While aftermarket tuners allow their customers the choice of expressing their individuality beyond the offerings of OE manufacturers, there are still limitations to the overall scope of their personalisation programmes.
Some tuners offer a bespoke service beyond their off-the-shelf programmes, delving into the world of customisation that took off in 1950s America. This very specialised area of the aftermarket can be very involved and expensive, but that is to be expected when you are talking about labour intensive craftsmanship that represents the automotive equivalent of haute couture tailoring.
When I was shown photos of VAG Singapore’s A7 being prepared in their body shop my reaction was simply “wow!” Out of the box a normal A7 is a large and elegant fastback, whose detailing is arguably purer than the Mercedes CLS it rivals. Hunkered down in its lower and wider RS7 form this car has real presence.
Despite lacking the thundering V8 growl of the RS7, the VAG Singapore A7 makes up for this with even more stunning optics. One of the company’s strengths is the imagination and skill of CarCrafters, their in-house bodyshop. Whether just a glass-out re-spray, the seamless integration of an OE or aftermarket body kit, or the fabrication of air intakes and vents from steel, their perfect results give the impression the car left the factory this way.
Subconsciously I have always found large flat areas of bodywork on a sleek car rather abhorrent. This is why I always thought the Ferrari 612 Scaglietti looks unfinished, and find the classic Ferrari bonnet scoop and front wing vents on the one-off ‘Kappa’ version built for Peter S Kalikow by Pininfarina to be so appealing.
The same is true for the VAG A7, whose huge expanse of bonnet seemed to be begging for an Audi motif from the past to add that finishing touch. In this case however, the inspiration for the bonnet intake scoop came not from a classic Audi model but from the much more recent Quattro concept coupe that made its debut at the 2013 Frankfurt Motor Show.
The Quattro concept previewed Audi’s new design language, and some of these elements quickly found their way into current Audi models, not least the face-lifted A7 range. Thus, the handcrafted VAG bonnet air scoop sits pretty well on this 2016 facelift RS7 lookalike.
Unlike other Audi tuners whose aerodynamic styling parts are their own design, and are either added to or replace the factory front and rear bumpers and side skirts, VAG Singapore make it a point to try and use original factory parts wherever possible.
As the high taxes in Singapore make cars prohibitively expensive, many people prefer to face-lift their existing Audi for a fraction of the cost of swapping it for a new one.
This Audi face-lifting service using original parts has become a significant part of VAG’s business model, which extends beyond the bumpers and lights to upgrading the MMI infotainment systems as well. This very specialised task falls to their in-house electronics team.
Frankly this is a service that is thin on the ground in the Audi aftermarket tuning industry in general as it involves a deep enough knowledge of electronic coding to facilitate the seamlessly integration of different generations of systems that were never meant to work together in the first place.
The base A7 is a May 2011 3.0 TFSI quattro owned by Andrew, brother of Darren, one of VAG’s founding partners. “I was considering buying a Lexus GS300, but Darren persuaded me to look at an Audi,” Andrew explained. “Because of the high taxes in Singapore the Audi dealer does not offer the RS7 here, but one of our customers wanted to sell his A7 and I struck a good deal with him.”
“One of the problems of being a director of VAG is that your personal Audi inevitably becomes a showpiece to inspire customers,” said Andrew. “That is not an issue in itself as you get to drive around in a distinctive one-off Audi until either a customer insists in buying it off you, or asks to have a similar car built.”
“The problem in the short term is that a major refit like this can see your car spending up to six months in the shop being stripped, face-lifted, and improved as my A7 did,” he continued. “We decided to face-lift the car to 2016 A7 standard with the new LED front lights and dynamic LED rear lights, along with a full RS7 look including new front and rear bumpers.
It took Andrew a while to visualise what Darren meant by the bonnet air scoop to him, but when the body shop guys made a clay mock-up on the car, he became an instant convert.
The bonnet was duly removed and squirreled away to a corner of the workshop, from where it eventually returned with the Quattro concept style air scoop formed from the metal of the original panel. This wide, low profile scoop really gives the lowered and widened A7 that extra bit of visual muscle when seen from the front and front three-quarter angles.
Mechanically, the supercharged engine was treated to VAG’s popular ECU upgrade. In combination with an AWE S-flo carbon-fibre intake system the standard 333hp output is boosted to 425hp, with torque increased to 515Nm.
The big wheel arches are filled by 10.5J x 21-inch two-piece COR forged alloy wheels shod with 275/30ZR21 Pirelli PZero rubber. Their seven deeply dished spokes clearly show off the factory RS7 brakes, the fronts of which are massive 390mm diameter wave vented discs clamped by six-pot callipers. As these were designed to stop an even heavier and more powerful machine the extra output from the boosted V6 is easily reigned in.