From rugby to soccer, and even cricket, Mount Smart Stadium in Auckland has been and is an ideal venue for many great sporting events, (and big day’s out). Well it can now add Audi Sport to its list of special occasions. Hosted by Lilyworld (Penrose’s newest Garden Bar, Cafe & Event venue), Audi New Zealand introduced us to their new compact RS 3 performance Sportback by letting us experience its latest Quattro-evolved ‘Torque Splitter’ on a wet, go-kart sized track.
The event was to actually officially launch of the new Audi RS 3 Sportback, a vehicle that’s the fist rung in the Audi RS ladder – a ladder that NZ has climbed to the top of the world on (we’re #1 in % RS sales).
For this latest model, the RS 3 Sportback has become even more extroverted. It’s 25mm lower than the A3, and in an eyebrow raising fashion (thanks to a wider front diff) is 55mm wider in the front as compared to the rear. Aside from the roof and doors, every single body panel differs from the A3 and for the geeks amongst us, the LED lights flash up RS 3 and a chequered flag on start up.
What lies under the bonnet differs too, with its 5-cylinder engine offering up 294kW and 500Nm meaning it will race from 0-100km/h in 3.8 seconds. One thing remains untouched and that’s its 1,2,4,5,3 firing order which gives the RS 3 a wonderful throaty note.
As outlined before, we weren’t there to fawn over the new RS 3’s good looks, we were there to check out its ‘new’ torque splitter.
I say new but in fact this exceptionally clever unit is an evolution, essentially, all the tweaks and improvements from the Torsen diff of the 80’s, through crown gear diff, the multi-plate clutches, the Drive Select, the ultra technology, the wheel selective torque vectoring and lately the sports diff (phew) has led to this.
In simple terms, the RS Torque Splitter distributes drive torque between the rear wheels in a fully variable manner and the new Audi RS 3 is their first vehicle to feature it.
The RS Torque Splitter makes active, fully variable torque vectoring between the rear wheels possible. Unlike the rear axle differential and the previous multiple disc clutch package on the rear axle, the torque splitter uses one electronically controlled multiple disc clutch each on the respective drive shaft.
During dynamic driving (is there any other kind), the torque splitter increases the drive torque to the outer rear wheel with the higher wheel load, which significantly reduces the tendency to understeer. In left-hand curves, it transmits the torque to the right rear wheel, in right-hand curves to the left rear wheel, and when driving straight ahead to both wheels. This results in optimal stability and maximum agility – especially when cornering at high speeds.
This all sounds well and good, however, Audi New Zealand, General Manager, Dean Sheed told us “the easiest way for people [including journalists] to understand the difference the torque splitter makes is to experience it in action.”
Bring on the all new Lilyworld drift track at Mount Smart.
The track was compact and soaking wet and under the expert tuition of the team at Downforce we attacked the track in various RS modes.
Firstly dynamic mode to get to know the track. In all there were only four tight turns and we were encouraged to try to get the rear end to lose traction and spin, an objective that in dynamic mode was virtually impossible. Make now mistake, it’s a sporty ride, but you feel well in control and the RS 3 basically just goes around the bend.
RS Performance which is specially designed for the racetrack. The RS 3 becomes more rampant, the idle speed has been increased when compared with dynamic and the throttle response is even more direct. The car feels very neutral in the corners and you really have to push to get the rear to step out.
Then came RS Torque Rear mode, which enables controlled drifts and sporty driving with lateral dynamics. It is specially designed for closed roads. Audi says ‘the highly rear-heavy distribution of the engine power leads to oversteering behaviour, with up to 100 percent of the drive torque directed to the rear ending up at the wheel on the outside of the curve – up to a maximum of 1,750 newton metres.’ This is the fun mode, even with traction control still on.
Each of the track’s four corners became an exercise of precision. Turn in first, stamp down hard on the accelerator, then release the moment the tail kicks out. You really get to feel what the car is doing and understand what the torque splitter is up to – and yet, it just feels so easy, I was a drifting god.
Last but not least, RS Torque Rear on and traction off. I have to say this was my fave mode of the day. It’s you and the RS 3 in drifting heaven. It’s the same as above but too much throttle and you are doing pirouettes (for the record I didn’t – but came very close). The RS 3 danced between the corners and the throaty 5-cylinder mixed with tyre squeal was the soundtrack of the day – more of this please.
Adding the new torque splitter has increased the RS 3’s overall weight by 50kgs, but it’s all down low and so, so worth it. Audi may be moving to all-electric vehicles pretty soon and this (aside from possibly a facelift) may be the last petrol RS 3, if so it’s going out all guns a blazin’.
The Audi RS 3 Sportback is available now at New Zealand Audi authorised dealerships Nationwide with a MRP of around $112,500 – oh and Audi NZ will happily grab your old RS 3 if you have one.