Not perfect but perfect for me: RS3 owner review
Hello all, as I'm new to the site I thought I'd start of with a post about how I arrived here and my initial thoughts about my RS3.
Would you be surprised if I told you my arrival here was hugely influenced by a year in a Skoda Fabia VRS 1.4 TSi? About 3 years ago I decided to take a break from performance cars, a new baby arrived, the track day R26.R special was sold which left me with just a work leased Mini Cooper S. As luck often has it work then decided to pull lease cars in response to the recession, I was left needing a car quickly. Unsure what the future would bring and still wanting a daily driver with the performance of the Cooper S, without the premium cost, the little Fabia VRS its turn of pace, decent economy, comfortable ride and magic gearbox fitted the bill. But what has this got to do with an RS3, well more than anything that gearbox and the dual personality that it makes available in the car.
So 3 years on and with the recession weathered well (so far), I found myself in the lucky position – and I do count my blessings I know it’s been different for some - to think about a performance car again. Now a bit like the Titanic film there are no twists in the tale - I bought an RS3, that’s why I’m posting here but I thought you might like to know more about how I reached that decision and my initial thoughts on the car.
To set the context my petrolhead journey started in the likes of Pugeot 205 GTis and the later 306 GTi-6. Then came the late 90’s and the inevitable Impreza and Evo that ruled the era unless you had far more serious means. The late 90s and early 2000s were the days of the B-road Sunday blast for me, A4059, Felindre top, Llyn Brianne or now infamous Evo triangle anyone? With the roads ever more congested I moved to trackdays, with a couple of TT’s thrown in as daily drivers, which offered all that fun with much less risk and a big realisation my driving could improve an awful lot! So a couple of Westfields with bike and car engines, an S2000 and this utterly fantastic R26.R track day special later I had scratched the track day itch.
Buying another performance car left me with almost too much choice. The M3 was first out of the running, a great machine but by the time the engine has woken up the speeds are seriously big numbers. Next up was the C63 and in all honesty I could easily be posting this message on the AMG forum, the C63 is a fabulous machine, the 6.2 litre V8 growl is pure wild animal, and if we lived in a warmer and drier climate (with cheaper super unleaded!) it would have been the choice. When you remember you live in an often wet and windy country the security of Quattro suddenly takes on a different appeal. Then there were a stream of used 911s but the practicality is limited, the earlier Porsche semi auto transmission leaves something to be desired and I wanted something I could use rather than a garage queen. The spectre of the Nissan GTR also loomed large, 40K+ buys a remarkable performance machine and if performance is everything it’s hard to argue with – as long as you have deep pockets for the running costs. I can only imagine GTR owners have huge reserves of self restraint because I’m not sure how long I’d have a licence if I drove one every day. That left some other usual suspects namely the WRX STi 320R or Evo 330 SST, both have similar power to the RS3 and it’s hard to ignore the pace of the STi around the Isle of Man in the hands of Mark Higgins. The 330 SST is also quick with a few mild tweaks. What stopped me? Well I’ve been there before the Evo IX MR FQ360 was probably the pinnacle of the 4wd turbo nutters and I just felt their day had passed – big insurance, big tax, big fuel bills and all.
As this is an Audi forum I will quickly skip over the likes of the A7 which, on 20” wheels ought to be supplied with an Osteopath, oh and for such a big car why is there so little room inside? That still left 2 other cars to be considered – the TTRS and Renaultsport Megane 265 Trophy. Lets deal with the TTRS first. I loved my previous TT 3.2 DSG and later Quattro Sport but having kids gives the TT a different perspective, the rear seats must border on child cruelty.
Leaving the Renaultsport Megane 265 as the last alternative to the RS3 might seem like blasphemy on this site but I wonder if you’ve driven one? After the R26.R I know just how good the little Renaults are and if I had wanted a more track day biased machine the Renault would have been the choice but like the TT the RS 265 fell at the all rounder and practicality hurdle.
For several weeks I looked at RS3s thought they might be the answer and each time decided no, without ever driving one, which I can now say was a mistake. Too many were way over list price standard cars and none were close enough to encourage me to travel. Until this, now my car appeared in Cardiff Audi.
There was one show stopper – this interior shot
I’m glad I went to see the car (with my sunglasses packed just in case) because it looks nothing like this in reality, the red is far more subtle and actually lifts the whole cabin. It’s not a colour scheme I would have chosen yet the Audi Exclusive trims are nice to live with. The first few feet on the test drive told me this car was right for me, the weight of the steering, throttle response all as I wanted – in no small part due to the excellent Fabia I’d become used to. A deal was struck that day and I would highly recommend dealing with Steph Gosling at Cardiff Audi, she listened to the deal I wanted and achieved the right trade in price.
That just leaves the car to talk about and 3 weeks in I am still grinning. As per the thread title the RS3 isn’t perfect but it is perfect for me right now. It’s not perfect because yes, as pointed out by the likes of Evo magazine it doesn’t have the same tactility as something like the Megane. The road testers though spend far too long in sunny climates and on track to realise the rest of us spend far more time on the drenched M4 – here that ultimate lack of feedback becomes a positive, the RS3 is stable and assured whatever the weather and that is all good with me. Away from the mundane commute the RS3 really starts to shine. On my favourite A roads it is devastatingly fast in any conditions and yet somehow remains a composed place to sit. With the sport button pressed and S engaged the aural drama makes me laugh out loud. With the sport button deselected and placed in Drive the Mrs remains happy despite covering the ground at the same pace – that’s genius. Far from the passion and soulless descriptions given by many esteemed journalists any passengers who have asked ‘to see what it can do’ end up either in fits of giggles or a stream of expletives. I’m sure many exotic cars really do have more soul but for most of us that isn’t the reference point. I’d also happily congratulate anyone who buys a 1M, it certainly looks the part and if you have the sideways skills of Chris 'Monkey' Harris it is surely an engaging machine. Maybe I’m alone on this but I can remember the last time I intentionally went sideways on a roundabout – yes that was never - well OK maybe once and that almost caused an accident in the S2000.
For me the RS3 is an automotive iPhone, competent at everything, fast, intuitive, looks good, makes me smile and it just works as it should. Yes, a few similarly special cars have better abilities in one key area, the C63’s growl, the Megane’s feel, the 1M’s scoops, bulges and hooliganism but, for me, none have the all round abilities of the RS3. On a wet Monday the RS3 moves seamlessly between quickly despatching lines of slow moving traffic to a docile auto capable of dealing with the city rush hour while still providing a great place to sit and relax with all the entertainment anyone could require. The RS3 is quite rightly an Evo magazine 4 star car because outright sporting ability is judged above all else in that rating, yet in the most positive sense of the meaning the RS3 is the Jack of All Trades, certainly better than master of one.