What is a project car without some wheels? In pondering a wheel upgrade for the Audi S3, it was important to consider a few factors. First, I wanted a really clean, classy and OEM look. Second, I knew I was going to lower the car about an inch, so needed to make sure I found a wheel that’d fit perfectly. Finally, I wanted a wheel with a titanium finish given the car’s Daytona Grey paint and additional wrap plans for the car. Having these three criteria, the search began.
When things are meant to be, they just happen. After seeing the Audi RS 5 Sport edition, I absolutely loved the 20-inch 5-V spoke wheels it wore. Essentially, this is the same design wheel that launched with the current-generation Audi RS 4 Avant in Europe. The two tone finish between the spokes and how it shows off the calipers is exactly what I was looking for.
The only problem was that I knew I’d need to find it in 19×8 or 19×8.5, which is both a different diameter than the RS 5, a different center bore and also a different offset. Interestingly, Audi does offer the same wheel design on the S3 in Europe and I was eventually able to figure out a way to get a set directly from Germany.
Installed on the S3 in proper OE fitment, these wheels are distinctly more aggressive than the factory five-spoke wheels. The titanium finish is matte, so it flowed really well too. They’ve also proven tough, dealing with serious Northern Virginia winter potholes without even a minor bend.
The only thing I’d recommend is if you want to get spacers and these wheels is that you may be better off getting the 19×8.5 set from the S4 (part of the black optics package from MY2015). You could then bump up tread width a little more too – especially if you’re planning to tune it. Even still, it’s worth noting that the S4 has a larger center bore than the S3 so be aware that you’ll need to play with that fitment as well.
While most people living in the DC metro area would consider the snow one of the disadvantages, I actually think it’s one of the perks. I guess that’s what you think when you have quattro. There’s only one thing that can make quattro better in the snow – snow tires.
When comparing tires, the choice was between these three top performers: Michelin Pilot Pilot Alpin 4, Pirelli Sottozero Serie II and the Bridgestone Blizzak LM-32’s. After reading reviews, one thing stood out – the Michelin’s had great dry traction. While this wasn’t imperative or the sole deciding factor, given it only snows a few inches every few weeks (inconsistent to say the least), dry traction was very important to me. In the end, I followed the lead of several other Fourtitude project car series and went with Michelin.
Given the DC area gets healthy mix of snow, ice, sleet, slush and freezing rain, having a tire that could rip through it all was imperative. And, after seeing the tread pattern on these Michelins – I was beyond stoked for our first snow. While most people were hoping we wouldn’t get hit with any snow – I couldn’t wait.
About a week after having the tires installed, my wait was over when it finally snowed. I had a chance to put the tires through the paces and see how well they actually performed outside the dry pavement, and all I can say is “HOLY CRAP!”
These tires are the best winter tire setup I’ve run hands down. The dry traction was phenomenal. I already had high expectations given the Pilot name and the reported dry weather advantages of the tire, but I was still shocked at how well they performed. Coming from the Continental ContiSportContact summer tires, it was incredible how little difference there was.
In wet weather they never once hydroplaned – which I experience on multiple occasions with other performance winter tires in the past. In light snow they drove as if there was nothing on the road. It tore through more than four inches of snow. Granted the quattro all-wheel drive was also a huge factor in the traction, but the pairing of the two was remarkable how well it all performed. In deeper snow of more than six inches, there was a little slip, but then again that was on purpose with a healthy dose of throttle.
I was lucky enough to find an untouched parking lot so, needless to say, I did a few runs from a standstill just to see how they’d perform under some aggressive driving. What I found is that they grip as much as a tire can and give you the confidence to drive in all conditions.
If you own an Audi and live in a place that receives snow – make the investment in a solid set of winter tires, and of course I’d recomend the Michelin PA4’s. You won’t regret it and you’ll have peace of mind every time you have to go out in horrible conditions. Plus, the looks you get as you pass by cars are priceless.