Treser Quattro

— A pricey package that puts Audi’s 4-wd model into a new category

The British market has been a happy hunting ground for German car manufacturers for a good many years, and is the largest outside Germany for the Audi Quattro. It was only a matter of time before this admirable, if slightly controversial model became the target of the tuning companies, foremost of which is Walter Treser’s concern in Hofstetten, near Stuttgart.

Treser has the best credentials, being a former competitions manager for Audi and therefore in a position to know exactly how much tuning the four-wheel drive cars can take without losing their tractability. The sole agents in the UK, Central Garage (Surrey) Limited at Cobham recently lent us their Treser Quattro for a week, and rounded the experience off with a brief drive in the new Treser tuned 80 Quattro four-door model, not turbocharged but nicely tuned to 160 bhp.

German performance never comes on the cheap, and that is the first thing to establish. It might be over-stating to say that they add a nought onto everything, but if you still think of a tuned car as being a Mini with a £50 Speedwell cylinder head, forget it! The wealthy connoisseur will stake out £17,722 on his new right-hand drive Quattro, including ABS braking, and will spend a further £5951 exclusive of VAT on the engine and body parts as fitted to the test car. Add VAT on and you’re facing a bill of not far short of £25,600.

The engine conversion raises the power of the 5-cylinder 2,144 cc engine by a quarter, from 200 to 250 bhp, without spoiling the flexibility in any way… improving it, if anything. The bottom end of the engine is left standard, as is the 7:1 compression ratio, but the cylinder head is fitted with larger inlet and exhaust valves, a high lift camshaft, the boost pressure is raised, and a completely new exhaust system is fitted, including new manifolding. A higher capacity fuel injection system is fitted, designed originally for the 8-cylinder Mercedes, and a much larger intercooler is fitted too, its capacity raised by 87%.

The work on the power unit alone costs £3,000 plus VAT, but there is much more to the conversion. The suspension is lowered using new springs and special suspension joints (though, in this case, standard shock absorbers were retained), special alloy wheels are supplied with Michelin TRX tyres, but the braking system has been left standard.

The wheel arches have to be extended, but the full conversion as supplied includes a deeper air dam with a forward facing lip, which is fine so long as you remember to avoid the kerbstones. The rear bumper is also styled to match, incorporating vestigial splash guards, and a striking looking tail spoiler is mounted on the boot lid. No one would be left in any doubt that this is a macho, aggressive high performance Audi when it leaves Central Garage’s workshop.

Appearances are one thing, but the actual performance needs to be sufficient to deal with adversaries with aplomb. In less than ideal weather conditions the standard Quattro has no rivals at all, especially in straight line acceleration, and even on wet roads the Treser Quattro can be accelerated stunningly quickly. It must be about the only car on the roads today which can produce virtually the same acceleration figures in wet or dry conditions, our average of 6.62 seconds for a standstill to 60 mph run in the dry rising to no more than 6.9 seconds in the wet.

The enigma of the Treser Quattro is also its virtue, for our first test runs failed to produce good figures to 100 mph. An average of 19.92 seconds is good, but not good enough to beat the standard model’s 18.0 seconds, and we felt that the engine was running out of breathing capacity at more than 5,500 rpm.

Customers rarely match the claimed figures anyway, unless they are prepared to drop the clutch at 4,000 rpm and snatch the gear changes, so in this respect performance claims can be a fallacy, merely indicating the potential. Disappointed with our results, we went back to Central Garage for a further run with Manfred Duemke, the service director, and were fascinated to find that by easing the clutch up at 2,500 rpm and changing up to higher gears at no more than 5,200 rpm, the time to 100 mph can be lowered to 17.5 seconds comfortably. At last, a car in which the customer can reach optimum performance without using guerrilla tactics!

Clearly, then, the Treser Quattro relies much more on torque than on power for its acceleration. We are still left with some doubt that the tuned engine actually produces 250 bhp, which would surely allow it to rev to 6,500 rpm without running out of breath, but its drivability and overtaking capabilities are vastly improved… and that is all the sensible customer should demand.

In light traffic conditions the Treser Quattro feels like the fastest thing on four wheels, while in town the ride is certainly impaired, but not to an uncomfortable degree. The lowered suspension and wide Michelins jib at potholes and changes in road surface, but the reward comes on the open road when the high levels of adhesion and the neutral steering characteristics give the Quattro almost go-kart agility.

Our overall fuel consumption of 19.1 mpg was similar to that of a standard Quattro, and as in the case of the Tickford Capri Turbo the extra power seemed to make no special demands on the daily running costs.

The 80 Quattro which we literally took up the road could fairly be described as a poorer man’s version, the £11,474 normally aspirated model having £2,150 worth of work done on the engine… plus VAT. The engine, still the 5-cylinder of course, is bored out to 2.3 litres and also has the bigger valves, high lift camshaft and polished ports and an oil cooler, the power output rising from 130 to 160 bhp. The objective, again, was to gain power and torque without spoiling the tractability and the Treser tuned version appears to have achieved this ideally, though it seemed noisier and less restful on a short stretch of motorway.

Customers who can afford these conversions are by definition well-to-do and, presumably, discriminating, and not too many may wish to have the full engine and body kits, the latter advertising the performance in no uncertain way. But there are always a few who want the ultimate version of whatever they consider to be their ideal car, and Treser has the answer. — M.L.C.