Litchfield Audi RS3: Driven

The top speed of the new Audi RS3 is 155mph, unless you tick the box on the options list that reads 'Top speed restriction increase to 174mph'. That'll add £1,600 to the invoice. If you're the sort of guy who lives in Cologne but works a banking job in Frankfurt - or you live in the UK and have an occasional need to outrun police helicopters - that probably seems quite reasonable. But for the rest of us, £,1600 is an awful lot of money to throw away just so you can, in theory, cruise through 155mph.

Resist the temptation to tick that box, then, and spend the money instead with Litchfield. Because if you do, your RS3 will no longer have a miserable 400hp, but a roaring and triumphant 507hp. The speed limiter will be flashed away entirely, too, as if it really matters.

Litchfield is the Gloucestershire-based tuning company that made its name modifying Nissan GT-Rs, but which now operates across the manufacturer spectrum. Its fully reversible stage two RS3 upgrade, which includes a remap and an uprated intercooler, liberates a massive 107hp from the turbocharged five-pot, ultimately giving the car more power than a five-year old Porsche 911 Turbo. Torque leaps up from 354lb ft to a thumping 480lb ft.

Despite producing 203hp/litre - the sort of specific output that only competition cars could achieve not so long ago - the tweaked engine is remarkably well mannered. In fact, at low speeds or on a light throttle you'd have no idea whatsoever it had been breathed upon; it feels just as refined and unflustered as the standard motor. But when you dig into the throttle the car is spectacularly quick. The engine starts to pull at 2,500rpm and as early as 3,000rpm it lights up, hauling really hard right up until the moment it crashes into the rev limiter at 7,000rpm. The standard RS3 is a very fast car, but this uprated version is in another league altogether.

There is a trace of turbo lag - just enough that you can count half a Mississippi in your head before the boost comes in - but that's to be expected. And with four-wheel drive and a rapid-fire twin-clutch 'box you can deploy all of that power anytime you want, even on a very cold, slippery road surface.

And yet, it isn't the car's newfound supercar pace that's really impressive, but the sheer affordability of the upgrade (£1,448 all in). Just imagine trying to extract 500hp out of a Subaru Impreza STi a decade ago. You'd be into uprated internals, a bigger turbo, a massively upgraded intercooler, a reinforced engine block, water injection and lord knows what else, and even then it'd be truculent and boosty and about as responsive as a sedated hippo.

Litchfield founder Iain Litchfield points to the new RS3's revised, all-aluminium engine and its larger turbo. 'It's one of the best engines we've ever modified,' he comments. 'It's really is exceptional. The OE stuff has come on so much in the last four or five years it's almost unrecognisable.'

He reckons manufacturers have had to way over specify their high performance engines in recent years because emissions regulations have become so stringent. It's the only way to make the necessary power and satisfy the suits with the clipboards at the same time. This particular RS3, for instance, runs a completely standard exhaust system, despite the vast power increase. Its catalytic converters are, in the finest Gloucestershire parlance, 'humungous', so there's really no need to upgrade them.

Of course, what means that for tuning companies like Litchfield - and ultimately for car owners like you and I - is that the latest breed of high performance motors have bundles of latent potential. All you have to do is uncork them with a remap, sling in a bigger intercooler if the temperatures are looking a tad spicy, and boom, you've got 25 per cent more power.

The latest RS3 is a huge improvement over the previous model in every other respect, too.

Yes, you'll need a BMW M2 if you really want to excite yourself, but whereas the old RS3 was frustrating, hard-riding and defiantly nose-led this new version is engaging, composed and much better balanced. You could squander £1,600 by ticking Audi's option box - but taking your RS3 to the guys in Tewkesbury and having them turn it into a proper Ingolstadt missile for less money feels a lot more imaginative.

Inspired? Search for an Audi RS3 here


Engine: 2,480cc, five cyls, turbocharged
Transmission: 7-speed twin clutch, four-wheel drive
Power (hp): 507@6,430rpm
Torque (lb ft): 484@4,070rpm
0-62mph: 3.5sec (estimated)
Top speed: 180mph (estimated)
Weight: 1,515kg (kerb)
CO2: N/A
Cost: £1,448 (Stage 2 package)



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Comments (228) Join the discussion on the forum

  • Nutty9000 20 Dec 2017

    I thought this was a 2.5, not a 2.85.

    Awesome car nonetheless.

  • gigglebug 20 Dec 2017

    Did you not bother to take a photographer with you? The photos used appear to be mostly Litchfields as used on their website.

    I assume you have actually driven the car and this isn't some sort of Oscars type shenanigans where you have guessed the appropriate response you would have to the car?

    There aren't many Audi's that I really lust after but I do like the styling and the size of the 3 saloon. The fact you can get it up to 500bhp with relatively little outlay (assuming the asking price for the car in the first place doesn't offend) is certainly intriguing to say the least. I wonder if Litchfield have any suspension mods planned for the future?

  • TVR1 20 Dec 2017

    It's very lazy journalism.

    Or is it pay to advertise? Tut tut.

    And I suspect, why this article appeared very late at night.... no use publishing crap when everyone's awake, hey?

    I suspect both.

    What about the warranty? I guess that's flown out of the window? Best not mention that, then?

    Slippery slope PH. Slippery slope.

    Edited by TVR1 on Wednesday 20th December 02:54

  • Brainpox 20 Dec 2017

    TVR1 said:
    What about the warranty? I guess that's flown out of the window? Best not mention that, then?
    Why would they need to mention that?

    A 500hp hatchback is something worth talking about. You don't need to tell me modifying my car will void its warranty rolleyes

  • cookie1600 20 Dec 2017

    Brainpox said:
    Why would they need to mention that?
    Well as mentioned in other threads about say the Mountune Fiesta, it might influence your decision at the buying stage as to whether you tick the box on the Audi paperwork and get a 172mph, factory backed car or not?

    To some, it can be a risky business chucking away the potential of having any faults fixed during a warranty period or throwing caution to the wind and paying for all repair work yourself. After the warranty, you're on your own anyway, but aren't they talking about an RS3 upgrade here on cars that are new or nearly new?

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