the part many tuners miss.
Whether the suspension reprogramming or the substantial increase in unsprung weight is to blame, there's a whole lot of energy being transmitted from the road to the body structure, unless the suspension is set to Comfort mode. Impacts are most harsh in Dynamic mode, raising concerns about inciting buzz, squeak, and rattle issues over the long haul. A lot of the road noise generated by these summer tires penetrates the cabin. In any case, the Bose (or optional Bang & Olufsen) sound system is easily able to shout it down.
The great thing about these tuner rides is that the equipment is all a la carte, and if we were faced with the menu we might order the engine, the tasteful body and interior mods, and call it quits. Look for an S5 and an R8 to follow, and stay tuned for developments as MTM establishes a dealer-ordering network complete with an MTM warranty in the coming months.