Nikolaos showed up at the hotel promptly the next day. The car was warmed up and ready to go. We then set off at a normal pace through the side streets of Kraluv Dvur. It was obvious that the car attracted attention not only from the sound, but also the low-slung menacing stance thanks to the H&R suspension and wide 18" BBS wheels. I later came to find out that many people recognize the car as it has been featured in numerous magazines, TV programs, car shows, posters, and more.
The first thing I notice is how firm yet controlled the suspension setup is. The ride is noticeably stiffer than my STaSIS Tracksport setup with 600 lb front springs and 700 lb rear springs. Nick informs me that we're off to his favorite set of twisty roads to run the car though the paces.
Soon we are nearing the outskirts of town and Nikolaos slows down in order to leave some "running distance" between the next car and us. Nick then proceeds to downshift into 2nd gear and hammer the throttle. This is when the difference between the torque tuned S4 and high strung RS4 engine becomes readily apparent. Although there isn't much pull below 3500 RPM due to the higher volume RS4 intake system, the power comes on very strong at 4000 and doesn't let up until 7000+ RPM. The fury from 6000 RPM to redline is something normally only seen in high revving normally aspirated engines. Where the standard S4 heads, cams, and intake are running out of steam at the far end of the tach, the RS4 motor pulls even harder. It's a proper racing engine.
The landscape is getting blurry as we pass into triple digits and we're approaching a sharp bend. That's when the next unexpected event happen - I'm no longer sitting in my seat! Nick gets hard on the brakes and I'm literally lifted right out of the custom Recaro racing seats and suspended only by the seatbelt. The 6 piston Movit brakes (344 x 32 mm front/322 x 28 mm rear) are that good.
Coming hard out of the corner in 2nd gear, all four Pirelli Pzero Corsa 255/35 ZR18 tires are spinning and clawing for traction on the rough Czech pavement. I'm then informed that these barely street legal track oriented tires need a little heat to maximize the grip. The car was dead neutral powering out past the apex with the suspension doing an excellent job of handling the broken road surface.
Soon we're coming up on the car that was only a speck just a few moments ago. Nick reminds me that he knows this road very well. Meanwhile, we are passing hordes of cold-war era Skodas like they're going in reverse. Each time we come into a corner, we brake a little later, a little harder, and come out a little faster as everything begins to heat up to optimal operating temperature. I sit there silent with a huge grin on my face. As fast as we were going, the car really wasn't even breaking a sweat. A car this fast must be driven on the track to be truly appreciated.
A few minutes later we're though the serpentines and I have a few free moments to think and collect my thoughts. The power was impressive, although not entirely unique. Getting quick acceleration out of an S4 is not a particularly difficult task. What really impressed me was the braking, suspension composure, and overall balance of the car. I have driven a number of high performance cars in my time including offerings from Porsche, BMW, Audi, Corvette, SVT, etc. and never have I witnessed a street car which brakes as violently as this car. Once warm, the braking, cornering, and acceleration grip is endless. This car is not equipped with ESP, but it's a moot point as you'd be a fool to exceed the capabilities of this car on a public road.
As we're on our way back to town, Nikolaos pulls over and gives me a turn behind the wheel. I ease out the special MTM clutch (rated to over 600 hp) and pay careful attention to the abrupt take up and extra responsiveness afforded by the lightweight single mass flywheel. Behind the wheel, my first impression is that the powerband is amazingly smooth. This is what people expect from MTM and this car is no exception; even when tuned to nearly 500 horsepower. This car is the smoothest, most responsive, and most tractable tuned S4 I have ever driven. The throttle response is linear. The same goes for the brakes. The pedal is firm and easy to modulate. Body roll? Brake dive? Utterly none, as can be expected. The best description is "balanced". The car goes, turns, and stops in a way that's really confidence inspiring. It's as fast as nearly any street car out there and undoubtedly faster than the up and coming B7 RS4.
I, along with many, initially rolled my eyes at the idea of putting nearly $200,000 into an Audi S4 conversion project. After seeing and driving the result, I must admit my feelings have changed. Everything became clearer. Budget constraints simply were not a priority when undertaking this project which allowed Nick to weigh his options and order up the "best" parts he felt were available. This really is the ultimate one-off S4, which can excel on the track without sacrificing the luxury normally associated with Audi's S and RS cars.
The Audi and Quattro GmbH engineers who have been involved with this project love the car and admit it demonstrates how they would design the car given unlimited budget constraints. Audi's involvement with the project is a testament to the quality of the transformation. To this date, it is the only non-RS car officially recognized by Quattro GmbH to compete in the RS Driver's Challenge held at Germany's Hockenheim Ring. Two years ago Nick took 4th overall and last year 2nd amongst a very competitive field of RS cars, some with 600+ horsepower. Everything is fully documented and certified with the ultra strict TÜV (German department of motor vehicles) meaning it passes all safety and emission standards.
When it was all said and done, Nikolaos dropped a big question on me. Knowing my experience with Audis and S4's, he asked me if I would have done anything differently. I was really stumped by this question. At that moment I looked at him with a blank face and said "nothing". After thinking about it, my answer more or less stands. If I were to drive the car on the street every day, I would change the clutch to a less aggressive and more "streetable" setup. Perhaps after time I could get used to the stiff MTM clutch, but I much prefer the feeling of my custom RS4 setup.
For those interested in owning the ultimate all around B5 Audi, the car can be purchased for 69,980 EUR including many extras. With less than 9000 km on the odometer, the condition of the car is showroom new.
For more information or offers, contact Nikolaos Seizis at firstname.lastname@example.org