I find it a little strange I still haven't seen a GTI yet, especially since its Bavarian cousin, the Audi A3, seems to be rapidly multiplying on Southern California's mean streets with the fervor of an automotive rabbit colony. I've seen everyone from college kids to middle-aged professionals driving them. So I guess for now this will have to be the resident hot hatch.
For a long time, our affable Canadian neighbors have boasted an uncanny aptitude for European vehicle tuning; it seems to be integrated somehow into their DNA. In certain circles, especially VW/Audi circles, they're actually pretty famous for it. This RPI Equipped A3 2.0T is only the latest machine to make its way down to us from the land of maple leaves, hockey and high-octane lager beer.
RPI, as you may know, is a British Columbia-based firm that specializes in Audi and Volkswagen vehicles, along with a handful of BMW applications. (They also maintain a warehouse just across the border in Blaine, Wash.; you could almost hit it with a rock thrown from the Richmond, B.C., headquarters.) The magazine and RPI have enjoyed a healthy symbiotic relationship and we've consistently enjoyed and admired the many project cars they've turned out in the twenty or so years they've been in business.
While some other RPI Equipped project cars have left us slack-jawed, breathless and slightly moist in the nether-regions, this A3 project has been kept pretty straightforward and relatively benign. To this end, the average Joe would be able to replicate what they've done fairly easily without going insane or breaking his car or the bank. The project was conceived and directed by RPI's Warren Goodman, managed by RPI's Hubert Veerman and executed by head tech Tom Janovsky. Engine mods have been kept fairly restrained. An RPI Equipped exhaust system replaces the factory tract from the catalytic converter back. It measures a consistent 2.5-inch diameter and it's constructed from polished stainless steel. It's a shame you have to hang it underneath your car. For eye candy in this area the polished 3-inch twin tips will have to suffice. The car is also equipped with an RPI downpipe which by itself was good for a claimed 15 hp.
To take full advantage of the 2.0T powerplant's massive potential, the ECU has been tweaked with APR software optimized for 93-octane gasoline. APR's website claims gains of around 52 hp and 100 lb-ft of torque on top of the respective factory figures of 200 and 207. Additionally, the software has been extensively dyno-tuned to place the bulk of this massive torque low in the rpm range. Keeping in mind the stock 2.0T will burn its tires easily through the first couple gears... well, you can probably imagine. Zoomy.
Like a couple other A3s we know, this one wears a set of the truly gorgeous Neuspeed RS10 forged wheels. They are finished in an understated matte black finish and shod with Yokohama Parada Spec 2 rubber. The wheels' open design and dark finish effectively showcase the bright new brake assemblies modified with RPI-spec Wilwood hardware. Front and rear both received slotted and cross-drilled rotors. The front discs measure 13 inches, and the front calipers were replaced with forged four-piston units painted racy red and embossed with an RPI logo.
New H&R coilovers assist in dropping the chassis a full two inches over the 19-inch wheels. The spring and damper combination has been complemented with front and rear anti-roll bars, 28mm front and 22mm rear, also by H&R. These are two-way adjustable, and paired with the height-adjustable coilovers would allow the user to dial in his handling from a fairly wide range of handling characteristics.
The remainder of RPI's modifications were extended to the car's cosmetics. These include selected Rieger bits like the front bumper spoiler extension and splitter, side skirts and rear valence. The nose was modified further using a Caractre grille insert which deletes the quad-ring Audi badge. Last, the hood and side mirrors were painted black to interface visually with the Open Sky sunroof. We've never gotten very excited over white cars, but the black treatments on the hood and wheels really make things work on this particular white A3. Inside, red Alcantara has been applied to the seats and door panel inserts, part of Sparco's custom seat stitching program.
The extent of modifications is not entirely over the top, and the overall scheme is very clean and well executed. It's clear that this isn't just another parts hanger; it's been carefully conceived as a complete package. And it works. The guys actually drove the car from British Columbia to attend last year's SEMA convention in Las Vegas-and of course back again, a distance of about 2,800 miles. At one point they had to traverse a snow-covered mountain pass (keep in mind that this was in November), with a full body kit and summer tires, through a foot or more of freshly fallen snow. According to RPI's Goodman, all they needed to make it happen was a few hundred yards of masking tape and a snow-plowing big rig to settle in behind. Now that's real-world performance.