SWEET HOME ALABAMA: THE HOMETOWN OF VAG-TUNER APR

20.12.2018

One might think Alabama is all pick-ups and muscle cars, but you couldn’t be more wrong because right at the heart of it you find one of America’s bigger Volkswagen & Audi tuners, APR. We sat down with APR’s Ralph J McBride to figure out what it’s like to tune German cars in the deep south.

 

Ralph, for people who don’t know much about the tuning world can you introduce APR and what sets you apart?

We are a tuning company based out of Auburn, Alabama and we mainly focus on Volkswagen Group products, such as the Audi RS3 and the Golf GTI. We have over five hundred resellers worldwide. Apart from the size of our operation it’s really our research and development department that sets us apart. For instance, our most popular product/service we offer is an ECU software upgrade. Whereas a lot of tuning companies will adapt the original software from the manufacturer, we actually will extract the old software and replace the entire thing with our own software. This gives us full control and makes the tune run more reliable, smoother and more stable.

 

Ralph, for people who don’t know much about the tuning world can you introduce APR and what sets you apart?

How much research and development are actually done inhouse?

We develop almost all our products inhouse. For instance, when we were developing a new turbo package for the Audi S3 platform we actually did over 400 pulls on the dyno to test and tweak it. We have two Mustang Dyno’s here in our R&D facility, one for wheel power and another one just for the engine. This is why we have such a strong partnership with Motul, because Motul shares that same philosophy when it comes to R&D.

 

How much research and development are actually done inhouse?

Walk us through the process when a new car is launched in the VAG group, how do you approach it?

When a new opportunity or platform is launched, we study it as much as we can. Secondly, we try to figure out if there is a demand for aftermarket tuning for this specific model. If there is, we buy a car and start on the testing and developing process. Currently, we have about 14 cars in our faculty, all in various stages of development. When we reach a point where a product reaches its production standard, we take the car to events and track days and show it to our potential customers.

 

Walk us through the process when a new car is launched in the VAG group, how do you approach it?

How is your relationship regarding to manufacturers, if there’s one at all?

Audi is very protective of their brand and rightly so, but we have a different vision. As we see it, we’re helping Audi sell more products. Many of our customers go and buy a car with the idea of having it upgraded by APR. So, we try to have a positive relation with Audi and sometimes it works out. There is one Volkswagen plant here in the US, in Chattanooga, Tennessee where the Atlas, the big SUV, is being build. We collaborated with them in order to make one of the most outrageous SUV’s we could think of. That was a really cool project.

 

How is your relationship regarding to manufacturers, if there’s one at all?

So what kind of changes do you execute on a car to improve its performance?

We work in different stages. stage one is mainly an ECU tuning where we swap the original software for our own. It’s pretty straightforward and the least intrusive. Moving to stage two we start with a more aggressive ECU-tune and upgrade the software on the transmission. On top of that we actually make some hardware upgrades as well, for example an intercooler and a downpipe. This immediately makes a big difference. (On the Audi RS3, stage two will produce roughly 547 horsepower). Stage three is our highest stage where we really dive into the hardware and especially the turbo. On top of that, we’ll swap and upgrade around 23 parts.

 

So what kind of changes do you execute on a car to improve its performance?

What cars possess the most potential for APR to build on?

One of the most spectacular cars to work on is the new Audi RS3, that thing has set the industry on its head. We produced a world record RS3 that drove the quarter mile in around 9.7 seconds, which is incredible. Currently we’re also looking into the Porsche 718 Cayman. That car has an incredible package with probably one of the best gearboxes we’ve ever seen. It should become pretty spectacular when you add a little power.

  

  

What cars possess the most potential for APR to build on?

Last, but definitely not least, we want to know about the Golf RLMS, what’s the story?

The RLMS is my baby (laughs). It’s the car we’ve built for the SEMA show and it’s a continuous work in progress. Basically, we looked at the Audi RS3 TCR racer and built a VW Golf inspired by that car. Although it has the white interior now, it’s really a car built for the track, so we’ll change it next year. The RLMS will definitely become spectacular.

 

Last, but definitely not least, we want to know about the Golf RLMS, what’s the story?
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