New Car Reviews

First Drive: 2010 MTM Audi S5 Cabriolet

As delivered by the factory, Audi’s S5 Cabriolet makes for a charismatic convertible. Although lacking the V-8 grunt of its fixed-roof sibling, it offers an enticing combination of power and style, yet is comfortable and benign enough to use as a daily driver. Is there any way to improve upon Ingolstadt’s invention?

Moteren Technik Meyer, or MTM, certainly thinks so. The heralded German tuning firm feels a few subtle tweaks can turn Audi’s shapely roadster from mild to wild.

European Roots
Unless you’re a dyed-in-the-wool Audi buff, chances are you’ve never heard of MTM. That’s understandable — until recently, the company had made few inroads to the American market, a situation it’s working to change, by signing up additional distributors in North America.

But MTM didn’t start swinging wrenches yesterday. Founder Roland Meyer established the firm back in 1985, and MTM has worked on improving Volkswagen/Audi products ever since. MTM’s projects have included everything from converting U.S.-bound A3 hatchbacks into S3s, packing two engines into an Audi TT coupe, and preparing turbocharged Audi five-cylinder engines for the limited-production Ital Design Aztek roadsters.

MTM’s S5 Cabriolet package is, however, somewhat unusual. In a break from tuner tradition, this isn’t an over-the-top, in-your-face showpiece designed to wow auto show crowds and scorch retinas. Instead, MTM adds an extra dollop of power and some minor refinements without disturbing Audi’s original recipe.

Chipped, Slammed, and Dressed Up
Arguably, the most significant modification lurks within the electrical system. MTM’s M-Cantronic engine controller contains the recalibrated engine computer mapping that allow drivers to explorer new frontiers with Audi’s supercharged 3.0-liter V-6.

In stock form, the 3.0T engine produces a commendable 333 horsepower between 5500-7000 rpm, and 325 pound-feet of torque at 2900-5300 rpm. Install MTM’s tuning module and a new exhaust system, and those figures jump to an impressive 430 horsepower and 379 pound feet.

The S5’s driveline, including the seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox and the Quattro all-wheel-drive system, remain untouched. MTM instead institutes a series of mild chassis tweaks. New coil springs lower the ride height by an inch, while the front brakes are replaced with 15-inch rotors. Our test car had four-piston calipers, but MTM has since adopted a new package that fits massive eight-piston calipers up front.

Cosmetically, MTM’s S5 is fairly restrained. Apart from bold side stripes, a lowered ride height, and new exhaust tips, the only visual departure from the stock S5 Cabriolet are the 20-inch, nine-spoke forged aluminum wheels, which are wrapped in 265/30/20 Michelin Pilot Sport 2 rubber.

A Seamless Transition
The modifications are mild, perhaps, but it still takes both skill and finesse to implement them in a seamless fashion. MTM’s execution is flawless; everything looks, feels, and functions as if it were engineered by Audi itself. Cars equipped with Audi’s Drive Select controller, for instance, still retain their variable settings; MTM’s 430 horsepower is only fully unleashed once the driver selects the sport setting.

Although it’s a big jump from 333 to 430 horsepower, the tuned S5 doesn’t feel as if there’s 100 extra horsepower packed into the engine compartment. High-end power is improved, and the revised exhaust emits an impressive bark, but the car doesn’t feel remarkably quicker right off the line. We’d love to see MTM work some magic on the dual clutch gearbox; tuning its initial launch response may improve upon our seat-of-the-pants sensation.

Mixing lowered springs, low-profile tires, and Michigan’s notoriously bad roadways often yields a harsh ride and uncomfortable passengers, but we were pleasantly surprised by the S5’s behavior over broken tarmac. Ride quality was firm yet compliant, but we did notice some additional cowl flex, which incites some additional rattles and squeaks within the cabin when the top is raised.

Sadly, those new springs don’t deliver a marked improvement in handling. The S5 still corners like the nose-heavy car it is, unless you opt for Audi’s nifty torque-vectoring rear differential. We highly recommend spending the extra $1100 to do so, as it helps neutralize the S5’s behavior during hard cornering and renders the car a delightful, balanced performer.

By All Means, Have It Your Way
MTM’s certainly delivered a more powerful S5, but aside from improved braking and stylish wheels, it’s hard to point out exactly where the tuner improved upon Audi’s original product. MTM’s S5 is certainly a well-rounded machine, but perhaps only slightly quicker and sharper than it was originally. Further, it’s hard to swallow the added cost; springing for every MTM option adds close to $20,000 to the price tag — and that’s not including the cost of installation.

Luckily, MTM’s accessories are available not only as a package, but also a la carte. An S5 Cabriolet with the Sport Drive controller and rear differential is an enticing package in stock form, but we’d certainly opt for the extra stopping power offered from MTM’s front brake kit. Choose your options wisely, and you can build your dream cabriolet that is still priced within reason.

2010 MTM Audi S5 Cabriolet
Base price: $58,450 (stock)
Price as tested: $94,196 (estimated)
Factory options: Premium package ($5900), Drive Select package w/ Sport Differential ($3950), Comfort package ($1400)
MTM accessories: M-Cantronic ($3896) exhaust ($3377), 20-inch Bi-Moto wheels ($9700), Eight-piston front brake kit ($5762), Lowering springs ($886)
Engine: supercharged 3.0-liter V-6
Power: 430 hp; 379 lb-ft
Transmission: seven-speed dual clutch
Drive: all-wheel