For Audi enthusiasts

project s7 cover photo



25 October 2013

Through the past two installments of the Project S7 series, we have taken you behind the scenes at HRE Performance Wheels. First, we sat down for a chat with Creative Designer Patrick Moran on the wheel industry, the Audi scene and the new Series P1 Monoblok. More recently, we featured a production pictorial teaser as the wheel for our SEMA-bound Sportback was forged from a 125 pound block of 6061-T6 aluminum into HRE’s strongest, lightest and deepest monoblock ever.

When I started to build this S7, it was a bit daunting. I had an vision in my mind of just how I wanted the car too look. To compound the pressure, I had also brought upon myself a certain level of execution. I wanted to do something aggressive, yet clean – a car that was luxurious, powerful, comfortable and yet had a sinister edge. I wanted the devil….but in a hand tailored bespoke suit and a major part of this visual impact was the wheel.

Project S7 - HRE P101 Wheels & Michelin Pilot Super Sport Tires

I had a few different wheel manufacturers in mind as well as a rough idea of just how I wanted the car to look and the first consideration was style. Many people like a multi piece, deep lip, exposed hardware 3-piece wheel, especially on a big body car like the S7… and while these designs do have their place and can look great, I wanted to continue my love affair with a clean motorsport inspired monoblok.  I felt the design needed to be open and something that can showcase the  beautiful and effective 6 piston, 400mm brake setup this car receives from the factory.

Next: the finish. I don’t want to let the cat out of the bag here, but to me, the wheels need to compliment AND contrast the car at the same time. Small  details to me are what sets a car apart…things that at first glance a person didn’t notice, yet visually, and especially after I would point them out – brought harmony to the set up and made “sense”. With the finish for the HRE wheel on the S7, I wanted something that had some pop, yet a very refined finish. “”Liquid metal” came to mind, and something that really showed the amount of care and effort that would go into making this world class wheel. Finally – a finish that played with the light depending on angle as I had a few ideas up my sleeve on how I could make the exterior finish “POP” without utilizing a bright in your face color.  More on that later.

Project S7 - HRE P101 Wheels & Michelin Pilot Super Sport Tires

With that, I present to you the HRE Performance Wheels P101 in Brushed Tinted Clear. This finish is classic HRE and, in my personal opinion, one of the most beautiful going. It hits on all marks and gives a beautiful forged liquid metal appearance. Visible in the wheel is the hand brushed work, effort and machine time that created this piece and the tinted clear finish provides the gloss I wanted without too much in your face shine.  Light depending, this wheel takes on mood ring personality in the way it can change and simply look like a gloss silver wheel, yet at the same time can come across as a gunmetal shade and sometimes even darker.  Perfect.

Since the S7 comes with a factory 20-inch option and no shortage of brake diameter on the car, several renderings made me feel that a “big”, 21-inch was just right for the application. It provided something impactful without being overly dramatic or over done. For width, I decided to go with a 9.5-inch  as I personally am not a fan of a “stretched” look and was going to run a 265 series tire. Finally for offset – I spent a considerable amount of time with HRE trying to decide what would give us the most conical profile without clearance issues and ET27 was the answer. Finally, to top it off, I dipped into  HRE customization and added Gloss Red HRE paintfill to the outer lip engraving and also the brand new all forged vintage HRE center caps.

Project S7 - HRE P101 Wheels & Michelin Pilot Super Sport Tires

The shipment from HRE’s San Diego facility arrived via UPS and my first impression was one of astonishment – and not at the wheels! HRE goes through great pain and expense to develop custom boxes for every size of wheel that they ship – diameter, width, you name it. What you get is a heavy duty cardboard box that was seemingly MADE just for your wheel and in every box a corresponding two-piece foam insert that protects the top and bottom of the wheel. Long gone are the days of throwing out your wheels’ boxes. Make room in the attic for these.

With the Series P1 wheels unboxed, attention shifted to the P101 itself. In addition to the cosmetic impact, the engineering was most impressive. This 21×9.5 ET27 Monoblock wheel weighed 21.8lbs. To put that in perspective, the OE Audi 19” wheel on my S7 weighed 30lbs. The S7 is a pretty stout car at 4300lbs – however, saving nearly 40lbs in unsprung mass? Wow. Oh, and one last nod to HRE’s packaging – the total shipment weight for the 4 boxes? 160lbs as indicated by UPS. The actual product weight was 87.2lbs. HRE packaged these wheels in 72.8lbs of protection.

Project S7 - HRE P101 Wheels & Michelin Pilot Super Sport Tires

As you can imagine, a set of wheels shipped with nearly 73 lbs of protection doesn’t get installed down at the local tire shop – so I reached out to a friend who is also an HRE distributor to the Houston TX area – Luis Galan of Autodynamica Performance in Spring TX (just north of Houston).

Founded in 1986,  Autodynamica exists to satisfy the most demanding needs of the specialized service and performance for European automobiles. This includes wheel installation –  as Luis and his company partner with the most respected and iconic names in the automotive aftermarket. Autodynamica’s shop is spectacular, rivaling many F1 garages in cleanliness and attention to detail – nearly two hours were spent mounting, balancing and installing the new HRE monoblocks. Every detail was taken into consideration – note Luis ensuring that the center caps where installed in such a way that the point of the HRE crest was pointing to the valve stem and lip engraving. OCD? Maybe. Regardless, the turnout was perfection.

Project S7 - HRE P101 Wheels & Michelin Pilot Super Sport Tires

To wrap a world class wheel I needed a world class tire – and to be candid, that was by far and away the easiest choice of my entire Project S7 build to this point. Michelin, please.

Michelin has been a staple on my previous car and everything about the tire was simply spectacular. The performance was amazing, ride quality superb and the tread life was guaranteed for 25,000 miles. It is the gold standard by which performance tires are measured and I cannot more highly recommend them. I again called on the Pilot Super Sport tire for duty – this time in 265/30/21 size.

Project S7 - HRE P101 Wheels & Michelin Pilot Super Sport Tires

Post installation the tire and wheel combination is quiet, comfortable and the Audi S7 air suspension does a tremendous job at keeping everything composed and compliant, even when lowered to a 1 finger gap with the H&R ETS module.

With suspension, wheels and tires sorted – Project S7 still has a long way to evolve, in both “Show and Go” before SEMA in just a bit over a week! For our next installment, we will turn our attention toward the “Show” portion – more specifically exterior design – as we prepare for Las Vegas and one of the most exclusive car shows in the world! Stay Tuned!

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