MTM Audi RS3 R – Sport and Sharp
How to turn the RS3 Sportback into an invisible supercar.
Sharing Audi’s multiple award winning five-cylinder engine with the TTRS, the original RS3 Sportback (A5/8P) of 2011 was a wolf in sheep’s clothing that offered 340hp, a stirring soundtrack and quattro all-weather grip, neatly wrapped in a practical and fairly innocuous looking package.
The second generation RS3 Sportback (MQB/8V) was launched in 2015, sharing the latest TT’s MQB platform and an uprated, more compact version of Audi’s (EA855) 2.5 TFSI motor packing 367hp and 465Nm of torque.
MTM has a huge amount of experience tuning this powerful and charismatic motor, and has gone as far as fitting their 500hp version into a VW T5 Bus! It was thus a relatively rapid process to tweak the second generation RS3 soon after its arrival.
However, it was not just a matter of uprating engine power as it turned out the handling of the latest RS3 was not as predictable as it could be, especially when driven on a track with big elevation changes like Bilster Berg, which seems to unsettle its front-to-rear axle power shifting strategy.
MTM solved both issues in one fell swoop with their 502hp RS3 R, which I had the chance to test on fast cross-country roads as well as flat out down the local autobahn. But first the engine tuning, where it has to be pointed out the extra 135hp is not easily won, and is far beyond the scope of ECU remapping.
With output beyond about 450hp stymied by the gas flow limit of the factory turbocharger, the centre of the MTM ‘R’ conversion is a bespoke turbocharger with a larger turbine, impeller and scroll housing, matched to a larger downpipe to get the burnt gases out as fast as possible. This is matched by a more efficient intercooler system that allows higher boost pressure to be used.
The factory catalytic converter is re-used, but the rest of the exhaust is replaced by MTM’s stainless steel sports exhaust that aids the mission to reduce backpressure. The rear silencer features a sound valve control, and the two oval chrome outlets can also be had with a black ceramic coating.
The final piece in the tuning puzzle is an ECU with appropriately remapped fuel, ignition and boost curves optimised for the new hardware.
Like all the serious tuners, MTM has a state-of-the-art chassis dyno, but company founded, Roland Mayer, went one critical step further when he built his test facility. A former engineer from Audi’s own development department, Roland was well aware of how important it is to maintain a high volume of temperature controlled cold intake air to an engine to achieve both the best and easily repeatable results.
He therefore built a massive cooling tower system that rams cold air at the engine air intakes when a car is on the rolling road, and this closed cell facility makes for consistent and accurate test numbers even when it is boiling hot in summer outside.
At the end of its development programme, the MTM RS3 R showed a rousing 502hp at 6,600rpm, with 650Nm of torque between 2,250 and 5,750rpm. MTM say that this conversion is not applicable to cars with Active Cruise Control, so be careful how you spec your extras if you want a 502hp motor.
Thanks to the quattro 4WD system, every single one of those 502 horses can be used to fling the car from a standstill to 100km/h in 3.6 sec (4.3 sec standard), which is deep in supercar territory. The 200km/h mark comes up in 13.1 sec, which is just about rapid enough to frighten big brother RS6, which shares its 0-100km/h time, and is barely 0.6 sec faster to 200km/h. Top speed is on the far side of 280km/h, but just how far depends on the homologated speed of the tyres you choose.
To keep the RS3 R firmly planted on terra firma, MTM fit their coil-over suspension kit, which was adjusted for a 30mm drop on this test car. Together with 19-inch MTM Nardo alloy wheels, the suspension and wheel/tyre upgrades take the handling and grip to the next level.
Now here’s a trick. Being derived from a platform that fundamentally starts life as a front-wheel-drive, four-cylinder platform, the RS3 is inherently nose heavy. In quattro form with the transversely mounted iron block five-pot motor this 1,520kg super hot hatch has a 59/41% front/rear weight distribution, which puts it firmly in nose heavy territory.
This is why while the stock footwear is 235/35ZR19 rubber on 8.0J x 19-inch alloys all round, Audi also offers keener drivers the option of specifying wider 8.5J x 19-inch front wheels with 255/30ZR19 tyres.
MTM pick up this wider front wheel recipe and run with it, using 9.5J and 8.5J x 19-inch Nardo Edition alloy wheels, shod with 265/30ZR19 and 235/35ZR19 Michelins front and rear respectively. These absolutely squeeze all the daylight out of the RS3’s big arches, while huge 380 x 34mm front brake discs look after the stopping arrangements very effectively.