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Audi RS3 Sportback

2 years ago

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Dan Prosser | Ti co-founder


18 December 2021

Towards the end of 2014 I travelled to the Nürburgring to be scared witless by the brilliant Frank Stippler in a prototype second-generation Audi RS3. Stippler, an Audi factory racing driver at the time and now one of the quickest historic racers on the scene, sadly wasn’t able to trouble the cleanliness of my undergarments around the Nordschleife because the place was streaming wet – rivers ran across the surface and even he wouldn’t take any chances.

But the low-grip conditions did at least allow him to show off one of the important upgrades from the first-generation RS3 to that new one. Revised software for the Haldex four-wheel drive system meant it was able to send more drive rearwards than its predecessor, which Stippler was able to demonstrate as we exited the track’s handful of slower corners. If he opened the taps early enough and kept his right foot pinned, the car’s rear would swing modestly but elegantly around and we’d be drifting, just a little.

The previous RS3 would never have done that. ‘New software gives us more opportunities to send power to the rear axle,’ an engineer told me. ‘That gives the car more drift angle.’

In the wet and in the hands of a professional racing driver, perhaps, but when I drove the car for myself several months later on a dry track in the UK, the RS3 was stubbornly flat-footed. All that extra drift angle must have slipped out somewhere over the English Channel. To be clear, it isn’t that a car is necessarily bad if it doesn’t oversteer on command – that’s not how I feel at all. But I do want to be able to toy with a car’s balance in a corner and if a four-wheel drive hot hatch isn’t adjustable either on the way in or out, I’d far rather be driving a really good front-wheel drive hot hatch.

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