It seems lately the title of "tuner" has become confused with what we'll call an "automotive specialist." A specialist is a shop that can install a few aftermarket parts or perhaps even make a shift knob or exhaust.
"Tuner" denotes a company that can improve on a vehicle's design and manufacture parts to tune every aspect, from engine to suspension and everything in between. An example of a true tuner is Neuspeed, which for more than 30 years has been designing and manufacturing high performance parts for VW and Audi vehicles with a focus on durability, longevity and performance.
Aaron Neumann, partial owner and lead engineer, is a perfectionist. OK, let's be honest-he's downright anal. And as such, Neumann didn't want to preview his latest project until it was perfect. Over the past year he has kept us updated with cryptic hints, and eventually I got the call that the mystery project-an Audi TT it so happens-was complete and available.
My attempts to acquire the Neuspeed TT, dubbed Project TT-N, for an extended two-week test drive were denied due to "prior obligations"-maybe a nice way of saying "I don't trust you or your cohorts to return the vehicle in one piece." That only heightened my interest, so I trekked to Neuspeed headquarters in Camarillo, Calif., for a more in-your-face approach.
When I arrived I was greeted by Aaron and his father (and company founder), Bill. If you've ever had the pleasure of meeting a Neumann you would know that even after decades of being immersed in the car industry, customizing vehicles is one subject that still puts a glimmer in their eyes.
After exchanging pleasantries, I was escorted around back to their latest creation. The first thing I noticed was the color. The TT-N is Ibis white in lieu of the brilliant reds of projects past. Aaron explained that for his TT-N, white was a perfect blank canvas to give the project a "reverse stealth" appeal, inconspicuous yet striking, where at first glance it blends in, but on second glance it really does stand out.
As we walked around the car, Neumann rattled off his extensive modifications. Instead of a hand fabricated one-off, Neuspeed has created a masterpiece attainable by the average Joe. The parts can be added all at once or in stages, allowing customers to tailor the level of customization to their driving needs. Using the TT-N as a model, you can build your own TT with Neuspeed's off-the-shelf parts.
When it came time to paint the body kit, there was no way a $99 Earl Scheib paint job would suit a man whose car wash arsenal consists of Q-tips and baby diapers. The award winning Palmers Custom Paint and Body Shop in Camarillo was given the delicate task of color-matching the panels and adding the satin black accents. The perfect paint coupled with the aggressive visual elements of the Caractere body kit gives the car an R8 appearance, sans hefty price tag. An OSIR dry carbon grille was also added to increase airflow to the engine bay.
The TT-N's 335 hp and 340 lb-ft of torque (on 91 octane) was achieved by combining parts ransacked from Audi's Euro-spec S3 and Neuspeed's performance add-ons. I questioned the choice of S3 cams and why they didn't source something bigger than a K04 turbo. "We chose a K04 for several reasons," Neumann says. "First, it's factory, requiring zero modifications to install, and it was able to produce the power we were looking for. The S3 had better top-end power, so after noticing it was equipped with different camshafts, I thought I'd give them a try. They worked out brilliantly."