I was hoping to write up the story of this remap as an article for the ASN magazine but as it’s a more mixed review than I’d have liked I’ve decided just to make this a post, that way it is clear these are just my comments. As it stands APR have offered to update the software on my car from v1.2 to v2 later this week but I still think a review of v1.2 is worth some time as it’s a map that is currently running on several RS3s. I want to make this a fair and balanced write up (I wanted this to be a success, I've spent my own money!) so that you can judge the facts for yourselves.
Why did I choose APR?
I have not used APR products on any of my previous SEAT or Audi cars but having read good things about them on ASN and elsewhere and then seeing this APR Stage III TTRS video I was sold on giving them a go.
The 600 HP APR Stage 3 Audi TTRS - /TUNED - YouTube
Especially when I saw the APR HQ and the CEO talking about “bullet proof reliability, drivability similar if not better than the OEM and of course horsepower and torque that take your breath away” I thought to myself this is a company I like the sound of and want to deal with.
It’s just like OEM! But it just might be OEM…
After a few miles with the APR map I thought to myself you know this just feels so smooth, just like OEM, none of the big surge and boost I’ve experienced with other remaps (more on them later). Yet as you’ll se later the remap might be a little too OEM and the gains not quite as claimed. And that is the heart of the conundrum. The feel in the seat says the car is faster, the PerformanceBox says it’s faster too (though not quite as much as APR claim) and yet the Dyno says it’s got a slug of extra torque and not much more. After 500 miles with the APR stag I map on my RS3 I find myself confounded rather than pleased. I’m not sure exactly what I have got and I’ll explain that as I go along.
So here we go with my review, as you know I like to give you the detail so I’ve listed each element I can think of in turn and if I’ve missed something and you have a question please just ask.
The realities of dealing with APR
Sadly my dealings with APR have been under whelming so far. I would have had this remap several months ago but the local APR agent was unable to unlock the RS3 ECU at that time. Evan@APR did find me an alternative “you’ll have your remap by the weekend” was the exact quote yet when I called them there was no answer and even when I did speak to them several days later they knew nothing about the request. So for a few weeks it all went quiet until Gwent VW contacted me to say they could now remap the RS3, great I say, book me in. Silence followed once more for another 2 weeks but then finally we set a firm date and get the work done.
The Remap Process
The day arrives and the remap work begins (Thanks to Saj at Gwent VW for taking and sending me the pictures of the installation process)
First the ECU has to be removed. There is no other way to remap the RS3 ECU, OBD port mapping will not work due to the security settings. This means removing the ECU security screws, your chosen remapper will need to replace these so check that is part of their process.
This is what the ‘brain’ of the RS3 looks like once removed:
The APR remapping tool:
APR Remapping tool with the ECU:
And finally the upload screen, the process takes about 3 hours to complete.
I wasn’t the only RS3 being mapped that day either, more about that later.
With the map installed what is it like to drive, well let’s start with a pleasant surprise:
One thing I can tell you with absolute certainty is that average MPG has increased dramatically across all forms of driving. From this mostly motorway run which I do all too often and normally see 31mpg at best on the DIS I’m now seeing almost 35mpg. The more surprising thing is the increase lasts when you decide to use the power too. Before the remap I was seeing 27mpg on the B trip over 14K miles, yet since the remap, including some spirited driving and test the average has climbed to 29mpg. You might also want to know that even in D without the sport button selected there is more drone from the standard exhaust.
Now I doubt may people remap just for increased fuel economy and by my calculations you’d need to drive at least 30000 (based on mainly Motorway) miles to get your money back!
A wave of torque
I think I know how they’ve achieved that MPG increase though because you really do ride on wave of torque at motorway speeds. The slightest touch of the throttle delivers quite an increase in speed and this is just in D. You can make rapid and smooth progress with much less effort. As per APR’s claims the car retains the OEM drivability feel, your mrs or mum would still be quite happy driving the car and unaware of the extra power. So far so good.
Subjectivity I – the on road experience
That’s all fine for being sensible but I’m sure you want to know about the added go! Subjectively the RS3 immediately felt faster, there is real urge from 2500rpm. This new found enthusiasm will allow you to push the limits of the tyres through corners and roundabouts too. Getting all four wheel sqealing is now easy to do, the standard car could only achieve this by carrying big speed in to the corner and holding as much as possible. After the map you have enough power to overcome the tyres mid corner should you choose to do so.
So far so good and a trip cross country the next day from South Wales to South Hereford Audi was even more exhilarating, overtaking felt even easier than before. The exhaust made more noise for sure and the pick up on throttle application certainly felt much improved. Was the performance as strong as my previous Evi IX MR 360 when it was running 400bhp 400lb ft, I’d have said so yes. So why am I confounded? This all sounds and feels good so far.
Missing: 50bhp & 40lb ft, reward for safe return
Gwent VW had arranged a Dyno session for several customers at TSR Performance in Bridgewater so I decided to tag along. I think we can assume that the guys at Gwent VW were as confident we’d be pleased with the results of the APR maps as they were.
My RS3 made 361bhp and 402lb ft on it’s first run. The first run showed 361bhp and 402 lb ft (a gain of 26bhp & 67 lb ft over the claimed standard 335bhp 332 lb ft) although many other TTRS/RS3s have made more than than basic Audi figures when standard.
Some TTRS and RS3 have been figured at over 360bhp and 360lb ft when standard, which brings me to the second even more worrying dyno chart:
A second run showed 353 bhp and 384lb ft. That would be a maximum gain of 18bhp and 52lb ft, no question the 52 lb ft gain would be enough to feel a difference, especially if that gain has been moved down the rpm range, which the charts and later launch control will show is the case.
This RS3 made almost identical figures to my cars second run 353bhp and 384bhp too.
With both RS3s being new and well maintained and running the same map and standard exhaust it’s fair to assume the problem isn’t with the cars. The immediate conclusion to jump to is it’s the rollers. But as the scientific statement goes causation does not imply correlation – or in other words these 2 variables are not enough to judge by. A Stage II + S3 showed 370bhp on the same rollers and a TT with a big turbo conversion over 440bhp so I’m not sure we can just write off the rollers. I will accept that S-tronic might cause the rollers some problems.
We are however a long way from APRs claims of +76bhp and +95lb ft, I’d accept a +/- 10% or so but we (using the best figures) are 66% out in terms of BHP and 30% out on lb ft. For a map that usually costs £838 this discrepancy is too much.
The final reason I don’t believe we can write off the dyno is that the tuning companies make their claims based on them. The tuning companies (not just APR) are quick enough to show good Dyno results and it is what a lot of the marketing information (remember the CEO of APRs stated aim for “horsepower and torque that take your breath away”) is based on . They don’t for example list increased 0-60 or in gear acceleration times, it’s all about those power gains. It’s way too easy just to blame the rollers and conditions on the day and I think there is much more to this yet.
Performance Testing: PerformanceBox and Dynolicious
At this point subjective feel and the dyno results disagree. I can’t decide at this point if my senses are being fooled by an added helping of torque low down in the rev range (a bit like a diesel remap) or if the 2 RS3s just didn’t dyno well. I know all too well that human senses are easily fooled, just put your left hand in hot water and right hand in cold water for a minute, then put both hands in a third bucket of room temperature water. Your left hand will tell your brain the water is cold while your right hand will tell you the water is hot! The same goes for extra power. I’ve seen plenty of cars with big power claims at the track just spinning all that extra power away because the map comes in so aggressively and the throttle is too sensitive. Lets let the figures and video do the talking from this point:
My RS3 as measured when standard (these figures have remained consistent):
0-60 – 4.2s
0-100 – 9.9s
Standing ¼ - 12.5s (no 1ft roll out on PerformanceBox)
The APR stage I remap showed these figures. This is based on 6 runs measured by PerformanceBox, Dynolicious* and good old stopwatch (based on GPS speed not the digital DIS or dials as they over read by 3 and 5 mph respectively):
0-10mph - 0.53s
0-20mph - 1.09s
0-30mph - 1.72s
0-40 mph - 2.26s
0-50mph - 2.96s
0-60mph - 3.71s
0-100mph - 9.5s
Standing ¼ - 12.04s @ 111mph
(*Note - 1ft roll out was off on the PerformanceBox (an easy way to get lower figures!) but had to be on for Dynolicious - otherwise Dynolicious read 0.1/0.2 slower than the P-Box.)
The good news is we have quite a gain here, I’m sure many will be pleased to see the consistent sub 4 second 0-60 time. There are still some problems too, just like that blip you saw on the dyno charts when the power kicks in you can feel that kick in the map when driving. This sudden increase in torque overwhelms the front tyres in 1st gear giving some wheel spin – and remember I’m on the stickier Michelin Pilot Super Sport tyres so the Conti’s are likely to really struggle with extra power. A perfect launch with no wheel spin and faster times might well be possible.
The 0-60 is about what I’d hoped for. I’d like to have seen a sub 9 second 0-100 and I also thought the standing ¼ would be sub 12 seconds. The half second gain is fairly consistent. This leads me to believe that I do have a healthy torque gain, I’ve got the extra shove and that remains consistent but as the Dyno suggests I’m missing the high end urge that BHP brings.
Launch control is changed quite markedly with the map, and here are the two videos for you to compare.
Standard RS3 launch control:
The standard launch control system in my car would hold the revs at 3300rpm with the more gentle popping against the rev holding limit that you hear in the video. Notice how there is quite a slur in the gear changes as I reach the upper rpm in each gear.
APR Stage I Launch Control
With the APR map installed the launch control system hold the revs at 2200rpm and the exhaust pops and bangs like an anti-lag system, in the car this is much louder than the standard system. Oh and yes I still have the standard exhaust, nothing other than the map has been changed. Those of you with decat pipes are in for quite a treat on launch I suspect! Notice how despite the lower starting rpm the revs rise more quickly and each gear change is much sharper and crisper. With Sport Mode selected the RS3 still changes gear at 6900rpm for each gear.
The APR Stage I launch is quite a different experience. Where I’d describe the standard launch as a shove in the back, this is a proper kick with another kick from 1st to 2nd too.
Possibly the most impressive gain is at high speed, and I’m not sure how useable that will be for most people. As standard the RS3 hits an acceleration wall at 120mph and another one at 140 mph. With the APR Stage I map installed the RS3 pulls strongly through 120mph – think the same level of pull as 70-90 mph. Even more impressive is that the RS3 continues to pull through 140mph and on to 150mph where things do slow down a little once more. If you want top speed bragging rights well in excess of 170mph is possible. With S-tronic it’s difficult to measure in gear performance times with the PerformanceBox but the pull is definitely stronger than the standard car.
The APR stage I map lifts the rev limiter to 7100 rpm, I’ve tested it and it works, making some quite fruity noises when you hit the limiter in 2nd and third. You need to be in full manual mode to do this as Sport mode still changes up at 6900rpm. So the rev limit raising is a little pointless as you are way past peak power at that point and might as well change up to use the massive torque swell of the next gear.
With the standard car in Sport mode the ESP could become a disco light when pushing on. With the Stage I map fitted you’ll need to be comfortable with the ESP switched off otherwise you’ll be kangarooing down the road. The extra torque confuses the system.
With the ESP off you will sometimes notice some torque squirm through the steering wheel. I use that term as it’s not as bad as torque steer but you will need to be careful on uneven or off camber roads as the car begins to follow them under full acceleration. I think judicious use of the throttle will be a requirement in the wet! The reality is with this power the standard RS3 suspension is reaching it’s limits. Any more power would require improved suspension to match.
The AP brakes and Pagid pads still hardly worked by the increase and at this time I have to say I’m happier having pad £1500 for a stunning brake upgrade than I am having paid £800 for the extra power. Talking to the other RS3 owner he was complaining about some brake fade after a few high speed runs, this doesn’t surprise me as the standard hubs seem to retain a lot of heat. You might want to consider a brake upgrade to go with the APR map.
I will add one thing here, knowing how sensitive to braking noise some of you are I wouldn’t recommend grooved discs unless you are heading out on track. The grooved discs make a drone when braking from 100mph and you get quite a bit of extra vibration through the brake pedal as the grooves catch the pads. The stopping power is quite remarkable though but as with all things a compromise in other areas.
Left Foot Braking
With 100% certainty this feature does not work on the RS3, a great shame as the extra control options would be useful with the added power.
Whereas the Michelin Pilot Super Sports were unstickable with standard power the extra torque means you can overcome the tyres.This is great fun on roundabouts where you can shift the power rearwards with a big shove of the pedal, firing out of the corner with all 4 tyres howling in protest. The standard car could not do this, the only way to get the tyres howling was to carry in and attempt to sustain excess speed. After the remap you can choose a better apex speed and then use all that torque to pull you through the bend. Much tidier and more efficient.
At this moment I'd sat if you've got £800 to spend on one modification, spend it on a set of Michelin Pilot Super Sport tyres, the benefit you get is far greater, transforming the standard handling of the RS3.
Subjectivity II – the cross country blast
With the performance figures completed the only test left was a cross country blast. I chose one of the roads I know best and have driven across in many performance cars from rear wheel drive Westfields and S2000s to hot hatches spanning the generations from 306 GTi-6 to Leon Cupra R and of course the most comparable AWD machines like the 340bhp/360lbft WRX Sti and Evo IX MR FQ360 (running 400bhp 400lb ft) on super sticky Yoko Advan A048s. Without question the RS3 is both the fastest and most fun car I’ve driven on these roads. With the map installed it is the fastest 0-60/100 car I've owned. The extra power means you can exploit all the grip available out of the tight corners. The way the numbers pile on under acceleration is addictive. The extra sound from the exhaust is welcome without being boomy or over intrusive (I wouldn’t want a louder after market system but that’s just me!) from outside the car sounds equally superb. When I’d have described the standard RS3 as fast and secure I’d upgrade that to faster and mildly dangerous! With the extra power it is a car you could get things seriously wrong in. The power will transfer much more quickly to the rear as the front tyre grip is overcome as a result you need to be ready to unwind some lock or push the throttle harder and use the power to pull you round. An hour of driving these great challenging roads left me exhilarated and buzzing with adrenaline, far more so than when the car had been standard and ultimately cars are about how you feel.
Conclusion - Confusion
I so wanted this to be another 10/10 review and to tell you all the remap is something you just have to do. For now though I can’t do that, the APR Stage I remap remains a conundrum, my final rating is 6/10. Yes the car feels faster and is more exciting to drive but I’m left with the lingering feeling that has been achieved by slightly increasing and moving the torque lower down the rpm range, the matching high rpm bhp urgency doesn’t match. The 0-60 figures are good, the mid range and roll on push are excellent but the 0-100 and ¼ mile times show that 0.5s gain is all you get. Let’s hope the version 2 map being installed this week can help find the missing 50bhp.
My final thought is this. Would I go back to standard and take up APR’s 30 day money back guarantee if version 2 is no different? It’s close but yes at this moment I would, the map doesn’t give quite the gains I hoped for and APR are not quite as slick as the marketing suggests.
Lets hope I’m smiling again later this week, APR the ball is back in your court…