sport auto test: MTM-Audi S3 vs. Volvo V40 HPC

Even in their series specifications, the Audi S3 and Volvo V40 T5 stand out glaringly from the desolate tedium of the compact-class mainstream. So with a few tuning up-grades unleashing up to 360hp of pure brawn, the handiwork of MTM and HEICO SPORTIV pushes things to the verge of anarchy.


Test AMS

In the early nineties, not everything was as sweet as candy, for sure. Take, for example, those winter sportsmen who fancied themselves as something special, or perhaps just wanted to detract from a distinct lack of skill, and tried dazzling their onlookers with functional, neon-yellow or green Elho jackets. Well, that very same green, which has – at least partially – taken on an iconic charm, is now making its comeback in the form of a matt film enveloping the HEICO-Volvo V40 T5 HPC.

Beneath the hood, a small additional tank filled with a water-bioethanol mixture has moved in next to the pepped-up, five-cylinder powerhouse. Only with that does the HEICO Volvo V40 T5 HPC’s 2.5 liter engine develop its maximum output of 350hp and maximum torque of 510 Newtonmeters.

Additional control unit boosts MTM Audi S3’s performance
And the MTM Audi S3? This time round, it turned up without its traditional black-white-orange war paint, in which company boss, Roland Mayer, happily flaunts his baby once in a while. In brilliant red, it contrasts starkly with the HEICO – albeit a trivial detail, as what’s inside is what really counts. Thanks to its EUR 1,899 additional control unit, the two-liter TFSI powerhouse now develops 360hp rather than 300hp, and 450 Nm instead of 380 Nm torque. Admittedly, MTM wasn’t facing an especially complex challenge this time around, as the MTM Audi S3 has a far more dynamic and elaborately developed basis than the HEICO Volvo V40 T5 HPC – even though the Audi couldn’t entirely convince judges of the benchmark test with the BMW M135i xDrive.

HEICO, by contrast, exhibited an Ironman will in bringing its V40 up to scratch for the chal-lenge: a customized turbocharger, modified charge-air cooling, overhauled air intake, an entirely new, flap-controlled exhaust system and the already mentioned additional injection system – in the Frankfurt dormitory town of Weiterstadt in the regional state of Hesse, the tools are still glowing. HEICO’s contender was based on the V40’s Cross Country variant, currently the only model with all-wheel drive. But nothing more is visible of the once long-legged, offroad beast, so please take a seat. And at last, finally, a Volvo exists with a low, sporty sitting position. Apropos seating: the Recaro body-contour seats provide truly effective support, without unnecessarily hampering climbing in and out.       

HEICO Volvo V40 T5 HPC – the epitome of turbo sound
So, nimbly grabbing the freshly swathed steering wheel and ignoring the uncomfortably high switching paddles, the engine is started, and the cute selector lever eased into D. But that’s where the HEICO Volvo V40 T5 HPC’s good-naturedness terminates: its five cylinder power unit returns accelerator commands with more bite and determination than John McEnroe once did, returning his rivals’ serves; with a hissing, whistling and rumbling, huge volumes of air, high octane fuel, water and alcohol are pressed into its combustion chambers –accelerating the Swede from zero to 100 km/h in 5.7 seconds.

It sounds rather like the HEICO Volvo V40 T5 HPC overnighted few times too often next to an Audi Quattro S1. But if there is such a thing as an epitome for the ultimate turbo sound, the HEICO Volvo V40 T5 HPC must be it. Weighing in at over 1.6 metric tons, one of the reasons for the HEICO Volvo V40 T5 HPC’s lessnippy acceleration is the fairly late attainment of maximum torque at 3,500/min; another reason is Volvo’s forced marriage with the five-cylinder engine and its truly frightful automatic transmission. Furthermore, the phlegmatic six-gear gearbox is another cause of slower lap times around Hockenheim’s short course.

But even if the driver is able to change gears at 500/min before the actual switching rpm, too much time is lost before traction is reestablished. That’s all-the-more regrettable, given the chassis’s fine-tuning that demonstrates the HEICO technicians’ efforts in every curve.

All-wheel drive for taming the engine power
Despite the still front-heavy weight distribution, the HEICO Volvo V40 T5 HPC corners flakily – confirming the poor steering feedback for which this brand is generally known – and, when under traction, keeps to the ideal line, slightly understeering. A spectacular load change? Not intended. Rather, HEICO cultivates a reliable taming of the awesome engine power, where, based on the Haldex principle (and similarly to the Audi), the all-wheel drive plays a consid-erable role with its multiple disk clutch.

What remains unseen on the racing track is a rather crude – or perhaps better expressed – rudimentary addressing of the chassis on traverse joints. On the highway, by contrast, this becomes painfully evident, especially given the fairly ingenious evening out of longer surface undulations. The MTM Audi S3, by contrast, does neither one nor t’other.

The S3’s clubsport coilover suspension always plays the “tough guy” which, on longer journeys, is unkind on the back, and unkind on the mood – an aspect that’s nevertheless known to be discounted in sport auto’s scoring system.       

On the racing circuit, by contrast, the MTM Audi’s performance truly shines with its tuning all the more. Liberated from the bulk series’ restrictive aerodynamic form, the MTM Audi S3 bolts over the track without losing traction when cornering, and with an inherent calmness, exhibiting hardly any body movement whatsoever.

Despite the performance enhancement, the manual six-gear gearbox connects perfectly, the cool aluminum shift stick swishing nimbly and smoothly in its track. The engine doesn’t re-quire that much intervention anyway, with maximum torque putting the drive- and cardan-shaft specifications to the test already at 1,800/min.

MTM Audi S3 bonds driver and asphalt
In terms of power delivery and acoustics, the two-liter power unit actually gives the impres-sion of a large-capacity, naturally aspirated engine. Initially, with a voluminous bass rumble generating a rather trombone-like sound above 4,000 rpm, the direct injection engine rushes through the rpm band (1.5 rather than 1.2 bar boost pressure), with the MTM Audi S3 clocking up 4.9 seconds for the standard sprint – a half-second faster the last measured series model.

But, above all, its vigorous cornering is addictive, inebriating, and also poses the question: what on Earth should the next RS3 be able to do better? OK, maybe it will offer greater comfort than the MTM Audi S3 – but this incredible handling! Not even HEICO’s extremely dynamic Volvo V40 T5 HPC can compete – which is presumably less HEICO’s fault than Volvo’s.

Buzzword “steering”: the Audi’s construction transmits that degree of precision and feedback missing in the V40, thereby giving the driver the feeling of being optimally connected to his vehicle.

The same applies to the Brembo braking system which, in connection with the 19” wheel set, enables intrepid decelerating values, free of drastic signs of fatigue. In this discipline, the toxic-green HEICO Volvo V40 T5 HPC also permits itself no faults before hissing away like a year’s production of welding torches. The prices of these two compact firecrackers also lie somewhere on the hazy horizon, proving once more you can’t get good tuning for €500 on ebay. Like back in the early nineties, really, when Elho jackets couldn’t be bought for a song either.

Jens Dralle, sport auto 12/2013
Photos: Rossen Rargolov