The Hunt for Unplowed Roads - Audi RS3

 

THE RS3 ENGINE COMES alive with throaty growl and brawny crackles. Inline five, 2.5-liter turbocharged engine produces addictive sonorous sounds when I rev it. Its glorious noise reverberates through the underground parking garage. Unique 1-2-4-5-3 cylinder firing order gives RS3 an addictive soundtrack.

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Audi has a very accomplished history with five-cylinder engine configuration. It started with 1970’s Audi 100. Between late 1970’s and early 1990’s, Audi used several variants of this five-banger; 1.9 liter, 2.1 liter, and 2.2 liter. Five-cylinder engine combines best attributes of four and six cylinder engines. It generates more power and torque than the four and it sips less fuel and has lighter weight than the six. Furthermore, a turbo charger transforms the five into a mighty machine.

In motorsport, Audi dominated World Rally Championship in 1980’s with five-cylinder Audi Sport quattro. Audi also dominated IMSA GT championship with five-cylinder Audi 90 quattro IMSA GTO. Today, quattro GmbH has a specially trained team producing this very special engine in Gyor, Hungary.

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It has been snowing for several days in the Ingolstadt region. Today, I intend to hunt for unplowed roads with deep fresh snow. I want to experience this RS3 in day-to-day winter driving condition. For this mission, I choose B roads around Wettstetten and Stammham. Rumors say that Audi test drivers are often spotted on these roads testing new cars in real world conditions.

Alcantara leather, diamond stitched sport bucket seat gives a snug comfortable support. On twisty hilly roads, the seat communicates road feel and centrifugal force to my spine providing ample feedback on where I plant the power.

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The new modular transverse matrix (MQB) chassis demonstrates its rigidity in switchbacks with elevation changes. This new architecture utilizes ultra-high-strength steel and lightweight construction design resulting in 121 pounds curb-weight reduction from the previous RS3.

Scenery around me is serene in this below zero degree Celsius weather. The unplowed pristine white road is deserted. Snow covered trees line both sides. Occasionally, snow comes down adding new fresh powder. Wind blows the snow from trees, and afternoon sunlight makes the air in front of me sparkle.

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Quattro system with torque vectoring not only makes navigating through unplowed roads with deep fresh snow a breeze, but it also maximizes the winter driving enjoyment. Software that controls the distribution of engine power can send 100% of torque to rear axle when it determines that rear wheels have the most grip. Additionally, torque-vectoring system brakes interior wheels during fast cornering so the car will rotate more precisely and predictably.

In Sport mode, RS3 brain adjusts throttle response, gear shift-point, electronic power steering, stability control, quattro system, and suspension to a racetrack mode. Equipped with 235/35-19 Pirelli P-Zero Ultra High Performance All Season tires, RS3 in Sport mode on unplowed roads is blissful. It gives me plenty of confidence on turns. When Electronic Stability Program (ESP) is turned off, I can induce the car to over steer and use the throttle to slow drift on this low-friction road. Then, I get ready for next corners with an ear-to-ear smile on my face.

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After a few hours enjoying back roads, I look at the car’s satellite navigation map and search for a quick way to get on the A9 autobahn. The autobahn just north of Ingolstadt features some long straights without speed limits and some fast bends with elevation changes and speed limits. Vast views around me are a mix of thick forest and undulating pasture covered in snow.

Here, I unleash 376 horsepower, 343 lb-ft torque monster under the aluminum hood. Mated to seven-speed dual clutch transmission, this five-cylinder engine catapults to over 240 km/hour at a blistering rate. My body is pressed firmly against the sport bucket seat. The RS3 is so eager to unleash its herculean power at a moment’s notice without any hesitation. Its acceleration is so intense; it gives the impression as if cars on the slower lanes were parked.

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A 100-km/hour zone is ahead and my current speed is still more than double. I brake and paddle downshift. The RS3 automatically throttle blips downshifts and its exhaust burbles. Eight-piston large diameter disc brake system (14.6 inches at the front and 12.2 inches at the rear) slows the car at rapid pace. The front perforated disc’s circumference features a weight-saving wave pattern. This wave pattern produces a low frequency sound when I brake hard. It adds an exhilarating sensation to the drive.

To non-Audi enthusiasts, the RS3 doesn’t look much different than the A3 Sportback. So, it doesn’t attract the attention of police and lookyloo; especially if the car is in Mythos Black or Daytona Grey. Trained eyes will notice RS3 widened front fenders, massive air intakes, front air splitter, honeycomb front grill, matt aluminum-style side mirrors, large rear roof spoiler, rear air diffuser, and two large oval tailpipes.

The RS3 covers 0-100 km/h in 4.3 seconds. This number is in the supercar performance territory. Yet, this car, unlike super cars, has ample visibility all around from inside. It can fit comfortably four adults, has enough luggage space for an extended road trip and can be driven confidently in deep snow covered roads. The RS3 is a perfect “sleeper” supercar!