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Revo Audi S3 review – has 370bhp ruined the Audi’s refined character?

VW Group tuning specialists, Revo, have turned the S3 into more of a drivers’ car

Evo rating
Price
from £1,498
  • Fantastic pace and increased driver involvement
  • Engine still disappointing at its top end

For 16 years Revo has been tuning Volkswagen Group cars, starting out with just ECU upgrades before expanding into hardware and performance parts for a greater range of cars. It’s safe to say that, with this tuned Audi S3, we’re well within in Revo’s comfort zone.

But, that doesn’t mean Revo can relax; when we tested a Ford Focus RS equipped with Revo’s 434bhp Performance Pack we were impressed with the way the upgrades magnified the essence of the raucous RS while also giving it more poke (an extra 89bhp and 21lb ft to be precise). That’s with Blue Oval cars being relatively new territory for the Northamptonshire-based tuner, so Revo’s S3 should be even more remarkable.

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> Read our review of Revo's tuned Ford Focus RS

Engine and transmission

Today it’s the firm’s intention to offer complete tuning packages for its core cars – as we saw with the Focus. These enable it to guarantee the promised power gains and ensure reliability across its worldwide network of dealers. 

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However, Performance Packs for models based on the VW Group’s MQB platform won’t be released until later this year, so for now this test car is equipped with just the company’s Carbon Series air intake (£779) and Stage 1 ECU software (£719). Together they take the S3’s peak power figure from 306 to 370bhp and lift torque from 295 to 360lb ft. It may not have the full Performance Pack, but these increases of more than 20 per cent are still significant. For reference, Audi’s own RS3, which has five cylinders to the S3’s four, has just 24bhp more – and 6lb ft less.

Revo has also delved into the control unit of the DSG gearbox to change its characteristics, altering the automatic shift points to suit the more powerful engine and removing the kick-down feature when manual mode is selected. Although Revo has been offering DSG tuning for a while, its software for the new seven-speed wet-clutch transmission in the most recent S3 is still in the development stage.

Technical highlights

Although most of Revo’s attention has been focused on the engine and gearbox, the rest of the car hasn’t been forgotten. This test car is fitted with the firm’s own 19-inch cast alloy wheels, finished in matt bronze (£1199). Not only are they lighter than the factory S3 wheels, they are also designed to accommodate Revo’s big brake kit. Also fitted here is an Eibach Pro spring set.

What’s it like to drive?

The EA888 four-cylinder turbocharged engine found in most MQB hot hatches, S3 included, is a deeply impressive powerplant, being both smooth and powerful, but it does lack a little character and drama. Revo’s changes go some way to rectify its tepid nature. Between 4000 and 5000rpm the engine is ballistic, the punch of acceleration within that window nothing short of aggressive. However, much like the standard unit, as you break into the last portion of the available revs the potency tails off slightly. It’s not totally pointless revving the engine to its red line, but you won’t find that same addictive hit of acceleration above 5000rpm as you get just below it. So instead you knock the gear selector to the left and shuffle up and down through the gears yourself, searching for your next fix of 4500rpm shove.

Because switching to manual mode soon becomes second nature, the changes Revo makes to the transmission’s automatic shift points do seem a bit pointless. The removal of the kick-down is very welcome, though, as it eliminates one of the most frustrating things about the S3 while also handing more control to the driver. The ’box still automatically changes up when the engine hits the red line, but with the motor’s sweet spot being 1000rpm lower down, this is rarely irritating.

The extra power and torque have the potential to ruin the S3’s ace card of incredible all-weather, all-surface traction, but the Audi more than copes with the added grunt. On cold and wet tarmac only a few flickers of the traction control light appear when accelerating hard from a standstill or low speeds, but the rest of the time the S3 demonstrates typical locked-down quattro-style grip. Such sure-footedness when accelerating means corner exits remain this car’s forte, and just like the standard S3, it turns in sharply and decisively, with a slight degree of off-throttle adjustability helping you to rotate the car to the right angle to get on the power as early as you dare and make the most of all that thrust.

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With oodles of grip still, but with more savage acceleration, the Revo modifications take advantage of the S3’s strengths and, as with that modified Focus RS, by and large exaggerate the car’s inherent character – in this case a well-polished one. And with its DSG remap, Revo has shifted the balance of control away from the car and towards the driver, enabling you to get even more enjoyment from the S3 along your favourite road.

Price and rivals

For only £1498, Revo can turn the S3 into a car that can rival Audi’s own RS3. As mentioned before this car might be down on power, but all-in a 370bhp S3 Sportback is still £7452 cheaper than a new RS3.

> Find out what Audi's five-cylinder hot hatch is like to drive

The same upgrades to this Audi S3 can also be made to the mechanically similar, but cheaper Volkswagen Golf R. Out of the box, VW’s four-wheel drive hot hatch is more engaging and more natural than the standard S3, with Revo’s upgrades it becomes a very fast, very exciting car at a very reasonable cost.

If they all sound too sensible – and what you’re looking for is a wild hot hatch with over 400bhp and an all-wheel drive system that’s as much about making the car feel lively as it is about adding traction – then a Ford Focus RS with Revo’s 433bhp Performance Pack will be more to your tastes. 

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