Friday, Aug. 1, 2014

RS3 what’s to like?

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April 1, 2013


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RS3 what’s to like?

I don’t like my RS3, no I don’t like it all. No, I love it. If you’ll indulge me, rather than just extol the virtues of the RS3, I will tell you the full story of how I got to this point and reached the verdict that this is the very best car I have owned.

If you’d told my 8 year old self that one day I’d be driving a car capable of 0-62mph in 4.6 seconds, 100mph in 9.9 seconds and on to an electronically limited top speed of 155mph I‘d have laughed at you. You go on to tell me I haven’t won the Pools and this car will also be a hatchback that can carry my family. I laugh at you again before blindfolding you and having you shot by my finest squad of toy plastic soldiers.

At the time my father drove cars like the 84bhp Austin Maxi, capable of 0-60mph in 15.8 seconds and going on to reach a massive 89mph. It also did a massive 24.5mpg, the only statistic I could find that I thought might beat the RS3 in a game of top trumps but it doesn’t, the RS3 averages officially 31mpg and a real world 27mpg.

What got you into cars?

I was hooked on cars from an early age no doubt due to my dads own passion for grass roots motor sport in the form of stockcars. In one year in the early 80’s my dad won the roll over cup – for most number of roll overs in a race season. Just how damn cool is that? And how could I not become a petrol head after that?

Evil Kinevel had a lot to answer for. Yes they are jumping cars! Elf and safety would have a coronary. Note the water tanker used to wet the track to make the racing more exciting. A technique still employed today at Phil Price Rally School and maybe F1 could learn from this to add some excitement.  These were the days of the Dukes of Hazzard on TV and everyone wanted in on the action!

Here’s some grainy 70’s race action. I’m glad we live in the era of Youtube, HD & Gro Pro!

In those days racing was tough as my dads car sharing friend Nigel found out when he slammed this later Triumph 2000 into an RSJ fence post holding the steel wire around the track. He had the biggest black eye I’ve ever seen and no amount of T-cut could get the Triumph 2000 running again.

In general 80’s cars were dreary and my bedroom walls were adorned with posters of cars like the Lamborghini Countach. These super cars were impossibly out of reach for any normal person and remain so for me. To keep this in perspective even later production versions of the Countach struggled to crack the 5 second 0-60mph barrier. Super cars with 0-60 times sub 5 seconds and tops speeds over 150mph were icons to gaze at and dream about, not for normal people like us.

The golden era of rallying changed all that. This car and I do really mean this little matchbox car is the reason why, for me, the RS3 captures everything that is great about the last 20 years of driving.

I remember my dad taking me to watch a special stage of the Lombard RAC Rally at Sutton Park in the midlands. The trees rumbled for what seemed like an age, like some monster approaching that we were too afraid to run from, then suddenly the rumble became the full blooded raw of the Audi Quattro in full flight, exhaust blaring, explosions from the exhaust on lift off, waste gate chattering as the original iconic Quattro disappeared with the same fury with which it had arrived.

From that day forward I wanted a road going rally car. I desperately wanted one of these but by the time I was old enough I realised the reality of a Lancia was not as good as the idea.  A friend did buy one and it was nothing but trouble.

By then the Impreza and Evo had entered the scene and I still remember collecting my first brand new Impreza Turbo 2000 it was an incredible car at the time. It was one of those I thought would never be bettered. Although I went on to own and track both Impreza STi’s and the iconic Evo IX MR FQ360, and while they were much faster than the Turbo 2000 I’m not sure they were actually better.

305bhp Subaru Impreza STi with Prodrive Performance Package, a great A & B road car but twitchier than it should have been in the wet.

I’d always wanted to sample the original to own an Audi with Quattro and when Audi produced the TT Quattro Sport I bought one without hesitation. It was a great fun car to own but not a real out and out Audi performance model even after a few modifications. The seats were incredible though and something I’ve sought out ever since.

The Evo IX MR FQ360 a truly great car to drive on track. On the downsides came 6000 mile service intervals and Yokohama A048 track biased tyres that gripped like glue when dry (hopeless in the wet) and only lasted 3000 miles. It was an expensive car to own and there was always another expensive unusual noise somewhere on the car after a day on track. The image also left something to be desired, we still haven’t been able to find a good home for the free Pitbull puppy that came with the car.

Through Audi’s years of perseverance, evolution and adaptation they’ve arrived at a car that I think betters them all. As an all rounder the RS3 is unquestionably the best car I’ve owned yet the individual parts are also highly impressive.

Finally then to the reasons why I love the RS3 and I’m going to start with rubber because Michelin Pilot Super Sport tyres transform this car from great to truly gripping. Where the Conti’s were all heavy Tutonic seriousness and grip the Michelins are a flattering French maiden running lightly on her toes, twisting and turning with balance and delight. I’ve never experienced a greater transformation of a car through a different set of tyres.

Although a summer optimised tyre the Micelin Pilot Super Sports also work well in these unlikely March conditions.


The gearbox must get the next mention. In Sport Mode the shift speeds and timing are perfect. I can focus so much more on the B road ahead. The shift is more decisive than even the rifle bolt shift of the Honda S2000 I once owned. No manual box can match S-tronic. So long as I have the choice I will never go back to a manual gearbox.
All this talk of extra involvement of a manual gearbox is I’m afraid a myth. On track the S-tronic gearbox is sublime. Being able to focus solely on braking and cornering line means I can extract all the available performance from the car. The engineered in slight shunt feeling on shift is a brilliant (if artificial) addition it gives the feeling of rattling through the gears though in reality the power is seamless and up to around 120mph relentless.


The RS bucket seats in my RS3 were the only must have item and when I first saw pictures of my car on the web I wasn’t sure I could live with the bright red interior. It was a car I would have to see to be sure. Pictures really do this interior no justice and the RS3 is just about special enough to carry off the look. Passengers frequently comment positively about the uplift the red Audi Exclusive elements give to the car. I bought my RS3 6 months old so wouldn’t have spec’ed all these additions myself but at the same time I’m happy to have them.

The bucket seats should come with a warning for ladies, there is no elegant way to enter and exit them. For us guys we need to be vigilant of the ‘nut cracker’ effect that the hard edges can inflict on the unwary.

That sound

One of the critical elements of owning an Audi RS3 is ‘that’ exhaust note. It is the epitome of feel good factor these cars are intended to produce. All those 80’s rally memories come flooding back, it’s the reason why I wanted to own one of these cars all those years ago. For me the standard exhaust note (just 77db and fit for any track day noise test) is good enough. With the S button depressed it becomes the soundtrack to any journey. It can’t quite match the new RS4’s V8 bassy blare but it’s a great engine note and a fitting tribute to its 5 pot rally heritage.

Launch Control

Launch control on the RS3 is one of those laugh out loud moments in life. Despite an official power to weigh ratio of 216bhp/ton (335bhp/1575kg) the RS3 manages a real world launch of 4.2s 0-60mph (official 4.6 seconds to protect the modesty of its bigger brothers) according to my GPS data logger. The 0-100 time of 9.9 seconds is equally effective. The Evo IX MR FQ360 was officially faster to 60 in just 3.9s but I never managed less than 4.1s, by 100mph the RS3 would be almost 1 second ahead. I find that astonishing, the Evo feels raw and aggressive but the RS3 is faster, the 2.5 litre, 5 cylinder engine and S-tronic gearbox really do work some magic here.


I’ve written many times on ASN about the superb handling of the RS3. First and foremost this car is about grip and confidence. Nothing I’ve owned will cover a wet B road like the RS3, both the Evo and Scooby STI could be tricky in the wet. The RS3 is by contrast perfectly composed. Even when the limit of grip is exceeded any slight slide is easily recovered by a slight lift or adding more power at the apex and firing through. I’ve driven the same roads in many performance cars, on a dark, cold wet night the RS3 is the car I would take every time.

When the weather is great Wales has some of the best driving roads in the world and the RS3 is the perfect companion for enjoying them. When it snows as it did today in late March the RS3 is a great car to be in, even in these untreated mid Wales lanes there is constant grip available.  Living in Wales is a big part of the reason why I drive an all wheel drive car, most of the time it rains; when it snows I can get home.  No matter how good the rear wheel drive competition is it’s no use to me most of the time.

Why Chris Harris was wrong.

Despite dire warning of the RS3 understeering straight into the gates of hell by the talented and entertaining motoring journalist Chris Harris I made it back alive from my latest track exploits. On track on the Michelin Pilot Super Sports was where the RS3 elevated itself from one of the best cars I’ve owned to the absolute best. The brakes are mighty, the turn in precise, the chassis balanced and poised. The feeling of power transferring around the car is simply awe inspiring.

Note the BMW’s in this video demonstrating the ‘advantage’ of rear wheel drive. Strike one for Quattro…

When the rain came the RS3 was devastating. The little MX5 you can see me chasing in this video was a real track weapon, supercharged and on full wet tyres, the owner was stunned by how effective the RS3 was in the wet. Anything rear wheel drive was reeled in and spat out. Even the Scoobies of my youth seemed to be going backwards. I actually found this a sad moment they were cars I idolised and was at the time so excited to own. Above 60mph they didn’t know where the RS3 had gone. It’s hard to convey in words just how good the RS3 is in the wet on track. The suspension somehow finds grip in deep standing water. The ABS system keeps braking controlled and arrow straight. The Haldex all wheel drive system transfers power around the car instantaneously allowing me to push to the limit of the Michelin Pilot Super Sports grip. No other car on the day, from race cars to lightweights pulled an inch of distance on the RS3 even through the tight chicanes. I can only describe the experience as intuitive. Was the RS3 a better experience on track than my previous track toy Renault Megane RS26.R, well I didn’t think I’d ever write these words but paired with the Michelin Pilot Super Sport Tyres the RS3 is in another league.

Better than this on track? With the Michelin Pilot Super Sports yes!

A good spot to pause on the automotive ladder

For now this is where my car adventure rests for a moment. This is a fine perch on the automotive ladder and one I’m going to savour. From stock cars, to super car posters on my bedroom walls to the rally cars that brought these incredible performance machines into reach for the rest of us everything has brought me to this moment. The RS3 is the pinnacle of my motoring experience to date A & B road blaster, wet track magician yet it can carry the family in comfort too. Who’d ever have believed this would be possible and attainable?

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(5) Readers Comments

  1. Sandra
    April 5, 2013 at 1:56 pm

    MBK, what a thoroughly good read that was. I have read it seceral times since you wrote it and then sent to me for the magazine. Im hoping that you will do another article for us about the upcoming RS3 meet. :) x

  2. robbiemac
    April 5, 2013 at 2:00 pm

    MBK... Knocking it out the park...... Enjoyed and agreed with his observations as I'm one of the lucky few who own a RS3.

  3. MBK
    April 5, 2013 at 6:42 pm

    Thanks both, I think my dad enjoyed the article too, it was fun to write and I'm sure there will be plenty of stories from the RS3 meet!

  4. Rs3kel
    April 26, 2013 at 2:03 am

    Love it from start to finish ,great work ;)

  5. S321BAD
    July 23, 2013 at 1:33 pm

    brilliant article!!! sold me completely.

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