By: Aaron Plante, photos: H&R and George Achorn
Editor’s Note: This story originally ran in the Winter 2018 issue of the Audi Club North America quattro quarterly print magazine. If you don’t receive quattro quarterly and wish to subscribe, join the Audi Club North America HERE.
The RS 3 has finally risen on the U.S. market and as tuners take delivery, there is no sunset in sight for what can be done to Audi’s new-to-US Sport model…including H&R’s ostentatiously orange Audi exclusive RS 3 that wowed crowds recently at the often hard-to-impress SEMA Show (covered elsewhere in this issue).
To be clear, the stock RS 3 is already very appealing thanks to its 400-horsepower 5-cylinder engine and unique front-wide offset wheel configuration. This new RS-sedan is also the gateway car to the Audi Sport line-up, packing a lot of incredible performance into an attainable sedan. As you can see with H&R’s orange 4-door have taken delivery and are revealing their versions of the new-to-the-states Audi Sport model.
Of course, H&R is always good for building some of the latest and greatest German cars, particularly during SEMA season. Judging by their builds, Audi is one of their favorite brands to use when showing off their German-engineered suspension upgrades. This car, one of two Audi exclusive RS 3 builds to be featured by their team at SEMA, is the personal car to H&R America’s U.S. boss, Roland Graef.
Having debuted Stateside late last summer, the RS 3 hasn’t even been in the US market all that long. As the story goes, this particular car was the first RS 3 to be built after the long German summer break. It hit the American ground running, was fitted with a host of modifications Roland had planned, and just in time for its first showing in a city all too familiar with tequila sunrises, Las Vegas and the aforementioned SEMA Show.
The first thing anyone notices about the RS 3 is its unique color. Specifically, the hue is Audi exclusive Orange Pearl Effect V3, something Graef spied painted on an R8 V10 plus on display at the Audi Forum Neckarsulm and knew he had to have on his RS 3. Depending on the light conditions, the paint runs the spectrum from an orange hued sunrise to a golden forest at full autumnal tilt. There is no doubt that the orange pearl color is the most attention-grabbing part of the car.
Paying homage to the car’s Audi Sport racing pedigree is an incredibly subtle and yet equally giant 45-degree Champion Racing (or BTCC depending on what side of the pond) inspired four rings watermark along the rear doors and quarter panels. Done in a very subtle tint, it is a surprisingly tasteful nod to Audi Sport customer racing’s sedan-dominating days.
Given the RS 3 model’s newness to market, there simply aren’t that many modifications yet to be had for such a car. For H&R, this was always about suspension anyway, and so the car gets its lower stance thanks to H&R’s own RSS Tuner coilovers, further augmented by their Sport Sway Bars.
In the boldest of moves to seemingly thumb his nose at SEMA’s hall-after-hall of ugly aftermarket wheels, Graef threw down the OEM plus gauntlet with authority by fitting a set of four 20-inch titanium-finished 10-spoke Y-design wheels that are stock fitment for the R8 V10 plus… well, stock at the front at least. In order to maintain a square fitment and fit the RS 3 chassis, this meant going with four each of the R8 front-wheels only.
Visually, the car continues with its direction of handsome subtlety. Built from the factory with Audi’s black optics package, it’s augmented even further with carbon fiber rear spoiler and mirror covers from Audi Genuine Accessories. The look offers a refined proficiency contrasting with the more uninhibited and beguiling façade. The end result is a balance of poise and performance.
Leaving well enough alone, the RS 3 retains its stock engine output and transmission while benefiting from the suspension and wheel and tire package for more spirited drives. Similarly, the interior remains mainly stock save for WeatherTech FloorLiners for the front, rear, and trunk.
On the ground at SEMA, this Orange pearl RS 3 was intoxicating. Like the best Tequilas, it was incredibly smooth and yet packed a powerful punch. Its subtle flavor gave no ground when it came to attention, amidst cadre of highly tuned look-at-me show cars. To our tastes, that’s just as it should be.