It’s no secret that we’re big fans of the new Audi S3 sedan. The high-output 2.0TFSI engine, while not exactly a spiritual successor to the B5 S4’s 2.7 T, can easily keep drivers entertained with nearly 300hp on tap and a 0-60mph sprint of less than 5 seconds straight off the showroom floor. As an added bonus, the third-generation EA 888 has proven itself to respond extremely well to modification, meaning that firms like APR will be devoting a great deal of time and effort to the platform.
Recently we visited APR at their Opelika, Alabama headquarters in order to drive a Mk7 Volkswagen Golf R equipped with Stage I software, as well as an APR Intake, APR Boost Tap, vent-mounted APR Boost Gauge, and prototype APR wheels and a 6-piston big brake kit. Yes, you read that right. We drove a Volkswagen Golf R. The key part of this story though is the drivetrain, as the Volkswagen Golf R shares the same variant of the 2.0 TFSI engine and 6-speed S-tronic (DSG) transmission, meaning the performance experience would be very similar to their Audi S3 development car that you see here but unfortunately unavailable during our visit.
For about $800 and about an hour of your time, APR claims that their software will add 74 hp and 98 ft-lbs of torque when used with 93 octane fuel to your Audi S3. More impressively, the firm measured a new 0-60 time of just 3.8 seconds (nearly a second off the stock time and just as quick as the new Corvette) and an improvement of nearly ten seconds when going from 0-140mph. However, numbers only tell so much of the story. Sliding behind the wheel is the only way to truly experience it.
It’s hard to place an exact time on when you first grasp how special this S3 can be with just a simple software upgrade. Perhaps it’s the first time that you observe the boost gauge climb past an indicated 21psi. Or maybe it’s in watching the digital speedometer readout jump by multiples of seven on the way to 60mph, and five until it’s no longer safe to keep tabs. The strength of longitudinal g forces pushing occupants firmly into their seats under hard acceleration would also be an acceptable answer.
On the street the APR-tuned car retains all the manners of a stock example, happily plodding along with the posted limits in mind. When it’s time to spice things up a bit, depress the right pedal and power will come on strong around 2500rpm, building steadily to just over 5000rpm- just like it does from the factory. Due to this mirrored yet enhanced power curve, keeping the turbo spooled is not entirely necessary, although it is still quite rewarding.
And it’s not just the OEM-style drivability that will be appealing to many potential customers. APR claims that gains to be had from an aftermarket cat-back exhaust are minimal, meaning that a nearly 400hp S3 that still flies under the radar is entirely possible. We were told that there is room to improve on the stock downpipe, but based on a new Stage III Volkswagen GTI that we also drove with a prototype unit mated to a stock exhaust (more on that later), volume will still be kept to an extremely tolerable level.
There is still some room for improvement on APR’s S3 though. Like all S3s and TT models before it, tuned examples could benefit from more aggressive Haldex programming. The stock software in the Golf R seemed too eager to push a disproportionate amount of this newfound power to the front wheels while neglecting the rears, making the car feel a bit timid on corner exit. Luckily, the aftermarket always seems to come up with a fix, solving one the only faults we have with the car upon release. That said, 99% of the time you’d be hard pressed to find fault with where power is being sent.
As with all APR Software files, programs are available for 91 octane, 93 octane and 100 octane race fuel. Each program comes with its own power level, with 91 coming in at just 334hp, and 100 octane upping power levels to 360hp. While not available just yet, we’re told that APR is working on a higher output Stage II file as well for those who simply need more. If our time with APR’s Stage I is any indication of things to come, then their upcoming Stage II file should be an absolute riot.
APR’s Stage I S3 file can be had for $799 plus installation, and is currently available at APR Dealers around the world.