AudiWorld's look at Audi tuning companies in North America continues with this article about Audi Performance & Racing (APR). Located in the college-town of Auburn, Alabama, APR is less than a two hour drive from Atlanta's airport and reasonably accessible from anywhere in the southern United States. The company itself is composed of three primary areas: a storefront/display area, the shop area in the back of the building and offices/storage upstairs. There's more than enough room for the 6 full-time and 2 part-time employees to handle development and tuning programs, as well as run the business side of the company.
The large front showroom area is particularly nice because it allows APR to welcome visitors to more than a "shop". However, the shop and development areas should not be discounted. Large enough for four cars, the shop includes a lift, dyno (two-wheel), blast furnance, compressor and of course all of the requisite tools.
We were met by most of the APR team -- Stephen, Brett, Chris, Tom and Nick. With varied backgrounds in high performance tuning, engineering and professional racing, APR brings a unique set of proficiencies to their three year old Audi-tuning business. Brett has a mechanical engineering degree, Nick spent time racing in Europe and Stephen also has a racing background and is the crew chief for the IAMG/APR Team Motorola Cup S4 this year. Chris has extensive experience in marketing and accounting, while Tom (nicknamed "SearchEngine" for his uncanny ability to source components) has spent many years tuning cars. Let's not forget Frank -- although we did not meet him in person, he brings a Master's Degree in Electrical Engineering and Physics to APR's chip tuning team. It's clear that the owners and employees of APR are not just selling bolt-on parts, but rather developing products for real-life high-performance applications.
Stephen describes APR's business philosophy as being based, first and foremost, on customer service. Indeed, in the two days we spent at APR we found one or more of the employees at the shop late answering e-mail or taking phone calls; we got the feeling that vacations for these guys are far and few between! APR offers a 100% unconditional money back guaranty to its customers, as well as lifetime free upgrades on software.
During our visit APR had a host of tuned vehicles at our disposal, including an S4, TT quattro, A4 1.8T, A8, Audi 90 and a rare 5000 CS quattro wagon. Most of our time, however, was spent in the new cars -- the Laser Red 2000 S4 and the Denim Blue 2000 TT quattro. We will cover technical aspects and driving impressions later in the article, but suffice it to say that these automobiles offered substantial proof of APR's ability to transform off-the-shelf performance into something far greater.
Neil learned the hard way about the performance capabilities of APR's TT quattro. On our final day -- literally minutes before we needed to leave for the airport -- he was out taking one last spin in the Denim Blue beauty. Somehow or another (we don't want to incriminate anybody here) on a back country road, the car was going nearly 100 mph through a no-passing Zone when it did actually pass another vehicle. That vehicle, a plain jane Ford Bronco turned out to be an undercover police detective who quickly radioed ahead. Not long after we got the phone call back at the shop that Neil had been stopped by local law enforcement and "it wasn't clear how long it would take to sort everything out." I was pretty sure that Neil was spending the night in the pokey, but southern hospitality (and media driving credentials) prevailed and we left Alabama a few dollars lighter, but with a nice momento of the trip.