As I fish through the e-mails in my inbox, I find a request from Revo HQ asking me to appraise the Stage 2 Performance Pack I had installed on the Audi RS3 last month.
I’ve already driven the car to London, Caffeine & Machine, and Goodwood Festival of Speed so I’ve racked up sufficient mileage to have a qualified perspective on the changes.
However, if I’m going to take up your valuable time reading this review of sorts, I need to ensure it’s more meaningful and compelling than the usual influencer outpourings.
You probably know the sort who make a comfortable living out of posting on YouTube telling you how ‘stoked’ they are by how ‘rad’ everything is. And often leaving the audience punch drunk by substance-less soundbites but generally none the wiser about the product they are pushing this week.
Given I have a face for a job in radio and am camera shy to the point of paralysis, be grateful I know my limitations as it saves you from reaching for the mouse to click thumbs down before heading off to another Carwow drag race video.
In case you haven’t crossed my path in the twenty odd years I’ve been attending various VAG shows or moderating on forums, rest assured it’s a brave ask for Revo to offer me these five minutes of fame.
I’ve always been unashamedly candid in respect of my opinions on all things automotive, so sit down, strap in and let’s get down to the business end of what I’m here to talk about. I suppose there are two key elements to investigate here and I’ll try and answer them with two basic questions.
QUESTION 1 – ‘Why go stage 2, wasn’t A stage 1 AUDI RS3 enough?’
i – The challenge
So why take a perfectly adequate Stage 1 2018 pre-GPF Audi RS3 8V Saloon Quattro Sport Edition and ‘risk’ moving it up to stage 2?
It’s a question I get asked a lot, and even from within my own family. My father who is ex-motor trade has clearly struggled with the concept that I’ve purchased a new Audi RS3 and then have decided to rip it apart, and I quote “bolt a load of tat to it as clearly I’ll wreck the warranty, reliability and spend a bucket of money doing it in the process.”
Initially, it’s a hard case to argue against as none of it is specifically untrue. Trust me when I say I’ve had plenty of time to contemplate the answer I’m about to give as it’s been given deep consideration. To be fair to my father, the last time he modified a car it was a Mk 1 Cortina (and that did break down every week). So I see where he’s coming from, but thankfully we now have 3D scanning, 3D printing and advanced composite materials which were absent in the mid-’60s.
ii – Validating the argument to go-ahead and modify an RS3
So what’s my compelling argument for why I continue to modify Audi’s pinnacle ‘3’ saloon?
My personal standpoint is factory specification cars aren’t genuinely set up for true enthusiasts. Irrespective of the price point, unless you buy something with a roll cage and coilovers from the factory (like Alfa’s GTAm) the car you end up buying is aimed squarely at a middle ground buyer.
It is designed, horse-powered and badged up to fall nicely into a structured model hierarchy, and obviously, the Audi RS3 can’t step on the toes of the RS4/5/6/7, so it is shoehorned into its rightful slot in the manufacturers model portfolio.
This means you don’t necessarily get the car you could or should have got. But it’s not all bad news as this leaves a margin of opportunity for the curious-minded to extract additional potential with some carefully chosen mods.
In all these years of buying cars (and brand new ones since 2001) I’ve never driven a single-car stock at sub £75k and thought ‘that feels good enough’.
If you’ve owned a modified car it changes your perception of what’s possible; stock cars tend to feel laboured, lacking in chassis precision and somewhat, well; lazy.
The more I’ve initially spent on a new car the more it pains me to pull it apart or deviate from the master blueprint. But within weeks of running the car in, I get drawn back to the fact that these cars are now costing in excessive of fifty grand and it’s almost rude not to extract a bit more potential from the surefooted Quattro (Haldex) foundations.
iii – Planning the RS3 journey
Once you commit yourself to venture into the journey of modifying your car determining what that journey looks like can be a challenge.
Some people relentlessly chase peak numbers, often quoting numbers to one decimal place because it REALLY matters to them. From experience, I’ve found this mindset can deliver a car that feels overly strained, lacks consistent drivability and can feel too brutal for British roads.
And so we can now address one of the elephants in the room; Britain’s roads; frankly they’re s**t. Congested, potholed, and littered with drivers (I use that term loosely) who can barely interact appropriately in a three-dimensional space.
As drivers, we fantasise about planting the throttle on snaking ribbons of jet black sticky-topped tarmac in the French Alps, whereas the reality in the UK unless you live in the Welsh Mountains or the Isle of Man it’s something pretty much the polar opposite of this.
Therefore, the reality is you need to build something with sufficient power and chassis compliance for the latter. And this is the hand we’re dealt before we even open our wallets. To start on the tuning journey or choosing a path, build a car according to your weakest limitation factor.
I had kind of hoped stage 1 would be sufficient for my needs, but you know what it’s like. A couple of years pass by, and the car starts to feel ‘normal’ again. You read my review of my Stage 1 Audi RS3 here.
And herein lies the conflict, on one shoulder the voice of reason speaks out
“Less is more; OEM+, retain the premium feel of the car, take your wife on a holiday or save the money for a rainy day“.
Meanwhile on the other shoulder is a likeness of the six-year-old version of me, and it’s being typically belligerent and goading on me on and stop being such a tedious old ****. When was more power ever a bad thing?
So, whose counsel do I take? Being typically irresponsible I follow my heart rather than my head and submit to my inner child, and I’ll do my best to qualify how I go about this with man maths and misplaced logic.
iv – Addressing the weak points of the Audi RS3
My car is locked away in storage for the six coldest months of the year, so I rarely get to benefit from low air intake temperatures.
In the summer months when the sun occasionally puts in a brief appearance, ambient air temperatures stretch beyond 20 degrees Celsius, and the frankly substandard factory intercooler shows its hand.
Inlet temperatures start spiking and this delivers a sensation that the car is holding back or lagging slightly with repeated runs. Eventually, this started to wear my patience, but truth be told I do suffer a bit of OCD and I guess that’s probably not uncommon for someone obsessive about modifying cars.
My preference is running a set-up that has consistency every time. I plant my foot to overtake and the power delivery will be within a certain fine-tuned range. It was this that triggered my interest in replacing the intercooler, but my man maths brain then kicked in and went to the default place of ‘in for a penny, in for a pound’. Next thing I knew I was reviewing the options for the full stage 2 (Performance Pack).
The risk of solely switching out the intercooler was that other industries recognised weaknesses in the RS3 components path. Given I had already purchased the carbon intake kit for the stage 1 upgrade it significantly reduced my overhead going to stage 2.
Neither the turbo inlet pipe nor exhaust upgrades were going to stress the car any further and adding some carefully chosen handling mods would also address the slightly inert handling quirks of the RS3.
Doing it at the same time meant the car would only have to be peeled open for surgery just once reducing the labour costs. See I told you I would apply some maths and logic!
v – The final validation
The power hike of stage 2 is significant over and above the factory derived 400 horses on the RS3. With 525PS it is all but a 40% increase over stock performance. As Pirelli liked to remind us in their racy 1980’s calendar slogan, ‘Power is nothing without control’.
So taking good heed of what it taught me I ditched the P-Zero’s for Pilot Sport 4S’s, ordered Eibach Pro springs, an H&R anti-roll bar, and Ferodo DS performance pads with Revo J hook 2 piece discs (brakes awaiting fitment at time of writing). As my Audi factory warranty had just danced off over the horizon, I decided now was the right time to pick up the phone to Revo to embark on the Stage 2 journey and knit together all the various parts of the jigsaw to understand the art of what was possible with the more than capable platform of the RS3 8V2.
QUESTION 2 – ‘Why Revo’?
i – Choose your tuning partner wisely
I’ve used Revo as my tuner of choice for six of the last eight cars I’ve modified since 2001. I’ve also done stints with two other tuning suppliers in that time who out of respect will remain nameless (and I don’t mean back street tuners), but I’ve always ended up coming back to Revo. Why is this?
Most important of all is trust. My car is incredibly important to me – it may sound sycophantic but it’s as much part of the family, as family.
Don’t get me wrong, I know to some people this will seem disproportionate, and maybe borderline on the spectrum, but I don’t consider it an unhealthy obsession, it’s just reflective of the passion, money and time invested.
And whilst trust in the people who have access to your car is incredibly important, I have to balance that off against the practicalities of day to day usability, and the fact I occasionally use the car to commute through congested cities and parking it in public car parks.
I also need total confidence it will start, run, be bulletproof reliable, and in the rare event, there are issues I can pick up the phone to a support team who listen and (more importantly) care.
Modifying cars can be a lonely and unnerving journey especially if you beg, borrow, show no loyalty, and defer to the lowest possible cost options to tune your car.
Choosing a tuner is as important as choosing the right car so do your research upfront and don’t settle ’till you’re happy and find someone who inspires confidence.
I’m sure that some of you will be banging your keyboards right now desperate to enlighten me that I should be using tuners that are either the current industry darling, or who do ‘bespoke mapping’, and that’s fine.
I respect your view and appreciate why you have chosen your route. However, let’s be brutally honest with ourselves here, as goods as the RS3 is for a car based on the MQB platform, these are still cars that are mass market and built to a price point. My aim from this venture is to get the best possible balance of power and drivability, whilst retaining a level of the premium feel of the original car.
I’m not after every last percentage of a BHP delivered through a set of in-house rollers to show off on internet forums / down the pub etc.
I’ve had the privilege of touring the development facility at Revo and witnessing the work they do to develop their in-house components. Once you witness the rigour and time invested by the designers to make these parts operate harmoniously as a bespoke Performance Pack it satisfies a real level of confidence and comfort.
As the parts are tested together, then modified to optimise their use together, that is the standout selling point for me that can’t easily be achieved if you take your own path and choose a collection of disparate parts from a raft of differing manufacturers.
To cement this philosophy further Revo’s cars are then road-tested, track-tested, dyno tested, stress tested, fuel type tested and it’s this level of rigour in their testing phase that buys me an even greater level of trust and confidence.
ii – The Stage 2 parts list
Whilst one of my key briefs to Revo was to eradicate the heat management issues, I also had an extended consultation session with the support techs to determine the best way to optimise the car for daily use.
My worst nightmare was a car that droned to a point it gave me tinnitus, with a ride so uncompromising it gave me another expensive hobby at the local chiropractors.
The final shopping list ended up as:
- Revo carbon intake (fitted with Stage 1)
- Revo turbo inlet pipe
- Revo front mount intercooler
- Revo torque mount
- Revo front disc upgrade (awaiting fitting)
- Revo Stage 2 software
- Milltek downpipe
- Milltek 200 cell race cats
- Eibach Pro 100mm lowering springs
- H&R rear anti roll bar
- Ferodo DS Performance front pads (awating fitting)
- Mag ride calibration
iii – Creating the monster
I’ll be honest, in the days leading up to the installation I had the occasional wobble when I gave too much thought to the level of invasive works required to install the above parts list and nearly backed out.
I was desperate to retain the integrity of the car, and changing so much in one sitting was a real risk of parting from that without knowing what mod(s) might have caused it.
Thankfully when I arrived on site and saw the cleanroom levels of cleanliness in the workshop and observed the technicians working on the car from the customer centre, it became clear my nervousness was misplaced.
I’ve been able to retain all the OEM parts in case I wish to ever regress to stock, but having felt the difference between stock and stage 2 I can’t think of a single reason why I’d ever consider it.
AS YOU’D EXPECT, STAGE 2 ELEVATES THE STAGE 1 PACKAGE AND OFFERS MORE POWER, MORE CONSISTENCY, AND IN DYNAMIC MODE A MORE AGGRESSIVE SOUNDTRACK AND DRIVING EXPERIENCE FOR ALL OF THE SENSES.
I don’t think anyone reading this would expect anything less, and for the financial investment, I can happily report with absolute confidence that what Revo has delivered is the car I hoped the RS3 might secretly feel like if all the accountants and environmentalists had not intervened in the production of the car.
There is something else I’d like to share; for people of a certain disposition or age group, this might be as compelling as the newfound performance of the car.
The weekend after collecting the car I drove my wife to Surrey to meet some friends, and the end location was deep in the Surrey Hills so we got to experience some uncompromising single-track roads.
I think it’s important at this point to reference that I met my wife as a result of a common interest in Mk2 Golf GTi’s back in the day, therefore she appreciates cars much as I do.
As we headed up the M3 with the car in Drive Select ‘Comfort’ mode, she turned to me and said, ‘I can’t believe you had all this work done and it’s not ruined the car’. From my wife, that’s tantamount to a full-blown compliment, and to clarify what impressed her so much, in comfort mode the car just feels the same as it did from the factory.
There is very little cabin noise intrusion, no pops and bangs, literally nothing that would infer the car is anything other than standard. OK, I’ll admit the brutally hard Pilot Sport 4S’s do crash occasionally on potholes, but if you choose more wisely than I did and go for the 4’s, not the 4S’s I think this would limit this unfortunate side effect.
On the very worst of roads, you get an occasional vibration in the cabin which I believe may be down to the torque mount, but its benefits outweigh the very occasional steering column vibrations which I believe I can remedy if I drop the under dash and hunt it down.
If you like a softer OEM feel then maybe consider sidestepping the tick box for the torque mount but trust me when I say the sloppiness of the standard mount will only accentuate with the extra power at stage 2.
I found the standard torque mount could occasionally impact the quality of gear changes (at stage 1 with only 11,000 miles on the clock) so it’s one of those components that you must decide what flavour of compromise you’d like to live with and just go along with it, neither is the silver bullet.
iv – Jekyll & Hyde car
Back to reviewing the wider package, the reason I find the stage 2 package so compelling is it effectively gives you two cars in one. The car becomes Jekyll or Hyde at the simple switch of the Drive Select button.
Put it into Dynamic mode and the attitude of the car transforms into something far more attention-grabbing. To be clear, it’s quick in both modes, but the way it delivers it in Dynamic is notably more theatrical and adrenalin-fuelled, even for an old goat like myself!
To extract the absolute best from it, don’t be tempted to go with the 95 RON map. Yes, it will work, but unless you are doing stratospheric mileage the benefits of running performance fuel with these performance packs are marked. For context, I achieved 36.5mpg on an 89-mile journey (mostly motorway I’ll grant you), at an average of around 65mph. So if you need to justify it to your significant other, here is the headline: 525bhp, up to 36mpg, where is the catch?!
Obviously, when you drive it like you stole it you won’t realise anything close to that, but the magic of this set-up is that yet again it can still be all things to most people.
v – Final Thought. Did i make the right decicion for my Audi RS3?
So what’s the punchline? I guess when modifying your RS3 it’s incredibly important to set out what you want to achieve. If you want to go far North of 550bhp then it’s a big turbo conversion, but if like me you want the absolute best out of the majority of what VAG gifted you then you could do far worse than consider the Revo Stage 2 Performance Pack.
This upgrade pack has quashed any desire I had to chop the car in at three years old which is what I usually do. For a reasonable level of investment stage 2 has delivered a car that can offer the performance of £90k+ cars. Yet on the days you just want to roll in comfort you can flick a switch and cruise in relative OEM levels of comfort.
To that end, I’d like to congratulate the team at Revo for the exceptional consultation, delivery and ownership proposition and I can heartily recommend the Stage 2 Audi RS3 Performance Pack to anyone who is sat on the fence wondering whether it’s a good idea to go down the rabbit hole.
Get booked up, life’s too short!
By owner: Warren Cox
WATCH THE FULL VIDEO ON Warren’s CAR BELOW.