There’s just something special about walking into the Audi dealership and seeing your brand new car sitting in front of the double doors, ready to be sent out into the world. It’s even more special when that Audi proudly wears an RS badge on the grill. That RS badge is your ticket to factory fun, bringing together all the knowledge and heritage housed in Ingolstadt, Germany into an enthusiast tailored package. Back in August, the car I was there to pick up was the latest RS model to hit American shores, a 2017 RS3. Our car was one of 250 of these early 2017 cars, and is Nardo grey, with a medium options load we didn’t get to pick. Luckily it had the options I mostly cared about… Performance parts like the staggered wheel and tire setup and the good sounding cat back.
First acceleration tests
After flying down to Las Vegas to purchase the car, I met up with Hank Iroz, of Iroz Motorsports to ferry the car back to Salt Lake. It turned out he had a customer delivery of a heavily modified TTRS back to Salt Lake the very same evening. We chatted for a bit, I ripped off some quick acceleration tests behind his shop for “what it does in Vegas” record keeping. The car bone stock with a full tank of fuel and my suitcase in the car was doing 0-60’s in 4.1 to 4.2 seconds and 0-100 in around 10 seconds flat. Not quite what was reported in Car & Driver and such, but these were real world times on a hot Las Vegas back road…
The first thing you notice is that this car makes an amazing noise on startup. The exhaust flaps are open on startup and Audi treats you to a nice snappy start up with a little rev, a few crackles and some gurgles before it comes back down to an idle. Sweet. Getting on the road, the exhaust sounds great, but it can be a little on the quiet side, especially once you’re moving and the wind noise gets up. Driving it in sport mode keeps the flaps open all the time and gives you all the aural assault it can muster up. Dial up a little throttle and you’ll immediately notice that surprisingly there’s a bit of turbo lag. That’s because Audi didn’t mess around when they specified the turbo for this car, and there’s a good bit of overhead available once tuning begins. That lag is followed by a little bit of a lackluster mid range actually. Especially if you’re used to a “High Torque” file on a MK7 R/S3 or equivalent, it’s very clear that the mid range is well restrained on this stock tune. In fact, it even has a bit of a dip in the power delivery around 4000 rpm or so. Get up to the top 1500 rpm or so though and this thing really opens the floodgates. It pulls fiercely to red line, with an aggressive growl and even a hint of turbo whine in the car.
Transmission and Launches
Once you hit that red line, the DQ500 dual clutch DSG transmission fires off a markedly aggressive feeling shift. The ratios are close in the lower gears, and this gearbox fires off the shifts with basically no reduction of power whatsoever. This combination of solid top end power and aggressive shifting is part of what leads to such outstanding factory acceleration. That acceleration is also helped by a dose of serious launch control. The car has a real anti-lag. It sounds incredibly nasty and builds real boost on the line. That boost is pumped to the ground through a re-calibrated Haldex AWD which will spin all four tires hard in difficult conditions. In the dry the OE calibration is set up to leave without much drama at all. This all results in ¼ mile times between about 11.8 and 12.5 seconds depending on your conditions and altitude. Our car in the high altitude, desert heat was at the slower end of that.
Hitting the track with the RS3
Here’s a quick clip of our bone stock RS3… We did throw a splash of ethanol in the tank with the 91 octane to “pump up those rookie numbers” a little, which gained about .07 seconds for this final run. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fbzBQkB_2tk
RS3 / TTRS Handling
Power is one thing, but only half of what this makes this car the most fun new Audi I’ve ever owned. The other part is handling. Audi put a fairly aggressive spring and shock combination on the car stock. In dynamic mode, it’s as firm or firmer than many aftermarket coilovers. I personally love this, a car that’s ready to party right out of the box. They actually put a bigger tire on the front then they did on the back - with a 255 width tire on the front and 235’s on the back. This helps it avoid understeer, which is basically the automotive equivalent of that guy who comes to your party and is just a total wet blanket. In fact, Audi has done such a good job at this that you can toss the car aggressively into a corner and actually drift the car with ease. It’s controllable, and the all wheel drive means that you can fix the slide by simply giving it a dash of throttle. All in all, it puts a massive smile on your face and leaves you feeling like a hero behind the wheel. It’s not darty or twitchy though, so if you drive it smoothly into the corner it is actually neutral. Oversteer still requires a bit of provocation.
Room for improvement
As far as room for improvement goes, there’s a few key areas… Obviously there’s always room for more power. In particular though the mid range can clearly be smoothed out and the power delivery made more natural and linear. That dip in the mid range needs to go. The cold start routine causes an annoying rattle in the downpipe. That’s just not cool! There’s also room for more exhaust note, and I’d like to see the noise flaps open whenever you’re seriously into the loud pedal, not just above 4000 rpm or in sport mode. Getting out of the power stuff, the brakes aren’t great. They look great, and they do stop amazingly well - but with continued abuse the pads are not good, and there’s no ducting or venting to the brakes. They overheat and shred themselves. Finally, of course, the car is too high stock, and those factory wheels just have got to go… All said, this car is literally the most fun new Audi I’ve ever had the pleasure of driving. There’s room for improvement for sure, but it’s a great overall package right out of the gate. It delivers a complete driving experience, with a good amount of power, and handling that’s fun but won’t try to kill you. It eats freeway miles up with incredible ease and speed but pop it in sport mode and it shreds canyons. More to come shortly, Peter Blais IE Founder and Lead Engineer PS: Oh yeah, the steering wheel and seats are pretty nice too. #Suede