I recently purchased an Audi RS3 saloon to replace my ageing supercharged Audi S5; on paper the RS3 looked to be a suitable, natural progression offering more performance, better handling and a technology upgrade.
I had driven the pre-facelift RS3 8V about a year ago and even in standard guise it felt quick enough, so the recent facelifts 10% increase in power and the 26kg reduction over the front axle gave me sufficient confidence that this car was a suitable replacement and would offer significantly more driver engagement than the facelift S5.
True to the brochures claims, this felt like a very different kind of Audi. The front end felt deft and far more eager to turn in than my previous S cars, and the chassis felt far more compliant despite the lower profile rubber and reduced ride height. The revised engine also felt fairly eager, and once in the power band would fire the car towards the horizon at a decent rate so that you could easily exit the average motorway slip road into licence losing territory if you ignored the speedo for more than a handful of seconds. So largely speaking the standard car was hitting the spot in a number of areas where the S5 had been showing its age.
However as good as it felt there was one glaring issue that I was struggling to come to terms with. My previous S5 had the supercharged V6 lump which delivers its power pretty much instantaneously as being driven by the engine they don’t suffer from lag. In comparison I was finding the RS3 rather more laggy than I’d expected, but then I’m led to believe the turbo is bigger than the K04 on the S3’s I’d owned in the past. I’m not the kind of person who is prepared to engage launch control on a regular basis as I value the longevity of the DSG box beyond short term thrills, so I was finding that launching the car from a standstill out of junctions was not the accelerative experience I’d been used to in the S5.
Initially I thought I’d get used to it or be able to drive around it, but the more I drove it the more it started to eat away at me that I’d spent nearly £60k on an RS3 and surely for not much more investment there should be a way to get round the issue to some extent.
Whatever solution I decided to invest in would need to be thoroughly tested, guarantee longevity and deliver consistent performance.
I tend to keep my cars for a good 60,000+ miles so whatever solution I decided to invest in would need to be thoroughly tested, guarantee longevity and deliver consistent performance in any climatic conditions as I often road trip the car across Europe. So I started researching options and soon came to the conclusion that a simple remap wasn’t going to suffice given the woefully conservative intercooler Audi had fitted to the RS3 that is just about sufficient for a car running a factory remap. On the grounds of the fact that I now clearly needed a package of modification I refocussed my search for suppliers to those who had a defined package offering beyond a basic remap.
In the past I’ve modified turbo cars with an assortment of bits and pieces and mostly from reputable suppliers, and to be brutally honest when these components aren’t matched to work in harmony the resulting performance can be a mixed bag. Therefore in recent years I’ve tended to buy a package of modifications that are designed specifically to work together as it removes unknowns and reduces the risks of failure or underperformance, especially when BHP/£ ratios get lower the more expensive your car is.
So some in depth research commenced, and after getting down to a shortlist of two potential suppliers I contacted the first one and asked the first for a demo in their test vehicle. Unfortunately this was a non-starter as they’d already moved the vehicle on, and this is where I have my first issue. Whilst the RS3 is not super-car money, it’s incredibly expensive for what is ultimately an Audi A3. Therefore if I’m going to bolt some bits to it in the hope it delivers driving utopia it would be nice to be able to try before you buy. Let’s face it, you wouldn’t buy a pair of shoes without trying them on, and more reassuringly you can take them back for a refund if you don’t like them. Try doing that when you’ve had a bunch of mods bolted to your car for any useful amount of mileage.
So I contacted Revo and spoke to their development team about their tuning offerings for the facelift car. Now as it transpires their product was still in development when I contacted them, so wasn’t available to purchase it straight away, and there was good reason for this. As their products are sold internationally they need to conform to the operating conditions for all markets before launch. However there is more to it than that, so I had to ask the brutal question.
‘Why does it sometimes take longer for you to release software than other suppliers?’
The response I got was fair, and to summarise as best as I can in layman’s terms, it would be easy to build a map where certain parameters within the code or sensors are written out, but to build a sustainable consistently performing product that adheres to all the safety control features of the car and delivers long term reliability takes much longer to achieve. They also want to get a significant mileage covered in a number of cars before the code is signed off as ready for a formal launch.
The work invested in the development cycle is an incredibly important USP.
More importantly they answered in a manner that underlines the importance of getting it right and meeting certain sign off criteria even if it means they’re later to market. One of the things I find disturbing as a customer is how often tuning companies strongest selling suite is driven by rubbishing their competitor’s product offering to increase the likelihood of someone’s business. It’s lazy, cheap and to me forces a question of the company’s own ethics, but there was no sense of that here which again buys me the confidence they proactively stand by the quality of their own work rather than feeling the need to slander others to win a sale.
If I’m going to take a punt and push a car outside of the manufacturer’s warranty inside the first three years, the due diligence of work invested in the development cycle is an incredibly important USP. Unlike some folk I’m not after the highest dyno figures, let’s face it the numbers are a guide, but on the road and in real world driving conditions I’ve had cars with impressive figures over the years that really don’t deliver sustainable performance on the road.
Revo had a demonstrator facelift TTRS that I was able to take a passenger ride in to enable me to get a first-hand experience of the product. The first thing that struck me when compared to a stock car was the urgency in every gear. It was just relentless. Given this car wasn’t running an intercooler (which surprised me), I was amazed how it kept pulling and pulling, run after run without seeming to fade or dial back to the point where you felt any laziness in the performance. This immediately put my initial concerns to rest that the car would need an intercooler straight out the box. The ambient air temperatures on the day of the test were 18 degrees, so it was a suitably challenging test for the car.Revo Performance ECU Software for Audi RS3
On the back of this demo I agreed to purchase Revo’s Performance ECU Software on launch date and went back to get the car remapped when it was released to market. This happened to coincide with a trip to the Isle of Man TT races where I’ve subsequently racked about 1200 miles on the car. Below are some of my thoughts based on the running in period.
Isle of Man TT: the perfect place to put the RS3 through its paces.
The car has been run on 99RON Momentum since new so there was no fuelling adaptation to be factored in once the map was installed, and with the car having run in at around 2000 miles it felt good timing to take the cars performance to the next level. I had the benefit of the TT mountain course right on my doorstep of my rental property in Ramsey. As you can see from the map insert, a romp up steep mountain roads would be a very good test of the quality of the remap in respect of how consistently the product could deliver power. It’s about an 8 minute blast over a 620m elevation (2000ft) mountain road lasting for around 17km.
The first piece of good news was the digital dashboard capability all appears to be retained with the boost gauges operating as expected. The car had run in for around 200 miles with the remap on since collecting it, so by the time I reached Ramsay hairpin on the first morning it was ready to perform as intended for my first lap of the mountain course.
It devoured the mountain roads surging from corner to corner at nearly 1.0G pulls
With stop/start switched to off, TCS switched to Sport mode and the DSG set to manual I fired the car out of Ramsay hairpin along the coned section up to Waterworks the car instantly felt more urgent. There was a light mist in the air, and the temperature was slightly cooler than originally tested at around 11 degrees. The car eagerly sucked up great gobs of dense morning air, mixed it with some atomised fuel and translated this into much more severe forward movement than I’d been used to in the stock car. Despite the slightly gnarly public B-road surfaces and running the stock Pirelli PZero’s (which I don’t really rate), the traction was still great and the extra power didn’t cause any TCS intervention. As I approached the Gooseneck hairpin bend the car tracked honestly, and thankfully the factory 8 pot brakes delivered sufficient stopping power to reign in the extra power (for road use, doubt this would be the case for track work).
I followed two reasonably sized motorbikes out of the Gooseneck and up towards the Mountain Mile. I was expecting them to drop me providing a clear window for me to find the cars limits in my own space, but so great was the acceleration surge from the RS3 that I was soon faced with having to tow along in their wake or get past them on the straight sections of the Mountain Mile. It ended up being the latter, as the riders decided in the name of self-preservation (and good sense!) that they wouldn’t try keep pace with the rampant RS3 as it devoured the mountain roads surging from corner to corner at nearly 1.0G pulls. As Audi RS cars tend to mask their speed by the nature of their all-wheel drive competence I was tending to carry so much pace into the tight B-road corners that I was struggling to determine whether I was carrying too much speed to thread the car through the apex and out the other side as the stone walls provide a very limited view out of the corners.
There had been a distinct flatness in the factory map that may have been engineered in to make acceleration as progressive and manageable as possible; thankfully the new map has resolved this and power is delivered in a more urgent but still controlled manner. This meant there was never any noticeable intervention from the traction systems limiting forward motion. The acceleration was incredibly linear across the entire throttle pedal stroke which was encouraging given the amount of power on tap, there is nothing worse than a lumpy pedal. I detest it when maps are limited to the front end of the accelerator pedal with very little at the end stroke, and thankfully no matter where you are on the pedal travel if you push further you get more power right the way to the end stop.
The midrange acceleration is just unbelievable, overtakes are dealt with in the blink of an eye.
As I progressed past the Mountain Mile into Verandah and down towards Bungalow the car continued to pull out of the corners from 60mph up to solid three figure speeds without any sense of lag or latency. There was total consistency on each long drag out of the slower corners, and the without exception the limiting factor to progress was the driver rather than the car. Once I’d locked on to a slower moving vehicle then lined up the overtake the midrange acceleration is just unbelievable; at no point over the entire holiday period were we left exposed during an overtake. Overtakes in the RS3 are now dealt with in the blink of an eye, the only consideration was ensuring there was enough open road ahead of the vehicle you are overtaking to enable you to speed match your way back into the train of traffic ahead.
As you dip into the Bungalow section you start to climb up towards Brandywell and Windy Corner which means you’re loading the engine as you climb up to the second summit before you drift back down to the Creg. Even after the long run across the first part of the mountain the car continued to pull hard.
As I re-joined the traditional ‘restricted’ roads and into the 50mph zone back towards Douglas I reflected on the first trip over the mountain. I’ve been buying S/RS Audi’s since 2006, and this is the first car that I can say hand on heart feels somewhat driver focussed straight from factory. Yes the MQB platforms steering isn’t communicative in the same way a Type R or M2 would be, but the weight savings from the alloy block, magnesium sump and battery relocation have meant that these latest crop of small 5 pot RS’s turn in confidently, and the chassis compliance (with mag ride) is perfectly acceptable for UK roads. All my previous Audi’s have required some form of chassis specific component upgrades to better handle a power hike, but this car doesn’t. It just takes the extra power in its stride, and leaves with you with a car that feels compliant, controlled and agile; just quite a bit quicker.
At no point did the car feel like it was desperate for extra cooling.
One of the encouraging points of this test was at no point did the car feel like it was desperate for extra cooling, so if your aspiration was to do the basics and not go for anything more invasive than a remap (and maybe an air filter) you won’t be left with a car that only performs to its best on cold days and short runs. My intention is to do the I/C and an uprated intake, but then I will be leaving there as the car will be sufficient to deliver my daily driving needs without overspending or creating a monster to deconstruct come sales time.
As I recounted earlier, I have been struggling to transition from the supercharged immediacy of the 3.0 V6T, but Revo performance Software has helped to limit some of the lag sensation I’ve experienced by increasing the accelerative urgency from standing start. I also chucked in a Revo pro-panel filter when it was remapped as I wanted to reduce any additional restriction in the inlet air path, and the two components seem to work well together. It’s also my first turbo car with DSG, all previous have been 6spd manuals, and whilst I’ve learned to love the incredibly swift gear changes, I’ve not wanted to rely on launch control for fast ‘off the line’ performance. I’d best guesstimate that it’s shaved over 0.5s off of a 0-60mph launch, so I now feel much less exposed pulling out of junctions from a standstill.Revo Pro-Panel Filter for Audi RS3
I completed a further six laps of the mountain course during the week, and each time the performance was comparative irrespective of ambient temperatures, passengers on board, or even full of luggage on the way home (managed to get a fairly clear run at 4:45am on the last day heading back to the ferry with a car full of a week’s luggage!). I’m still getting to grips with the left foot braking capability of the remap which proved incredibly useful on the tight stone walled mountain roads. Overtime I hope to improve my left foot sensitivity to take full advantage of this amazing feature. I’ve not had a single dashboard light, error code or observed issue which backs up and validates testing mileage that has been conducted by Revo. If I was driven by the headline power figures rather than the longevity angle then I may have looked to buy elsewhere, but realistically for another 10 or 20hp I’d rather limit the risk of long term failures given the kind of mileage I’m doing.
As a daily driver it delivers everything I’m looking for.
On a side note, I purchased Revo’s SPS Software Switch as I can’t always guarantee getting 99RON fuel when we travel abroad, and true to form I could only get 97RON in the Isle of Man. I ended up dialling the map back to setting 1 (from 2) which means I have flexibility based on the available fuel types. I’m hoping that future iterations of software update for the SPS device will enable a security feature to overcome the theft risk on cars with ‘advanced keys’.Revo SPS Software Switch for Audi RS3
I’ve been incredibly pleased with the Software & filter set up so far, and it has proved to me that if you have no big aspirations for a major build project you can actually achieve a significant upgrade from just doing the basics. As a daily driver it delivers everything I’m looking for, and at some point down the line I will consider the intake and intercooler upgrade to help elevate me into the ‘500 club’!
Vehicle & test details
Car: Audi RS3 saloon 400PS
Year of manufacture: 2018
Factory performance options: AudiSport exhaust & Magnetic Ride
Remapped at: 2,080 miles
Mileage at point of review: 3,200 miles
Power & Torque: 490PS / 590Nm