Performance Road Test: HPA Motorsports FT600 Volkswagen Touareg
It's always fun to beat the competition when you're the underdog. It's like the bespectacled nerd taking down the loud-mouthed bully, the ant carrying the rubber-tree plant, or the low-fat ice cream that tastes as good as the real thing--well, maybe not. But in the case of HPA Motorsports' latest tuner creation, you can have an entry-level V-6 Porsche Cayenne or Volkswagen Touareg that pounds out 100 more horses than the new 500-horse ($96,000) Cayenne Turbo.
HPA has a long history of tuning small VW engines to run with big-muscle sports cars. Sister publication Motor Trend has tested a few of HPA's twin-turbo Golf R32s, including one that rocketed to 208 mph.
HPA can build a vehicle with a variety of single- or twin-turbo packages that range between 410 and 600 horsepower, that still sips normal pump fuel. We spent a day at HPA's Vancouver, Canada-based facility with its top model, the FT600. The FT600 package ($32,000) starts with the removal of the engine to fit a special head-plate setup, heavy-duty rod bearings, and a modified oil pan. Then, a pair of ball-bearing-style Garrett GT25R turbochargers are mounted via HPA's custom exhaust manifolds. The twin-turbos' 19psi boost travels through hand-formed stainless-steel pipework, formed silicone hoses, and twin air-to-air intercoolers before funneling turbo pressure into an HPA cast-aluminum short-runner intake manifold. A high-flow fuel pump, larger fuel lines, oversize fuel injectors, a new mass airflow sensor, and a custom airbox replete with a high-flow air filter handle air/fuel duties. A specially programmed engine computer teams with aftermarket spark plugs and an electronically activated boost bypass valve to ensure that the V-6 delivers its rated 600 horsepower without having detonation reduce the engine to a pile of aluminum chips. Likewise, HPA fits twin ceramic-coated 70mm downpipes that mate with two five-inch-diameter high-flow catalytic converters and a throttle-activated quad-bypass stainless-steel exhaust. Only the FT600 package requires a special heavy-duty six-speed automatic transmission ($13,500) to handle the big power.
In addition, HPA offers a variety of aftermarket brake kits, including the Brembo Stage II brakes ($5500) fit to our tester. Pricey? Yes. However, stopping 5250 pounds of SUV is no easy task, and the optional Brembo eight-piston monoblock calipers and 15-inch slotted rotors stop the FT600 Touareg from 60 mph in just 110 feet. HPA further offers its KW Variant 3 coilover suspension that not only lowers ride height by an inch, but also delivers a notable improvement in handling without a jarring ride. Wheel/tire choice is based on customer preference, but HPA recommends a performance-based 20-inch wheel/tire package (about $4500) over the 22-inch-diameter setup ($8000) on our test vehicle.
If you're trying to separate your Touareg from the masses yet still look somewhat OEM, HPA can fit a European-spec Touareg W-12 "wide body" kit ($5000) that incorporates unique front and rear fascias, wide body wheelarch flares, special side skirts, and a rear hatch wing. Speaking of Europe, our Touareg was two days away from heading to Volkswagen in Germany, so during our test, VW brass mandated the boost be turned down considerably (resulting in about 500-horsepower output versus the FT600's 600 ponies), yet the Touareg still ran 0-to-60 mph in well under six seconds.
We know HPA can build an 180-plus-mph V-6 Cayenne/Touareg, but why would you buy one over a Cayenne Turbo S? First, if you like being that 98-pound weakling with a Tyson-like punch, the HPA FT600 is perfect. Moreover, a V-6 Cayenne/Touareg delivers much better fuel economy, emits less tailpipe emissions, requires lower auto insurance premiums, offers a near 50/50 weight bias versus its more nose-heavy V-8 brethren, and has less flash. And since a well-optioned FT600 rings in many thousands less than a Turbo S while delivering 25 percent more power--that might just be a plus, too.
|2007 Touareg V-6||HPA FT600 Touareg|
|0-60 mph, sec||9.4||5.6|
|Quarter mile, sec @ mph||17.0 @ 81.0||13.9 @ 100.2|
|Braking, 60-0 mph, ft||126||110|