By: Jason E. Teller
Occasionally the automobile enthusiast comes across a special car where everything just seems to click. Without hesitation I can say that the Audi A4 is one of those cars. It's like some powerful force - the alignment of the planets if you will - that reaches out and speaks to you on all levels of your consciousness. As A4 owners we are constantly tinkering with our cars in pursuit of some new mythical plateau. Improving on near-perfection isn't necessarily impossible, but it isn't easy either! And so we swap our air filters and buy high performance wheels and tires and make other changes here and there. Each A4 takes on the personality of its owner whether through an improved stereo system or aggressive body modifications.
Now let me introduce you to the "granddaddy" of all performance modifications. Believe me when I say that we've yet to see anything like it!
The Performance Engineered Systems supercharger system for the Audi/VW 2.8 liter 30v engine takes the perfection I was talking about above and raises the bar a full notch. With dyno-tested numbers of 280 horsepower and 260 ft/lbs. of torque, the car is transformed from a sports sedan with an adequate engine to a deceptively fast high-performance automobile.
I was a passenger in the car before I actually drove it, but it took me less than one block to intuitively know that something was very different. The sound is the tip off. The supercharger unit itself makes a distinctive high-pitched noise letting you know that while the car may look ordinary enough, there's something new lurking under the hood. People on the street turn their heads to look for the Ferrari that must be making that sound. To be fair, however, I'll say that I was quickly acclimated to the sound of the engine. Fifteen minutes into the ride I still knew that I was in a special car, but the sound of the supercharger didn't overwhelm me.
Once on the highway, Tony Ricci let loose and literally threw me back into my seat. An accomplished driver, Tony's shifts were made with a precision that took advantage of the supercharger's power across the entire torque curve. We easily did 100 mph in 4th gear and after shifting to 5th seemed to continue pulling faster, faster. The immediate impression of the system - again as only a passenger at this point - is that power is available to the driver at essentially any speed and in any (reasonable) gear. Most of Tony's shifts were around 6200 RPM, and yet it felt like there was no limit at the shift point.
Two hours and a hearty steak dinner later yours truly was behind the wheel, nervous with anticipation. Looking back, I'm not sure if I stopped grinning once during my 45-minute test drive. The car is just that much fun to drive!
Power; lots and lots of power. That's what they would teach you in "PES Supercharger 101" if there was such a course. Driven for performance, first gear comes deadly quick and launches the car forward forcefully. In what seems like an instant you are at 6000 RPM and ready to shift to second gear. Again you have an unaccustomed feeling because it is time to shift quickly. By third gear you are moving decisively towards 60 mph and still pondering the blur of first and second. Fourth and fifth gear are much the same. Power is abundant at all RPM's and feels like it will never drop off. Accelerating from 80-100 mph in fifth gear is smooth and quick and comes faster than you can imagine. Downshifting for power just isn't necessary.
A possible criticism of all this power is that it would diminish the driveability of the automobile. Obviously nobody wants a car that is tuned just for the track and hard to drive on an everyday basis. This may be the most impressive feature of the PES Supercharger. The system was designed with this requirement in mind and fully addresses the need to maintain driving ease. While it did take me probably 15 minutes to get used to driving the car, once I did it was as normal as driving my own 12-valve A4. The system is subtle because the power is definitely there when needed and yet the car could be driven by Grandma and never pushed a bit. This is a big plus in my book.
A physical inspection of the kit on the car proves to be uneventful. PES has achieved full integration of the supercharger system with the stock engine. An A4 novice might even look at the engine and not be able to tell that the system was installed. All components appear robust and of at least equal or better quality than other engine parts. A further bonus - the system can be removed from the car without a trace.
Concerning the Tiptronic version of the 30-valve engine, PES is offering a re-mapped transmission chip. According to Tony, Tiptronic owners will achieve similar performance numbers from the supercharger system based on new shift points within the transmission chip.
The premise of improving on perfection may be a bit cliché, but in the case of this product I believe that PES has struck pure gold. The 30-valve owner (A4, A6, Passat) can buy a bolt-on solution that will quite literally transform their car. I can't say enough good things about PES or the supercharger system because it was just that much fun to drive the car. For 30-valve owners serious about improving performance this product is the single most impressive currently available.