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4T : Feature Cars

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24 October 2012


When Audi built the A1 clubsport quattro for the Austrian enthusiast gathering at Worthersee, it set about construction of the ultimate tuned A1. That car, with full bodywork by the Audi Design Team, 2.5 TFSI swapped engine and quattro before there ever was a production A1 quattro, set afire the hearts of Audi enthusiast around the world. As one of the world’s ultimate Audi tuners, Roland Mayer and the minds at his MTM firm sat up and took notice of the A1 clubsport. Even better, they set about building their own, and well before the clubsport-inspired A1 quattro hit the streets. Enter the A1 Nardo.

Since there was no such thing as an A1 quattro at the time, nor any PQ25-based Volkswagen Group product from which to score a Haldex coupling and correctly-sized driveshafts, MTM decided to stick with front-wheel drive. A production A1 was procured, as was a 2.5 TFSI engine.

By now we’re guessing that you have already figured MTM wouldn’t leave well enough alone with that engine in that car. This tuning company located in the outskirts of Ingolstadt is perhaps best known for its software upgrades and so the 2.5 TFSI was bumped from the mid 300s to a whopping 500 hp.

To help put those ponies to the ground via the front wheels, MTM fitted a 6-speed transmission equipped with a limited slip differential. They also went with larger 19-inch versions of their BiMoto wheel and 235-30 series tires.

Subtle fender flares are also added at the front in order to make sure the bodywork covers the wider rubber. Inspired by the RS 3, MTM set about making new lightweight carbon fiber fenders. The look is completed with add-on attachments for the sides of the front bumper. As this car is also an MTM demonstrator, the pieces are simply affixed. We suspect an owner installing the same on a personal car would blend and repaint for a more factory appearance.

With so much more power, MTM also had to upgrade the car’s ability to stop. For that the company installed their own 8-piston front brake kit. Handling is further improved via a coilover suspension.

Inside, the car was both upgraded and lightened through several changes. First, the rear seat was removed and lightweight carpet now covers the space. The factory front seats were also removed and replaced by lightweight Recaro racing seats.

Shortly after completing production, the MTM team headed off to the Nardo test track in order to see what the car was capable of. Needless to say, the results were impressive. The A1 went 0-62 mph in 4.5 seconds, likely limited by contact with the asphault. The real magic happened during a high-speed run where the 3-door kept on blasting forward well after the speedo needle began bouncing off the indicator’s 240 km/h limit. An on-board GPS box reported a top speed of 324 km/h (201 mph)!

Given the pace, the name ‘Nardo’ suits the car just fine.

It’s a cold morning in the town of Wettstetten when we roll up to MTM. We’re here to test a few cars and first up will be in the A1 Nardo. We’d yet to read about the car’s feats and are instead eyeing up an R8 sitting just nearby. The A1 seemed a consolation – part of its magic really because if you stripped all the vinyl it’d be a total sleeper.

We cruise around a bit listening to the burbling 5-cylinder as it comes up to temperature, then we head back toward Ingolstadt. It becomes quickly apparent that the car has power, but really way too much for the front-wheel drive configuration. Even with a limited slip, a generous (yet still partial!) helping of throttle induces massive wheel spin, even at a decent pace. About this time a Saab fan might be crying with joy. The Audi fans currently in this car yearn for quattro.

As you might expect, the car has plenty of power on tap. This, after all, a 500 hp front-wheel drive hatchback about the size of a MINI. It weighs just 1200 kilos (2,645 lbs). The A1 will go like stink and then some, but like a mathlete at prom, what it really needs is simply to hook up. This is a shame really, because the truly evil things this car would be capable of with quattro would be off the charts.

We stop back at the Audi Forum Ingolstadt to get some photos of the A1 in front of Museum Mobile. As we’re shooting away, some fans approach and snap pics of their own camera phones. A man in a suit stops by to look at the vinyl work… turns out he does vinyl work, but for Audi itself.

Of course he does. This is Ingolstadt. There’s a guy here for everything.

Back at MTM, we chat with the staff and mention the lack of traction. They smile, and point out that the Nardo was more an experiment than anything. With this car they’ve shown what can be done. By the time a quattro version hits the market, and thus far 333 limited editions have, MTM would be happy to build more. Fast forward to the fall of 2012 and we don’t need to see the photos of the A1 quattros parked in front of their shop as posted by MTM on Facebook in order to guess they’ve likely already got a line quite literally out the door.

Editor’s Note: At the request of a reader, we’ve found a video, below, from YouTube that shows the car pulling away. With this short clip, you can better idea of the car’s sound.

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