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Thread: The Ultimate Driving Machine? M135i v RS3

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    MBK
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    The Ultimate Driving Machine? M135i v RS3

    It's Panto Season - The Ultimate Driving Machine?

    "Oh no it isn't" seems the appropriate way to start this review as it's panto season. Continuing the theme, one thing is also certain "it's behind you", a long long way behind you, if you're driving the RS3 that is.

    This is a little test I got to do a few weeks ago but I haven't had time to tell you the tale. Now clearly I'm biased but my bias was equally matched by the M enthusiast who is running the M135i while he awaits delivery of his new M powered luxobarge (he's just sold his M5 and waiting for an M6). So when Paul called and told me we were going to the same event in mid Wales we arranged to meet up and take the interesting route.

    Paul had been confident in his pre-meet banter, he was confident I'd be so impressed by the M135i, and wouldn't be able to keep, that I'd be buying one soon after this little meet. "The balance of the M135i is so good through the sweepers you'll never keep up in your all wheel dull", having not driven the 1M or M135i I couldn't really comment but just thought to myself we'll see. Paul had bought all the Chris Harris and magazine stories about the RS3 understeering in to the nearest hedge if it so much sees a corner. The thing is I have spent quite a bit of time in a 120d daily driver work car and while it's a nice enough place to sit, much better than the other option which is a Focus, it is underwhelming when you push on.

    A road rockets?

    So to the test, the Wednesday arrived and true to form it turned out to be a wet one or rather a torrential downpour with the mountain roads we had chosen running with surface water. I was excited by this and Paul was still bullish that the M135i would still show me the way. All the magazine tests were conducted on dry days so this would give us some answers the magazines hadn't or I'll suggest had purposefully avoided. Both evo and Top Gear magazines have printed negatives about the M135i, evo told us how the M135i became ragged on a wet track and Top Gear, or rather the Stig, went further saying it wasn't even that good on a dry track. Had the case for the M135i been overstated by journalists who only drive cars for a few hours?

    Paul took the lead on the first stretch so confident that I wouldn't know which way he'd gone though the quick sweepers on he A roads that lay ahead. So I follow along in S ready to react to any sudden breakaway. Oddly nothing happens, were moving at a fair pace but soon I've dropped the RS3 back in to D and am tickling along behind in 6th/7th. Both cars are flappy paddle and running on Michelin Pilot Super Sport tyres so there is a direct comparison here(it was 11 degrees on the day for those who care about such things). In every magazine test only the M135i was on MPSS the others being on more road biased tyres. After following for a while I got bored, dropped in to S waited for a long left hander that opens onto a long straight and thundered past. Or I should say thundered past with ease. We stopped at the next layby for a bacon buttie.

    "You must have been really pushing that [RS3] through those long sweepers" says Paul, buttie in hand but without his usual grin on his face.

    "Nope, I didn't even have to try I was in Drive until I got a bit bored and overtook" said I, followed by a slightly uncomfortable silence. I chose to enjoy the bacon rather than say any more.

    "So where was all the understeer the magazines complain about?" was the slightly dejected question.

    "That's the thing, the RS3 only understeers if you enter corners way too fast, and even then it's easy to correct." is my reply thinking if only I had a £1 for every time someone asked me about the RS3 and understeer. Chris Harris you've so overplayed that card.

    "Can we swap seats?" asks Paul, now I wasn't expecting the offer this early in the day. "Oh yes" I reply like a slightly over enthusiastic Churchill nodding dog. "Just one question though, why didn't you offer me a drive of the M5?" the response is is a single digit. Oh dear it seems my reputation (and maybe the odd YouTube video) once again precedes me!

    We swap seats and this time I lead in the M135i running similar fast sweeping A roads. I'm giving it my all in the M135i but can't gain any distance on Paul in my RS3 at all. I've driven plenty of RWD stuff from the supposedly tricky S2000 to the slide at will caterfields. I'm quite happy slithering about in the wet. The thing is the M135i doesn't really slither about, just like the 120d it all feels quite front driven until you reach the exit of a corner. With RWD it's much more important to wait for the exit. Where you can get on the loud pedal at or even slightly before the apex in the RS3 you do this at your peril in the M135i. I was shocked just how late I had to wait to get back on the throttle. Get on the power early and you either get a massive finger wagging 'no' if the assists are on or a very strange kick from the rear of the car with them off. The M135i shows it's weight when it starts to slide and you'd better be on your game.

    As agreed we stop again before turning on to the tight and twisty stuff. Our verdict at this point is the same. I didn't make any ground on the RS3 in the M135i and Paul agrees that he was just tickling long with no real effort. Begrudgingly he admits he's quietly impressed.

    B road blasting

    Now it's my turn to lead in the RS3 and lets just say I opened the taps. The full launch start might have given an indication of what was to come. You've seen plenty from me on the B road ability of the RS3 so I won't repeat that here. The victory was simply crushing, the M135i had no idea which way the RS3 had gone. Just to prove it was nothing to do with driving ability we switched cars and repeated once more. Three corners, exactly 3 corners is how long I could see the back of my RS3 before it was long long gone.

    So my next thought was maybe I need to up the pace, maybe the M135i is one of those cars that comes to life when you really hustle it. Oh wow what a mistake, I enter the next corner, one I know well, with great visibility and some tarmac run off on to an Army range area, at an enthusiastic pace. If you've ever had your knee give way from under you you've experienced what happened next. The whole car lurched sideways and the tyres squealed an awful lot, and remember it was pouring with rain. Using the run off I recover the slide but my heart rate is a little elevated. The RS3 isn't just round the corner it's already through the 200ft drop and climbing the next hill - we call it the big dipper because you drop fast then climb a huge hill afterwards. That is the closest I've been to a big moment since sliding a Mk2 MR2 across both lanes of a dual carriageway and onto the grass [don't try this at home, I was young and very stupid at the time]. The MR2 was full of grass and road debris but at least in one piece. The motoring press make the M135i out to be some pliable easy to slide machine, it isn't. Maybe on track with loads of run off but on road it's a liability. I will say this clearly on a dark wet night the M135i would cover the road no more quickly than a 120d.

    Maybe it's the tyre pressures?

    After a hilarious (to my mind at least) moment where we stopped in the one horse town garage to check the M135i's tyre pressures "maybe the tyre pressures are out" said Paul with a look of more hope than expectation. He was clutching at straws by now as all 4 tyres were spot on. Some school boys add insult to injury when they shout "cool RS3 mate" at my snorting beast, the condensation rising from the grille after the mornings activities.

    The Ultimate Driving Machine? You're having a laugh!

    So I'm afraid my verdict is a simple one. Do not be fooled by all you read in the motoring press. If you live or only drive when the road is bone dry then maybe the M135i is a great car. If, like me, you live somewhere it rains quite a lot the M135i is a 7/10 car. It's a nice place to sit and the ride is compliant but pushing on takes nerve and more total concentration than I'd want to give on a normal road journey. If you like the adrenaline surge of uncertainty and never being sure where the grip level is this is the car for you. The M135i breakdown:

    Steering - M135i well weighted but no feedback to speak of. RS3 at least you know when the front is sliding.

    Brakes - M135i the brakes fade and the pedal gets soft after 2-3 minutes of B road action. RS3, the APs remain mighty.

    0-60 (Performance Box, same stretch of wet road): M135i 6.2 seconds, RS3 (Stg 1) 4.0 seconds.

    Sustained lateral grip through sweeping corner (wet): M135i 0.5g (peak 0.8g), RS3 0.7g (peak 1.1g)

    Fuel economy - yes here is the one place the M135i is better, by 4mpg on this test.

    Verdict

    I leave you with Paul's final impression of the RS3 as a verdict. As we dropped back down toward Brecon there is a tree lined road full of autumn leaves.

    "The final insult was when we turned onto the road with the arching trees like a guard of honour. Your RS3 kicked about 1000 leaves in the face of the M135i as you disappeared down the straight. It was like having sand kicked in my face after the day we've had. I didn't see you again until the lights in Brecon."

    Better to be gracious in victory than offer any reply I thought. The light was fading and the fun was over.

    Paul is currently driving a M3 with the Competition Package until his M6 arrives. Enough said.

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    I assume your friend has tried/road tested the M6?

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    He didn't mention a road test, he changes his car quite often, always a BMW and he seems to get some incredible deals. I imagine it's all part of some business accounting!

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    Well MBK I think you've said it all there my friend !!
    Absolutely bloody marvellous write up !!

    Couldn't agree more.
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    MBK
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    Thank you! You know I'd take a Megane RS265 over the M135i any day. Along with the GT86/BRZ all this rear drive 'engagement' nonsense is way over rated for everyday road driving. Sure on track it's fun but on a wet cold night give me quattro.

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    Great write up as always mark
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    Nice write up, I have not driven the M135i (although my friend has one) but I have driven the A45 AMG and the 1M Coupe (nearly bought one instead of the RS3, lack of duel clutch was the clincher)

    The BMW blown 6 pot is certainly a fabulous engine and so anyone who has one should be a very happy bunny. If i was after a weekend toy I would have no problems with owning any car with one in

    The A45 is a nice car (needs to be dark to hide the sticky out nose on it), great economy with stop start and the gearbox is 100 times better than the in the RS3, it has great handling which is very neutral with no wayward front end (always run the RS3 in sport ESP as this seems to turn on the E Diff) but the steering is very light in the A45 and the brakes start to get out of shape when used moderately, but if i am honest i found it very fast but very dull, like driving a quick civic there was just no sparkle for me

    I love my RS3, best car I have ever owned its just loves to be driven hard and I have a long history of 4wd cars
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    MBK
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    Thanks Dave, that's an interesting observation on the A45 AMG because one will be replacing the Mrs fast Civic next year, maybe the similarity is why she likes the Merc so much. The A45 seems very Evo like to us, it's unlike any other AMG that's for sure.

    Have you tried a set of Pilot Super Sports they help a lot with front end grip?

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    Quote Originally Posted by MBK View Post
    Thanks Dave, that's an interesting observation on the A45 AMG because one will be replacing the Mrs fast Civic next year, maybe the similarity is why she likes the Merc so much. The A45 seems very Evo like to us, it's unlike any other AMG that's for sure.

    Have you tried a set of Pilot Super Sports they help a lot with front end grip?
    My missus prefers the A45, she does not like how the RS3 is so aggressive on the throttle slamming you about and prefers the smooth never ending push of the A45

    The conti's are bloody terrible thats for sure, and atm in the cold they turn into solid blocks of oiled rubber, but I have 4mm left on them and my winters are about to go on so it may be summer next year before i change them

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    MBK
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    I thought the RS3 could be pretty aggressive on gear change too until I drove a Stage 3 GTR recently, wow do they shunt, clunk and whine.

    Ah good old conti's but yep I agree might as well use them up then get some Goodyear F1s or MPSS when the time arrives.

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    Excellent write up as always Mark and thanks for sharing quite interesting for me as well as the BM was on my list for next year although I think it would more likely be the Coupe (2 Series)
    As a replacement for the RS3 (Cars in Production) the only contender for me is the A45 so I've just specced another one for March Delivery. So when you take Delivery for the Mrs's Car I don't think you'll mind the hardship of having to Drive a Merc should the need arise.
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    Really interesting to hear a proper comparison of these cars in the real world, so cheers for that!
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    MBK
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    Quote Originally Posted by Real Thing View Post
    Excellent write up as always Mark and thanks for sharing quite interesting for me as well as the BM was on my list for next year although I think it would more likely be the Coupe (2 Series)
    As a replacement for the RS3 (Cars in Production) the only contender for me is the A45 so I've just specced another one for March Delivery. So when you take Delivery for the Mrs's Car I don't think you'll mind the hardship of having to Drive a Merc should the need arise.
    Thank you I doubt she'll let me get hold of the keys too often! We'll be booking a day at Pembrey to find the limits of the A45 for sure. Since driving the A45 she now likes the RS3 much more too and has borrowed it a few times but no matter what I say she wants the Merc more.

    If someone gave me an M135i I'd be quite happy to drive it around but for me it isn't special enough to spend my own money on and at the same time I know I'm AWD biased. At the end of the day that is fair enough because I'm sure the next real 1M and 2M (or will it be M2 I'm not sure) will be special cars.

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    MBK
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    Quote Originally Posted by dbm View Post
    Really interesting to hear a proper comparison of these cars in the real world, so cheers for that!
    Thank you, trust me we both agreed the day was a whole lot of fun!

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    That was a very interesting read Mark, thanks for that.

    It beat you on MPG though.
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    MBK
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    Thank you, I've just noticed it's evo magazines end of term report on their M135i and the main quote is:

    "The M135i was fast but felt twitchy rather than encouraging on the limit, particularly in the wet"

    I'd say that's a bit of an understatement and just confirms the motoring press bias towards RWD which feels more fun on a short test route.

    One conclusion might be that the M135i is better on MPG because it's slower and therefore burns less fuel...!

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    Great read mate, I went from my S3 to a mapped 123d and bloody hated it, so your report made me smile.

    Mark
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    Great review Mark, its good to hear views from both sides of the fence! Even if its from the "darkside" that is BMW haha!

    I really rate Chris Harris, but as I'm sure we can all agree his review on the above, was so blatantly biased it was almost funny!

    I have no doubt the M135i is a good car, my only gripe would be that it really doesn't look good on the eye (Just my opinion) however having owned the RS3 a good month now i can say the all-weather performance, gearbox and general quality of the car is perhaps, a bit, how can i put it, on another level in respect of these two!

    I really do love the car, I'm holding back on a APR Stage 1 map (How long can i last lol) i can imagine that really puts a grin on the face!
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    Just a quick question about A45. Is it as tuneable as the 2.5 5 pot engine? Or is it running at full capacity?

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    A 2.0T is never going to be as tunable as a 2.5T - there's no replacement for displacement as they say in the US.

    I am sure it would be possible to tune the A45, but (having had a heavily modified car in the past) I anticipate few cheap mods for it. Chip tuning is likely to be weak-sauce where as a simple chip-tune of the RS3 gets you in the region of 400bhp.
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    Thats what I thought. I used to own a Leon Cupra running a Revo stage 2+ and therefore know how easy it to gain some decent power with simple mods for the VAG motors. I am interested in the A45 but would want to know how much more power could be had and how well put together the engine is compared to the solid 5-pot Audi engine. But I think i'm leaning towards an TT RS at the mo, seen as though they have come down in price (2nd hand).

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    MBK
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    There are already some A45 maps around claiming to make 400bhp and 3.9s to 60 with just a stage I map. I don't think we should be too surprised the Evo 360 was also easy enough to map to 400/400 even though that was already a highly tuned 2 litre unit. Going beyond 400bhp looks expensive with hybrid turbo and so on being required, but this is the same for the TTRS beyond 420-30 bhp depending who's figures you believe (and RS3 if such a thing exists).

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    MAYBE the RELIANT way Mark/Neil

    Would this would prove more FUN:



    Imagine this Reliant engined beastie being towed by a Misano red (Mark) or White (Neil) RS3 rather than and RS3 in Cornflower blue:

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    Fantastic write up Mark, always a pleasure and entertaining to read your reports.
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    Thank you I might have another little story coming up soon over the holiday just a few details to sort first, this one is likely to be a much tougher test!

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    dbm
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    Ooh, you tease!
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    As someone who nearly bought an M135i earlier in the year and then changed his mind and went for an RS3 and is now in an M135i I think I can comment a little about the two cars.

    For me the RS3 is a much better all weather weapon, especially during winter when the roads are not great. You can use the power the car has to offer a lot more. I also think the RS3 looks miles better than the M135i.

    Driver enjoyment for me sits with the M135i, as does refinement and comfort. Given that the M135i is a much newer car design wise, I would expect it to be more refined and a better place to be day to day. The 8spd ZF box on the M135i is outstanding, I prefer it to the DSG. The new RS3 will probably address most of these issues. I really have to say that if you enjoy your driving the M135i is a better car (just my perspective). But then I can take it one step further and say if you really enjoy your driving your better off with an E46 M3 and a whole lot of cash in your pocket.

    Now lets get down to the real issue I ended up changing back to BMW after 4 short months of RS3 ownership. Reliability and dealer service. I won't lie, I am more a BMW person than an Audi person. The amount of trouble I had with the RS3 I have never had with any other car owned. Brake issues and chronic steering vibration coupled with pretty terrible dealer service put an end to my RS3 ownership. The car spent 2 out of 4 months with the dealership.

    If it were not for the issues I had with my RS3 I would have still been driving it today most probably. It has completely put me off Audi and leaves me in serious doubt regarding the fabled Audi build quality.

    If you have a trouble free RS3, your lucky and it is a great car.

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    Mine's trouble FREE RS3Shuk and has been from NEW other than the brake squeal of course but that problem was quickly resolved - why Audi took so long beats me - but I do love your term to describe the RS3 "all weather weapon" and of that I 100% agree.



    Just a thought RS3Shuk, PLEASE let us know how the RS3 replacement gets on in the snow, i.e., will you: a) use it, or b) not bother on those days?





    AUDI RS3 RULES...


    BRING IT ON...
    Last edited by 45bvtc; 19th December 2013 at 12:47.
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    Quote Originally Posted by 45bvtc View Post
    Just a thought RS3Shuk, PLEASE let us know how the RS3 replacement gets on in the snow, i.e., will you: a) use it, or b) not bother on those days? [/I][/COLOR]
    If I lived further north I would have winter tyres on, but we don't see too much snow down where I am. Got the wife's X5 in case it gets too bad.

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    Like I said, if the weather gets bad best leave the wonderful (in the dry) BMW in the garage.

    Lucky you to have another BMW just in case you need to go out; but how about if you're in the M135 and need to get back...

    Don't get me wrong, I have been there; and you're gonna need to do a lot more to convince me that a BMW, any BMW, is an all-year round motor car.
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    MBK
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    While my RS3 has also been fault free I'm afraid I have to agree with RS3Shuk on the dealer service, it simply isn't good enough for the price of the cars. 18 months ago I'd have said Cardiff Audi were excellent and lived up to all expectations but boy has it all changed since then. What makes things laughable is they have this value statement to make customers fans. I was a fan so I really can't understand their current behaviours. Now I'm aware times are tough but I fail to see how any of these actions are likely to keep customers:

    - lying during a routine service both about timings and work that was booked. This is a show stopper for me and means Audi will never again see a penny of my money, if you can't be trusted with something as simple as servicing new cars, keeping time or telling the truth you can't be trusted at all. Arguing with customers that they haven't booked a "while you wait" slot makes you look very silly when you also record all the calls...that cuts both ways...oops.

    - Claiming to be a "family run business" when you are actually a multi franchise network with a central call centre. The phone numbers are the same as before but you are actually speaking to a central booking office. The call centre think I drive and RS4 and that should say it all.

    - Making up work that needs to be done outside the service schedule, aircon service yours for just £85 plus VAT. When I asked why that isn't in the service schedule I was met with silence, a call to Audi CS and strangely the whole idea was dropped. The trouble is we are car savvy and know these are tricks, others get conned by this type of behaviour.

    - Making claims that you will "match any tyre price like for like" when you won't. This claim is purely outrageous as the prices are between £50 and £100 above online retailers and in most cases more than Kwik Fit! Best of all is when they claimed they would reduce prices to and I quote "cost" which was still £50 above blackcircles and £60 above tyre only companies.

    - A seeming inability to balance the front wheels on the RS3 (and yes you know the answer "they all do that, sir") which the local independents find easy enough - but of course if you want a bit of warranty work in the workshop I can't think of an easier way to get some...

    Now call me picky but those alone do not add up to good service and given the problems some people have had with the RS3 I'm glad I haven't had to call on them for any actual real help.

    So sorry Audi you blew it, at £40k+ for a car I expect premium service levels. Skoda looked after my little daily driver better and that should never be the case.

    So the RS3 is a great car but as said many times before let down by some very poor dealer behaviour and I can see why people move on as a result.

  33. #32
    dbm
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    I'm with 45bvtc; as a person who does a lot of driving for work I like the confidence that I can get home again. A few years back when I had my 8L S3 I was working in Milton Keynes when there was a snap snow fall. Mercs and BMers were sitting there spinning their wheels whilst I made the 200 mile trip home...
    RS3 | TTS | A3 3.2Q | S3(8L)

  34. #33
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    Quote Originally Posted by 45bvtc View Post
    Like I said, if the weather gets bad best leave the wonderful (in the dry) BMW in the garage.

    Lucky you to have another BMW just in case you need to go out; but how about if you're in the M135 and need to get back...

    Don't get me wrong, I have been there; and you're gonna need to do a lot more to convince me that a BMW, any BMW, is an all-year round motor car.
    Your spot on there John you aint gonna do this in a BMW

  35. #34
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    And this is another example why the RS3 is a great all round car .
    Veneeringman, 45bvtc, MBK and 1 others like this.

  36. #35
    MBK
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    Tut tut, how could you, look at this.

    Now I'm roughly translating because my Finnish is a bit rusty but at 2:20 he smiles and says "it's almost as good as an Audi!"

    But at 3.02 "it's no match for quattro"

    And at 3.11 - "I still prefer Audi's" notice how the camera pans away quickly.

    At 3.20 onward he's clear you're better off with a Mitsubishi or a Subaru....and then he decides to walk home.


  37. #36
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    Are you sure its in the Finnish language?, i think its in English and the video is being played in sl o w mo tion , thats why the car is going so slow and we can't understand what he's saying.
    MBK likes this.

  38. #37
    dbm
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    Quote Originally Posted by MBK View Post
    Tut tut, how could you, look at this.
    Erm, that's for a BMW X-drive, which I don't think most people are considering when they are waxing lyrical over the M135?
    RS3 | TTS | A3 3.2Q | S3(8L)

  39. #38
    MBK
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    I know, the irony of it, they made the M135i good in the snow by adding four wheel drive...and Mercedes are adding AWD across a range of cars. You'd think Audi were on to something here.

  40. #39
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    Quote Originally Posted by DAYTONA500 View Post
    Your spot on there John you aint gonna do this in a BMW
    Ha Ha Ha !!!! that you tube clip is so worth the wait to see the Audi ploughing through at the end !!I was looking for the yellow plough at the front

    Nice One !!
    45bvtc, MBK and monkeyboy_marcus like this.
    2012 Misano Red RS3 / Bucket seats Heated front & Rear / Aluminium Styling Pack / Bose / RNS-E / Bluetooth / Mobile phone prep low / AMI / Reversing Sensors / LED number plate lights / Led interior light pack / VCDS / Cruise Control / Exclusive Inlays / Auto Lights & Wipers / 8.5J fronts / extended leather / Michelin Pilot super sport tyres / and a few other things

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    How fortunate we RS3 drivers are... not just the road manners and abilities but that noise...

 

 
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