It’s a formula as old as time (or, at least, the automobile) itself: rims + lows = success. Add in a rampant hike in horsepower, and RacingLine’s bagged A7 is a fresh twist on a timeless equation…
Feature first appeared in Fast Car. Words: Dan Bevis. Photos: Matt Clifford.
The old saying goes that you should always keep your work life and home life separate. This is a vital technique to stop your brain exploding – sure, there are people out there who’ll wake up in a cold sweat at 3am to check their work emails and see if the latest quarterly projections have come through from Chicago, but these are the people who don’t have any hobbies, never see their families and have heart attacks at young ages. The balance between work-to-live and live-to-work is key.
For Matt Walker, however, there is no average day at the office, no routine of mundanity. So merging work with leisure isn’t such a big deal; his day job as Technical Director at RacingLine means that taking interesting cars and making them more powerful and generally cooler is all part of the bread-and-butter. And that’s not a bad way to live, is it?
You may well be familiar with RacingLine – after all, they’ve been around doing aspirational motoring stuff for donkeys’ years – but if not, let’s just say that this is a company very much worth knowing about in the VAG tuning scene. Originally trading as Volkswagen Motorsport UK back in 1996, the outfit was wholly owned by Volkswagen Group AG in Germany, set up to focus on the British Rally Championship programme. As time went on their sporting prowess grew, moving into circuit racing in the early 2000s; they successfully campaigned racing Golfs and Caddys, built Safety Cars, and in 2018 developed an Audi R8 24hr racer. And this is just a tiny percentage of what they’ve achieved on racetracks around the world. With all of this motorsport experience, it’s hardly a surprise that the race-bred parts they sell to customers are truly world-class.
What’s also worth knowing, and something keenly demonstrated by the low-slung A7 you see lurking malevolently across these pages, is that RacingLine isn’t all about the high-octane race cars. Subtly tuning road cars is a major part of the game too, and this is perfectly manifested by this particular diesel-powered saloon. “We wanted a new development car,” Matt explains. “We have had an S6 and an A8, and this A7 has the new MD1 ECU type we wanted to do some development work on.” So this was a business decision, but let’s not pretend it’s been developed purely to bolster the bottom line; yes, demo cars are vital for any credible tuner’s internal ecosystem, but this was also a passion project for Matt. He’s been modifying cars since he was seventeen years old, having built more projects than he can count – he has three personal projects on the go at the moment, and of course there’s a whole fleet of treats at RacingLine.
A brand-new A7 was duly sourced, and naturally Matt optioned the most interesting one he could: the V6 turbo-diesel was the engine in the crosshairs, but he didn’t want the wishy-washy 228bhp-spec 45 TDI. No, it was the brawnier 50 TDI that was needed to tick the performance box, and the fact that the A7 comes fully-loaded with toys (including the utterly beguiling Virtual Cockpit) was a sizeable cherry on this especially delicious cake.
You’ll note, then, that the interior is factory-stock, and the exterior largely is too. You see, subtlety is an art that can take some time to perfect; it’s often said that a violin concerto will be enhanced by the notes that aren’t being played rather than those that are, the subtle nuances of minimalism, of paring things back, speaking louder than an excitable riot of excess ever could. The principles of Minimalist art echo the same; taking the reductive elements of Modernism and distilling them down to that which is fundamentally essential in unembellished form. Similarly, Minimalist architecture employs little more than white light, broad surfaces, an absence of clutter, and a Zen attitude. What’s important is what’s not there. So Matt was keen to take what Audi provided, keep things simple, and tastefully amplify the effect in three key areas: wheels, suspension, and – most importantly – power.
“The air-ride was fitted by one of our dealers – James at GRM Northampton,” Matt explains. It’s a pukka Air Lift setup, and the fact that the contemporary VAG platforms are so well served by the Air Lift range means that the fitment was a breeze and everything works magnificently with the OE chassis setup. 3P management is a sensible choice here too, offering as it does a fully integrated manifold, five custom presets, rise-on-start, show mode, and the nifty Air Lift Performance 3 controller. And of course, when you’ve bagged a boxfresh ride, you can’t just leave it on the stock rims, it’ll look unfinished. But fear not, Matt had a gameplan here from the start: “We’d previously worked with Rotiform to build a Golf R for the 2019 SEMA show,” he says, “so when we built this A7 it was always the plan to get Rotiform involved to create the wheels for it.” The result is a masterclass in tasteful elegance with a simmering undercurrent of brutality, the SRG Mono 2 wheels measuring a robust 10.5×21-inches all round. Seeing large-diameter multispoke wheels tucked deep into the arches of an Audi can’t help but call to mind images of 1990s A4 BTCC racers, and yet at the same time the classiness of the design works beautifully with the gently flowing body lines of the A7.
With the aesthetics taken care of, it was time to delve into the really important stuff, the true meat-and-potatoes of the project: the RacingLine performance upgrade. The company’s proprietary product here is the Power Control Module, and this is something that offers a full-car tuning package. It’s not just about winding up the boost and seeing what happens, or focusing on peak power at the expense of usability. No, this is a holistic tune designed to mimic the parameters of the OEM while markedly amplifying figures across the board – this means more power and torque across the rev range, better efficiency; an OEM+ result. A neat by-product of this is improved fuel economy, but you’re reading the wrong mag if that’s your primary concern. This upgrade isn’t just about raw numbers, although the peaks are always important: we’re talking a gruff 330bhp and 700Nm (translating to 516lb.ft), and that’s not the sort of anger and fury you’d expect to find inside a subtly styled A7 with TDI badges. All of this speaks of RacingLine’s tuning prowess – they’ve been doing this sort of thing for long enough that it’s all second nature, they know it inside out. So this A7 may have been built as a show car, and the aired out menace over its racer’s-edge rims may talk the talk exceedingly eloquently… but a RacingLine build is all about the performance, and this superb Audi demonstrates it in fine style. Endless acres of silky, stealthy thrust. Matt’s been using it as a daily driver, and the sublime duality is playing out just as it should: “It’s great fun to drive, and people seem to love seeing it,” he says, which is pretty much mission accomplished. The evidence is abundantly clear that in cases like this mixing the work life and the home life can happen in perfect symbiosis; the car’s working hard to earn its keep (a RacingLine 8-pot 430mm brake upgrade is next on the to-do list), and at the same time it’s slotting into this seasoned modifier’s everyday life just splendidly. The perfect formula for modern living.