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.
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.'
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.
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
SPECIFICATION - LITCHFIELD AUDI RS3
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)
Cost: £1,448 (Stage 2 package)