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Thread: RS3 vs RS4 shades of greatness

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    MBK
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    RS3 vs RS4 shades of greatness

    On Friday I drove the new RS4 at Oulton Park courtesy of Audi and much fun was had. However, this story begins about 18 years ago in a Ferrari. My first experience of a supercar was a 308 GTS (all very Magnum PI) with a ‘massive’ 255bhp. The sonic scream of that engine beyond 6000rpm is a sound I remember to this day. At the time, from my 205 GTi driving perspective, it seemed as if that car had the power to spin the world backwards. The 308 GTS needed a service every 3000 miles at about the same cost in pounds, a lot of money back then. The car was collected by a transporter (to avoid running miles on the car for servicing) and returned a few days later. About 8 years later I was lucky enough for the same Ferrari owner to let me drive his 360 Spider on track. This time the car had just over 400bhp. Both cars demanded respect to drive. The H pattern shift would not be rushed. The clutch required Herculean effort and the steering was a workout. Both these drives are up there with my very best motoring moments and when I look back I find it hard to believe how far we have come in just a few years.

    Forgive my historical ramble if you will but I thought to set this write up in context. Yesterday I drove the new RS4 in all its 450bhp, S-tronic, wave form brake disc glory. This is a 5 door family car that can happily carry your family and the dog while easily outperforming supercars from just a few years ago. Add to that the fact it is effortless and intuitive to drive quickly and it becomes something even more special.

    Back to the matter at hand, the RS3 vs the RS4. Let’s start this by saying if you drive either of these cars you are pretty much a winner in life. The average salary in the UK would never get you close to either of these cars. Cars which are as remote to most people as the F40 or Porsche 959 posters on my bedroom wall as a kid. There is no ‘winner’ here, if you own an RS3 or an RS4 you’ve already won.

    Initial Impression of the RS4

    The initial impression of the RS4 is that it is lazy, in comfort mode the throttle pedal seems long and a little unresponsive and the ride is cosseting on both the 19” or 20” wheels. Being fooled by this is like being fooled by a bathing alligator or basking male lion. Get close enough to poke either with a stick and you’re in for a surprise. The same is true of the RS4, give the throttle a good shove and you are greeted with an almighty roar just before all hell breaks lose. The throttle blip on downshift is intoxicating and the fuel droplet exploding on the up shift adds a real sense of aural drama. I found myself seeking out any opportunity to change gear just to hear that noise again and again and again…



    Launch Control


    Launch control in the RS4 is brutal. Disengage the ESP, select Sport mode on the gear box, left foot on the brake pedal, right foot hard down on the accelerator and that big V8 starts growling, popping and banging in WRC 3,2,1 go style, as the system holds the revs at about 3K. Release the brake pedal and the ferocity of the launch rearranges your internal organs as you are forced back in your seat. Although it’s probably a fraction slower to 60 than the RS3 I think the extra mass the RS4 has to move makes the experience more visceral. Were in shades of greatness here of course there is less than a few 10ths of a second between the 0-60 times. In the RS4 the power feels much more like its pushing you rather than a more pulled sensation in the RS3. And keeping this in perspective with those supercars of old you’d probably have needed a trip to the dealer for various next transmission parts if you were as brutal as this with them.

    Aural Pleasure

    I love the noise of the 5 pot RS3, I regularly turn off the stereo and drop the window a touch just to listen to the sounds in Sport mode. On a twisting A & B road blast you need no other sound track. It came as a complete surprise to me just how much louder the RS4, with the sport pack including sports exhaust is. As with the RS3 if you just drive normally both are refined and quiet but once you pile on the revs the RS4 makes your spine tingle. I’d estimate the RS4 is about half as loud again as the RS3 in sport mode. The sound itself is familiar, it’s slightly deeper and has more bass but it’s the same basic rhythm. Hearing another RS4 on full throttle during the road route from outside it just sounded fantastic. It’s a noise straight from the racetrack and one you’d never tire of. In comparison to the RS3 it’s like someone turned up the noise level from 8 to 10. Jumping back in to my RS3 I was still happy with the soundtrack but the experience did leave me wanting that extra volume…looks like Miltek are probably going to make some more money!



    Seats


    I’m not a big fan of the standard Audi seats I find them hard and unforgiving especially in leather. For that reason the RS4 Super Sports seats deserve a special mention, I think these standard seats are the perfect solution. They offer almost as much support as the RS bucket seats but are that bit more comfortable. I’m sure most RS4’s will spend more time on road than track and as a result I’d keep the standard seats, they look good too. The RS4 Bucket seats are a little bigger and more comfortable than the RS3 buckets with more thigh and lateral padding. On track they are superb and really hold you tightly in place which helps you exploit more of that incredible grip. I’d say the bucket seats also take up more space and that might be a concern for people who carry back seat passengers / child seats etc regularly. Returning to the RS3 the bucket seats are still perfect for me and add to the whole RS experience, it will be a much tougher choice between Super Sports and RS bucket seats in future. In fact scrub that, if I was speccing an RS4 today I’d keep the super sports seats, save the 2K and put the cash toward the 4K ceramic brakes.

    Handling

    For a big and relatively heavy car the handling of the RS4 is incredible. I was also surprised by just how well the car seems to wrap itself around you, it feels no bigger than the RS3 from the drivers seat. The Audi A7 I drove recently by contrast felt massive and unwieldy on British roads. Push to the limit of grip and the RS4 is neutral and balanced. Entering a fast right hand corner and feeling the start of a slide, then adding just a touch of throttle to drive out of the corner lets you feel power shift toward the rear of the RS4. When the race driver took the same corner at full speed later he actively brought the rear of the car into play, using a few degrees of rear movement to angle the car into the apex and then fire though. I was amazed how early he could get back on the throttle. As the race driver said at the end of my lap “if you never take your own RS4 on track at least you know now what it can really do”, he was right and what it can do is awe inspiring.

    You can also take massive liberties with the car, it’s utterly failsafe. During our first track session I was a passenger with another guest who by his admission had no track experience. Road only drivers tend to make too many and excessive control inputs – I know I used to. The RS4 just shrugged this off. Now I wouldn’t recommend you try any of these actions but as I was a captive – oops I mean passenger – when they happened it was interesting to see the results. Left in sport mode with S-tronic deciding when to shift the RS4 changed gear mid way through a fast sweeping corner with no drama. Entering a chicane, at the first apex point the S-tronic box shifted down, again no fuss or drama! Try this in a manual RWD car and aside from needing the dexterity of a gymnast, you’ll likely have a very big moment. Shift lock it seems is something you don’t have to worry about in the RS4. When the instructor in the lead car upped the pace things got a bit more ragged. Adding lock mid corner, again the RS4 just complied, there is grip to spare. Finally we entered a corner too fast and all 4 tyres began to slide but again no drama the systems quickly brought everything back in to line. Those old Ferrari’s or even something like a C63 AMG would have bitten much harder and one of more of these actions would probably have ended in an expensive accident. That little track session was ended when the passenger in the following RS4 asked if we could slow down because he was feeling sick, which gives you an idea of how wild it had got yet the RS4 just sucked up the abuse and carried on.

    Back in the RS3 and there was quite a contrast. The RS4 is much more rear biased when grip is exceeded. The RS3 feels like it pivots around the front wheels and the rear feels a little light when grip is exceeded, it takes quite a bit of provocation to get the power to shift rearward. The rear of the RS4 is more planted and gives a much bigger shove when you ask the engine room for more power. Again we are in shades of greatness, the RS3 covers cross country roads like no other car I’ve owned but for sure I would like a bit more of the neutrality and rear bias I experienced in the RS4. The RS3 did have one advantage in handling – it feels much lighter on it’s feet and more keen to turn in initially but this is to be expected as the RS3 is quite a bit lighter.



    Ride & Steering

    In comfort mode the RS4 is a relaxed cruiser for driver and passenger. In dynamic mode it’s a bit uncomfortable for passengers but feels good from the drivers seat. The RS3 is somewhere between the 2 modes on the RS4 – the same is true of steering weight. Oh and ignore all the rubbish that journalists write about the drive select system being complicated, we live in the age of the smart phone. Press the drive select button 3 times and you switch effortlessly between the 3 modes comfort, auto and dynamic – job done you need mess no further. On road the RS4 is best in comfort or auto. On track dynamic gives the shaper throttle response and the steering weights up nicely, if slightly heavier than the RS3 which I think has this balance just about spot on.

    Brakes

    I remember Evo reporting that the previous RS4 was busy under braking well this new one is utterly stable even during the most extreme race driver “I’m going to scare you witless” braking. The ceramic brakes deserve a special mention if you like the track because with the standard pads the brake pedal quickly becomes quite soft and spongy, the brakes still work fine but it’s a bit disconcerting. The ceramic brakes by contrast are incredible remaining utterly consistent despite repeated abuse – they smoke like an old steam train and smell like a chemical weapons factory though, a small price to pay for the incredible performance and I think £4k is reasonable compared to what some others manufacturers charge, you could easily pay this for a decent brake upgrade so I’d say they were well worth it.

    The brakes in the RS3 are superb and no matter how hard I’ve driven on road they pedal has always remained consistent. There is no real difference between the RS3 and RS4 to report here. If you drive on road the brakes are more than adequate for the job.

    The same DNA

    The RS3 and RS4 clearly share the same basic DNA and philosophy. Driven back to back with the RS4 the RS3 feels a little more highly strung and ready for action at any moment, the advantage of turbo charging. The RS4 demands you work the engine a little more to extract the full performance but once you do it is devastating. The RS3 makes a fantastic noise that is the centre piece of the car. The RS4 ups this to a V8 symphony. Both are fabulous and demonstrate RS at its best. But which is quicker? Totally subjectively I’d say the RS3 has the edge on launch but the RS4 continues to pile on speed past 3 figures at a greater rate. There wouldn’t be much in it at all across country, both feel narrow enough and wrapped around the driver to push on. In the RS3 you can rely on the turbo for more accessible power, you work harder holding on to the revs for longer in the RS4. At the limit of grip the RS3 pulls, while the RS3 pushes. Neither is better or worse, they are just different.

    20 years ago the idea of 450bhp car that was easy to drive, could carry the family, was utterly reliable despite using all the performance and at the same time devour the track for fun was inconceivable. Now it’s a reality and an engineering marvel with the ability to stir passion. The RS4 then, is clearly the RS3’s big brother, the same basic DNA but just that bit more grown up, offering slightly more of everything which I’d imagine is exactly what Audi intended.


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    RS3 vs RS4 shades of greatness

    Very very jealous!!

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    Dave Hedgehog's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by A6CR View Post
    Very very jealous!!
    I am confused, Harris said the RS3 was the biggest POS to ever sport a steering wheel???





    I am at millbrook on wednesday to drive the RS4 cant wait and im taking my cheque book

    I put 1000 miles on a V8 R8 earlier in the year will be interesting to compare the RS4 donkey to the R8 one

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    MBK
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Hedgehog View Post
    I am confused, Harris said the RS3 was the biggest POS to ever sport a steering wheel???





    I am at millbrook on wednesday to drive the RS4 cant wait and im taking my cheque book

    I put 1000 miles on a V8 R8 earlier in the year will be interesting to compare the RS4 donkey to the R8 one
    I know I'm lucky I made it back through the mountains and all those hairpins with the oil tanker like understeer. The drive to Oulton and back was almost as much fun as driving the RS4.

    Enjoy the day at Millbrook it is great fun, I reckon doing the road route first would be the best option. Wish I could go again.

    I am slightly tempted by the RS4 but I think for similar money there is a weekend R8 with my name on it out there, with a run about for the commute. Will be interesting to see how the R8 and RS4 compare.

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    P_G
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    Good review MBK. Went to Oulton Park on Saturday and it was a fabulous afternoon so credit where it is due to Audi for organising and allowing drivers to drive the cars.

    As to the RS4 itself I would have to disagree with you on some points but only because of where I am at present which is in a B7 RS4. We were fortunate to do the track session first after lunch / presentation and then the road session. A little disappointed that only the track cars had ceramics, keyless go and importantly sports exhaust fitted (plus buckets), the road cars did not. On the track the car is nimble for its size and weight but we needed to put the box in dynamic rather than auto to get the changes we wanted. The one distinct thing though is that there is no torque shove from the engine like there is in the B7 I travelled down in and my own, the B8 is reliant on s-tronic to pull it along. It is a great box, very precise and the ceramics definitely helped but after a few laps they were very noisy. A couple of the cars had to be taken off track to allow the ceramics to cool.

    On to the road drive with standard steel discs, sport seats rather than buckets and standard key in dash drive, no stop/start button with the keyless drive function. The overriding conclusion was what an advert for the R8 V10 it was as we were first car behind and with no sports exhaust on the RS4 all we could hear was the V10 even when it was 20-25 yards in front. Had to wind the window down and rev high to hear the RS4. It is a civilised drive, too wallowy / bouncy for me in Comfort, ok in Auto, lots of feedback in dynamic but if passenger a little too hard. The sports seats are good but not as supportive as the Recaro Comforts in the B7 around the rib cage, the interior is well appointed. As for the looks, it presents best in Sepang Blue first and Prism Silver second, Phantom, Ibis and Daytona don't do anything for the car. But the disppointing thing for us and highlighted on the way home was the looks. In the rear view mirror it looked like another A4 whereas looking my friend's B7 RS4 on the way home in the same view the B7 has such an more agressive / squat / planted stance; even when following one round the track. Now some may say it is more the ultimate Q car than the B7 and I could see what they are saying but it left me underwhelmed.

    For those that are not fortunate enough to have or have had a B7 RS4 the B8 is a fabulous car and well worth having; goes well and sounds good (only with sports exhaust). However from a personal perspective I don't like to fiddle around with settings by pressing buttons between going from sedate driving to spirited which you have to do in the B8 but in the B7 RS4 it just does it without asking as quickly as those spur of the moment instances occur. And finally is it worth £45-50k more than what my B7 is worth..... no. It needs better ARB's and an after market exhaust and bits of what are standard on the B7 RS4 are optional extras on the B8 whicch is why I am converting to an RS3. But it is still a good car but not as good as an R8 V10! And I am an s-tronic convert which is just as well since I'm picking up an RS3 in 9 days!

    As for Audi organising this, it was a fantastic day, well looked after, excellent staff, facilities and food and worth attending just for that helped by beautiful weather all day.
    Last edited by P_G; 22nd October 2012 at 19:06.

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    MBK
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    All good points there P_G, I agree that our own perceptions are shaped by the car we are currently in and yours is certainly one of the true greats. The RS3 has all the bases covered for us too - by far the best all round road car we've owned.

    Enjoy the RS3 it will be interesting to hear how you get on with it longer term in comparison to the B7 RS4.

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    P_G
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    My three biggest fears are that the RS3 will feel like it is running out of puff over three figure speeds whilst in Europe (sit at 80 in 6th in my RS4, plant your foot and it is over 100 in the blink of an eye and pulling like a bullet train past 180mph), going back to Haldex from Torsen and non res full wail V8 growl / howl vs. 5 pot warble.

    I wish the RS3 came with an Audi derived Haldex controller so you can elect it to feel like it is shoving rather then pulling. Although I am somewhat comforted by the fact the s-tronic in the RS3 is adaptive and Bosch motronic controlled so is a learning mechanoid. Time will tell; 8 days to go.

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    Dave Hedgehog's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by P_G View Post
    My three biggest fears are that the RS3 will feel like it is running out of puff over three figure speeds whilst in Europe (sit at 80 in 6th in my RS4, plant your foot and it is over 100 in the blink of an eye and pulling like a bullet train past 180mph), going back to Haldex from Torsen and non res full wail V8 growl / howl vs. 5 pot warble. I wish the RS3 came with an Audi derived Haldex controller so you can elect it to feel like it is shoving rather then pulling. Although I am somewhat comforted by the fact the s-tronic in the RS3 is adaptive and Bosch motronic controlled so is a learning mechanoid. Time will tell; 8 days to go.
    i thought there where third party haldex IV upgrade modules

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    Great report and interesting views.

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    Great read. Many thanks.
    2000 AMK S3, Revo'd, forge 007p, B8's, H&R's, tarox g88's, ferrodo ds2500's, and in the fastest colour



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    MBK
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    Quote Originally Posted by P_G View Post
    My three biggest fears are that the RS3 will feel like it is running out of puff over three figure speeds whilst in Europe (sit at 80 in 6th in my RS4, plant your foot and it is over 100 in the blink of an eye and pulling like a bullet train past 180mph),
    From my limited experience of high speed runs the RS3 pulls strongly from 80-120 but there is a real step off after 120 and from 140 onward the speed builds at a much slower rate again.

    I get the feeling you are going to want a remap fairly quickly!

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    That's at least one element of beauty with the RS3, a remap will increase the power significantly. Next step up in the RS4 would be supercharger which is a whole different ballgame of £££

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    P_G
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Hedgehog View Post
    i thought there where third party haldex IV upgrade modules
    There are Dave but Audi's own, like Subaru and Mitsubishi would be better; pity it has to be aftermarket and therefore void warranty on the haldex which isn't cheap to repair / replace.

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    P_G
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    Quote Originally Posted by MBK View Post
    I get the feeling you are going to want a remap fairly quickly!
    I would do be ECU cracking is my least favoured route and I don't ever do remappng until warranty is out. It may be the top end performance is the sacrifice I make just now for better economy both fuel wise and financially.

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    Dave Hedgehog's Avatar
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    Drove the RS4 at Millbrook yesterday

    It feels bigger and heavy with a very long bonnet but steers exactly where you want it which is extremely impressive, but the 3 feels nimbler

    Outside the car the V8 sounds bloody amazing inside low down you cant hear it, mid range it makes an annoying drone, up top it sounds nice, far too much acoustic lining

    dynamic ride is bloody horrific, 10 times harsher than the RS3 which is saying something, unusable at millbrook or on the public roads, my passengars hated it, soft is a good ride but feels artificial and disconnected

    dynamic steering is far too heavy, soft is far to light, the steering feels artificial with almost no feedback at all

    the stock RS4 seats are brilliant, best audi seats i have ever sat in, buckets make dynamic ride even worse !!!

    The engine has to be worked hard to get it to shift, up top it definitely shifts but the weight blunts it a little compared to the R8 V8, low to mid range, especially on half throttle and it lacks bang, you have to be very deliberate with it

    overall it felt numb and artificial and it did not make me smile, the R8 V8 had me jizzing my undercrackers


    I really need to drive one with stock seats and without the stock suspension and steering which should hopefully feel more connected



    The 3 on the way back felt more alive and hooked up, the low down and mid range grunt make it feel so much faster to go and to change direction, for me the 3 feels like a more usable every day car
    Last edited by Dave Hedgehog; 25th October 2012 at 05:49.

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    Dave Hedgehog's Avatar
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    and wave breaks look bloody cool

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    Nice one Dave! Did you do a write up on the R8 V8? I'm currently thinking that could be the next car whereas instead of a daily driver it would be a weekend hoon with an oil burner doing the monotonous miles during the week. Question is, will the V8 provide me with enough fun to discount the V10!
    2012 RS3 Ibis White | Black Styling Pack | Black Roof Rails | Bose | Cruise | Tyre Package | Privacy Glass

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    Rather than disagree Dave I suspect that some of your comments are based on what you drive and being used to the turbo shove of the RS3 makes the characteristics of the RS4 appear blunt. Being a B7 owner I drove it like a B7 but agree with some of the handling / power band characteristics and the V8 is even more reliant on the magic of s-tronic to make it usable.

    Plus IIRC the RS3 is a good 150+kgs lighter 1575 vs 1730(?) so it should feel more nimble. It is also heaveier than the B7 at 1705kgs, I wonder how much of that extra weight is the dynamic steering, DRC and crown centre differential, Probably all and then some..

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    Really interesting reads, and it's good to see that the RS3 owners aren't overwhelmed by the RS4 given it's price premium.

    A couple of years ago I considered going S3 to S5 (4.2 V8 version). At the time my S3 was running 360 horses (Stage 2+), and when I got back from the test drive I was really surprised that the detuned 'S' car V8 experience wasn't more visceral and exhilarating. The S5 is in a different league in terms of interior quality, but it's such a big car that I felt it was more of an autobahn cruiser than a focussed driver tool. The S3 isn't a great drivers car, but on balance when i tested it against the S5 it didn't have enough going for it to tempt me out of the S3 (and pay up a rather large premium).

    When I think Audi RS, the immediate picture that loads in my head is the B7 RS4, followed by the RS2. I love them both, but the RS4 B7 for me is going to be a tough car to surpass (despite some of the niggles with it's quoted power figures). I've had the pleasure of a test drive, but not owned it, and it felt like a car that had been designed with a focus toward outright performance, whereas the new RS4 looks like a fast comfortable barge in typical Audi RS6 style. I'll never forget the first time I clamped eyes on a sprint blue RS4 at our local dealers, I was literally drooling, and it was designed in such a way that the young boy in you gets over-excited and enthusiastic. More recent RS's just aren't hitting the same spot for me, and I look and think 'nice' but not much more. I don't know if it's accountants at work, or the brand is becoming more marketing focussed (RS is a badge), rather than 'skunkworks' focussed (e.g. constrained engineers with a limited brief and very few freedoms to build something exceptional).

    I'm sure the new RS is an exceptional car, but at it's price I don't lust after it, I'd rather save up some more and have an R8.

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    Dave Hedgehog's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RYes3 View Post
    Nice one Dave! Did you do a write up on the R8 V8? I'm currently thinking that could be the next car whereas instead of a daily driver it would be a weekend hoon with an oil burner doing the monotonous miles during the week. Question is, will the V8 provide me with enough fun to discount the V10!

    I was lent an R8 after my first RS3 blew up, initially it was going to be for a half day but then it needed a new tyre and i missed my slot so had to wait and I lucked out and got it over the extended BH weekend so i got it for 5 days !!! Ran it straight up to the lake district for a hoon.

    It was the closest thing to my perfect car I have ever driven, I loved the way it drives, the slightly loose rear end but not enough to kill me and no computers driving the car. The noise is unbelivable it has the normal emissions quite mode, RS4 V8 wail mode but when really driven hard it goes into full on track GT wail loud, ****ing fantastic.

    I have always been of the belief that convertables are for girls but after driving the R8 spyder I am a convert, so much fun, and it gets so much attention and it all seamed to be nice, the car seams to make people happy.

    The V8 does not hang about, its lighter than the RS4, i qtr mile dragged a GT-R which was ofc faster but it only pulled 3 lengths on me (and covered me in soot lol), its fast enough for me as a road car, the V10 takes it to a new level but it does put a fair bit more weight over the back end

    So after 1000 miles and £400 in petrol I adore it, I need one badly :D

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    MBK
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Hedgehog View Post
    I was lent an R8 after my first RS3 blew up, initially it was going to be for a half day but then it needed a new tyre and i missed my slot so had to wait and I lucked out and got it over the extended BH weekend so i got it for 5 days !!! Ran it straight up to the lake district for a hoon.

    It was the closest thing to my perfect car I have ever driven, I loved the way it drives, the slightly loose rear end but not enough to kill me and no computers driving the car. The noise is unbelivable it has the normal emissions quite mode, RS4 V8 wail mode but when really driven hard it goes into full on track GT wail loud, ****ing fantastic.
    Now that is what I wanted to hear about the R8, it's going to be a very close run thing between the R8 and GTR for me when the time comes.

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    Ben S3 8P3's Avatar
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    How did this opportunity come about? Sounds like lots of fun! Ive seen this on the Audi website which doesn't look bad value for money - Pricing and availability < Audi driving experience < Audi driving experiences < About Audi < Audi UK
    Ice Silver Audi S3 (8P3) https://www.facebook.com/benjamin.n.long

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    I don't really know, apparently each dealer could nominate 2 customers or something like that but I don't know for sure.

    The Audi Driving Experience follows a similar format to this day, from all the reports I've heard it's excellent.

 

 

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