There’s something about Bruntingthorpe Proving Ground that always gives me a little shiver of excitement. I’ve been coming here for over 16 years – testing everything from brakes and suspension, through to top speed runs – and it’s always good to be back.
The Leicestershire airfield provides the opportunity to really push a car – to see what it can do, and find where its limits are. It’s for this reason that Revo has a base here.
Revo’s Training and Development Centre gives them ample opportunity to test their latest upgrades – both software and hardware. From brutal launches to lay down 0-60mph times, to more ‘real world’ in-gear acceleration and a multitude of other tests to ensure that each new product comes to market fully developed and ready to improve the performance and drivability of the customer’s car.
As part of their on-going tuning program, Revo runs a fleet of development cars, many of which happen to be Audis. I’ve driven their S7, S3 saloon, S1, and SQ5, but the current car of the moment is a very smart, white RS3. This five-cylinder Sportback has been with them for around 12 months and features the latest performance upgrades available. The plan is to spend some time in the car to see how it compares to a stock RS3.
Let’s kick off with the looks.
The first items you’ll notice are the wheels – they’re a set of gloss black RV019 alloys. Revo launched their first wheel last year and it’s been well received – especially on MQB-platform cars.
Teamed up with a set of Revo’s own performance springs, it lends the RS3 an altogether more purposeful look, with definite hints at motorsport. Wrapped in Dunlops, they reduce the unsprung rotational mass (which should translate to a keener handling feel) and offer prodigious grip (handy with 425hp on tap).
Staying with the chassis, peeking out from behind the RV019s is a set of uprated discs. The RS3 calipers do an admirable job of stopping this feisty five-pot, but as many RS3 owners have discovered, the stock discs can capitulate under sustained hard use.
This is due to the fact the cooling veins are not ‘sided’ so the air enters from the correct direction on one side to cool them, but on the other it does not, which can lead to premature wear – especially if used hard. Revo has developed ‘sided’ discs which offer maximum cooling potential for both sides. Developed in association with leading braking specialists, Alcon, it addresses an issue with stock RS3s.
Revo has developed ‘sided’ discs which offer maximum cooling potential for both sides. Developed in association with leading braking specialists, Alcon, it addresses an issue with stock RS3s.
And so to the ‘go-fast’ bits… Much has been written about the RS3’s ability to punch above its weight. That characterful 2.5 TFSI engine is a powerful and sonorous unit, which delivers strong performance straight out of the box. However, should you wish to unlock even more potential, then Revo has developed Stage 1 software for the Audi.
This car also features a freer flowing performance exhaust (which also happens to sound fantastic), and brand new prototype carbon fibre inlet system. All told it delivers 425hp and 428lb/ft – a pretty healthy increase over stock. Revo’s own testing has produced a strong set of performance figures too: 0-60mph in 3.55secs and 0-100mph in just 8.37secs.
With the RS3 nicely warmed up, I take it for a slow sighting lap of the short course at Bruntingthorpe. There’s a selection of commercial vehicles all testing today, as well as the police practising their motorway stopping procedure.
Numbers on paper are one thing, but as Revo themselves advocate, it’s the driving experience that really matters – how a car behaves on the road – it’s drivability and the way the power is delivered that matters.
It actually feels a bit naughty to sit so close to a couple of traffic patrol cars, as I rev the RS3 before belting off the line like a scalded cat. Once launch control is engaged (select Dynamic and switch off the TC), it’s a simple case of left foot on the brake, dial in the revs, before coming off the brake and letting the car do its thing.
As I sidestep the brake there’s an almighty howl from the five-cylinder lump as the revs hit 4,000rpm and there’s a violet shove as the Quattro drive bites. There’s some wheel spin (it’s the middle of November and the concrete surface offers minimal grip), but the RS3’s electronics, aided by that extra slug of power and torque, courtesy of Revo, translates to epic forward thrust.
It feels blisteringly quick (bear in mind I arrived in an RS7 Performance) and it doesn’t let up. As I hurtle past the bemused looking coppers, the RS3 feels relentless. The power just keeps on coming and we’re well into three figures, before I begin to ease off and apply the brakes for the right-hander approaching. As I switch from Sport to Drive (to reign in the shriek from that exhaust as we pass the noise testing microphone), I have time to gather my thoughts.
I’ve experienced launch control on several stock RS3s and this is significantly quicker. Revo claims a 0-60mph time of 3.55secs and while we’re not about to match that on this cold morning, I don’t doubt it for a second. The second thing is just how well matched the extra power seems to the car. It all feels very OEM – linear, tractable and totally in harmony with the rest of the car. But it isn’t just the off the line heroics that impresses.
The first thing to note is that this thing is bloody rapid off the line.
The in-gear punch is ferocious – which is perfect for the kind of real-world situations where you’d use it – overtaking for example. Prod the throttle in pretty much any gear and you’ll be treated to a wall of torque (in second and third it’s epic), but there’s plenty of punch in fifth and even sixth too.
The seven-speed S-tronic box is very well matched to the RS3 and copes well with the immense strain placed on it by hard use. Backing off the throttle is rewarded with a crescendo of pops and crackles, which is one of the best noises ever.
Today’s test is mainly to get a feel for how the car handles the extra power, particularly in the real world, ‘straight-line squirt’ scenarios. That said, I’m still able to chuck it around a few turns, which illustrates the taut handling. There’s less roll and pitch than with a stock RS3 and the whole thing feels tighter and more focused.
Refinement and class you’d expect from a premium model, but with the potential to induce a stupid grin when the roads open up…
This really is the kind of fast Audi that you could live with every day. It’s got the best of both worlds: the refinement and class you’d expect from a premium model, but with the potential to induce a stupid grin when the roads open up, or you’re lucky enough to be on a track. It’s a real split personality: one minute a sensible (dare I say) grown-up hot hatch, the next, a ferocious, raucous little monster that evokes memories of Group B rally cars.
Once we’ve finished testing and have the shots in the bag, I give the RS7 Performance a couple of laps of the proving ground. Even though it’s packing the mighty 4.0 TFSI twin turbo with 597bhp, the RS3 is quicker off the line. The RS7 is a wonderful thing (I’d have one in a heartbeat), but with the options, it’s a £100k+ car; it’s also rather large.
At around half the price and with significantly less weight to lug around, the Revo-tuned RS3 would leave its hefty big brother behind on twisty UK roads. No doubt about it. I think that shows just how good this thing is – a resoundingly positive outcome for Revo’s RS3 package then. But there’s more to come. The team is working on their Stage 2 package, which will unleash yet more power – to be released next year. If this thing is anything to go by, it’s going to be rather exciting.
AUDI RS3 8v
WORDS: DAVY LEWIS • PHOTOGRAPHY: AJ WALKER & DAVY LEWIS