July 4, 2022

The Golf R may need develop into the default for tunable, tractable high-performance each day drivers, however Phil Griffiths’s bagged Audi S3 present machine makes an excellent case for the options. 

Function from Efficiency VW journal. Phrases: Alex Grant. Pictures: Mark Rodway.

When it launched in 2002, Volkswagen’s first R-badged Golf was simply as a lot of a step into the unknown because the Mk1 GTI had been 30 years beforehand. The R32 had its roots in that acquainted sizzling hatch all-round functionality however let its wilder aspect run riot and located an viewers a lot larger than Wolfsburg ever imagined throughout growth. At present, one in ten UK-bound Golfs is an R, and that badge has featured on greater than 250,000 offered worldwide since these first Mk4s. Audi by no means fairly had the identical centre-of-spotlight enchantment with the S3, regardless of a three-year head begin, but it surely additionally hasn’t missed out on the perks of that reputation.

“It looks as if everyone seems to be beginning to neglect about these,” shrugs Phil Griffiths, as we ask what lured him in direction of the S3. “I had plans to construct a quick street automobile that I might use on observe and my sights had been set on a Mk6 Golf R, however they’re actually wanted, and the costs are loopy. That might have meant I couldn’t do what I wished to do with it. The Audi S3 has the identical working gear, however a less expensive price ticket as a result of it doesn’t get all of the hype. It’s a no brainer.”

There’s a deep-rooted want for that efficiency right here. Phil was racing in motocross occasions whereas he was in major college, then grew up constructing roadgoing motorbikes along with his dad. However it was the slow-burning E30 3 Sequence challenge occurring within the background that left the lasting affect. Chipping away on the restoration sparked a curiosity for all issues mechanical, sowing the seeds not solely of his future automobile possession, however his profession too. The S3 is bankrolled by a day job working as {an electrical} technician at Rolls-Royce’s jet engine facility in Bristol, immersed within the slicing fringe of next-gen plane tech.

“I’ve all the time been somebody who enjoys fixing damaged shit, so this job has its perks,” he smiles. “, I’ve all the time wished to get my palms caught in and restore and construct my very own automobile. However, not having some huge cash rising up, I couldn’t see myself committing to one thing I couldn’t get pleasure from, which is why I’ve largely gone for contemporary vehicles. You get extra in your cash, they usually’re extra dependable, in any other case I’d have carried on with the basic automobile route.”

Bagged Audi S3

Nonetheless, that method hasn’t all the time spared him the trouble. New driver insurance coverage hobbled Phil’s efficiency ambitions, touchdown him with a tardy 1.6-litre Mk4 Golf and a gearbox that wasn’t as much as withstanding the calls for of his heavy proper foot. The PD130 Fabia vRS that adopted was a transfer in the proper path, however his present love of the noise and response of turbocharged engines stems from sizzling Vauxhalls as an alternative; a Corsa and Astra VXR, each united by one necessary shortfall.

“My buddy Rob purchased a pre-facelift 8P S3 and, being four-wheel drive, he’d smoke the VXRs off the lights as a result of I’d simply be spinning up,” he tells us. “That’s what opened my eyes to four-wheel drive, however as an alternative I needed to promote the VXR to fund a home after I relocated to Bristol. So, I ended up utilizing a diesel A4 as a each day automobile for about two years, after which shopping for a Mk6 Golf GTI, which was superior however nonetheless used to wheelspin lots. A Mk6 R would have been the plain improve, however I discovered I might get a facelift 8P S3 as an alternative. It simply made sense.”

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Bagged Audi S3

This additionally supplied an opportunity to be choosy; a four-or-five-month hunt for the proper automobile earlier than this dash blue Black Version got here up as a categorised advert in Manchester. It had been the earlier proprietor’s weekend toy for six years and was 100% manufacturing unit spec – which lasted 4 weeks in Phil’s palms earlier than it was again in Manchester, this time calling in on Superior GTI. The S3 had flown just below the radar, however that CDL-code 2.0-litre TFSI engine undoubtedly hasn’t. It’s broadly the identical unit you’ll discover in a Golf or Scirocco R, with no scarcity of the way to wring out some extra efficiency.

The powertrain on this automobile is constructed round APR Stage Two+ software program and the matching transmission map, which gives quicker shifts and launch management whereas conserving the manufacturing unit safeties in place. There’s a race-spec front-mount intercooler behind the grille, the restrictive flaps within the inlet manifold have been taken out to enhance airflow, and the map requires a higher-pressure gas system to fulfill its urge for food for tremendous unleaded. With a Trackslag and non-resonated Milltek exhaust to eliminate the by-products, the Audi S3’s 390hp and 402lb/ft are greater than sufficient to maintain the Haldex system busy. Have traction, will play.

Phil admits getting carried away. “Truthfully, it was a rookie mistake going straight to Stage Two+ as an alternative of having fun with it in intervals,” he explains. “However the distinction was phenomenal, with simply shy of 400hp and all tied along with the gearbox software program. It screams by way of each gear, identical to my two-strokes would, again within the day.”

Even so, he shortly discovered room for enhancements. Simply weeks out of the workshop and, carving by way of the rock-lined street of Cheddar Gorge for a automobile present, he overheard two guys shocked by how quiet the S3 was contemplating the efficiency on faucet. Inside 24 hours, he’d systematically scrapped something robbing the Audi of a full-throated soundtrack and given it a brand new trademark within the course of. The plate, he says, was what most of his mates responded with when he’d pull up exterior.

Bagged Audi S3

In fact, simple wins on the facility entrance unravelled the standard listing of different monetary commitments. The S3 had develop into quick sufficient to monster the high-speed circuit at Fort Combe, however the additional energy was ruthlessly highlighting the weakest elements. Inventory suspension had already made means for Bilstein B16 coilovers with thicker H&R anti-roll bars and a full set of polyurethane bushes. Nonetheless, any supercar-baiting potential was being reined in by an unnerving dose of brake fade – an issue solved by packing a Vagbremtenic AP Racing large brake package behind the spokes of its light-weight BBS CH-R wheels.

“It might be a bit intimidating on observe – that is the quickest automobile I’ve owned and, by tuning it, I really feel like you have to preserve up to the mark, otherwise you’ll begin damaging stuff. So, when it began misfiring on the second observe day, I shit my pants. I believed it might be one thing dangerous. It was only a little bit of burn on the tip of the plugs, so I modified them to iridium, and it was high quality after that. In any other case, it hasn’t missed a beat.”

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Bagged Audi S3

Modifications had come shortly sufficient to propel the S3 from a inventory weekend automobile to a spiralling high-performance each day driver inside a 12 months, however Phil had no plans to decelerate. Nonetheless an everyday at exhibits, he stumbled throughout Stuart Davis’s home-built 8P S3 at Final Stance – an aired-out, dash blue five-door, with Bentley leather-based and a stance no coilovers might ship. Stopped in his tracks, it was the seed of a brand new set of concepts – starting with the pressing want for much less floor clearance.

This might be a troublesome steadiness to strike. Eager to maintain up the fast-road credentials, Phil booked the Audi S3 into Airtek Automotive and specced an air journey package that wouldn’t compromise any future observe classes. The {hardware} is an identical to a Golf R, together with Air Carry Efficiency Sequence peak and camber-adjustable struts, with Bilstein shocks and V3 administration providing pre-set drops tailor-made to the perfect and worst of South-west England’s street community. Proof that you simply don’t all the time have to decide on between present and go.

“It’s nonetheless actually arrange for observe use, however I solely did the 2 observe days earlier than I put the air journey on and it hasn’t been again since,” says Phil. “Regardless of the rumours, air journey holds up properly, even with simply shy of 400hp. Properly, aside from the time the nearside entrance bag rotated 180 levels and compelled the chief line into my interior rim and tyre, making the cabin odor like a fish market. It’s as a result of every little thing is polybushed, which triggered an excessive amount of vibration. One grubscrew and aerospace Loctite later… job’s an excellent ‘un.”

Visually, the bagged Audi S3 additionally had the benefit of the Audi components bin, and a few fascinating OEM+ upgrades to select from. Phil tracked down a pair of RS3 wingback Recaros in the identical black leather-based because the under-bolstered manufacturing unit S3 seats, then swapped out every bit of dashboard trim for carbon fibre, matched to the spokes of its RS6 steering wheel. The APR transmission map exhibits a bit additional helpful info within the instrument cluster, whereas the vent-mounted increase gauge is positioned for fast glances with out trying like a garish afterthought in opposition to Audi’s muted cabin design.

Not that the matching trim counts for a lot, provided that the rear bench was retired as a part of the identical course of. Pop open the rear doorways and there’s a considerable half-cage colour-matched to the RS3 seatbacks, defending the centrally-mounted air tank and related {hardware} simply in case it heads out on observe once more. It’s a touch of GTI Clubsport inspiration, however very a lot dwelling grown.

Bagged Audi S3

“I actually appreciated the considered doing the inside myself,” Phil continues. “So, I gave myself the goal of doing a full boot construct and located a few YouTube tutorials exhibiting upholster. It labored an absolute dream. I did all of the mockups in cardboard in my mate’s tatty bike shed, then went to Jewsons for MDF, Amazon for the material and foam, Tesco for Stella and had all of it finished in a heavy weekend. Present automobile… let’s go!”

Except for the low-slung touring automobile stance, there’s not a lot that provides the sport away. The RS3 honeycomb grille slots neatly into the S3 nostril, the spoiler and rear bumper had been transferred from the identical automobile, whereas the aspect skirts and splitter are from Maxton Designs. It’s a troublesome look, and an evolution stalled barely by not following the gang.


“I’ve all the time cherished carbon fibre – we’ve acquired a piece at work referred to as the Composite Know-how Facility, and it’s the place they do the fan instances for the TP400 engine on the Airbus, some constituted of Kevlar, some out of carbon fibre. It’s an incredible materials, and I’d all the time wished it on my automobile. Primarily for aesthetics, but it surely has its perks being light-weight,” he explains.

“Sadly, the composites market, for these vehicles, actually doesn’t exist in any respect. There are a great deal of stuff for the Mk6 GTI and R – bonnets, wings, something – however for the A3 it’s inconceivable within the UK until you get it customized made. I’ve been fortunate as I’ve discovered an organization which has taken mine on to begin creating and testing components, so I’ve acquired a bonnet, wings, and entrance bumper on the best way.”

Within the meantime, having scaled again on the observe day plans, the bagged Audi S3 is continuous to evolve. Since our shoot, the CH-Rs have made means for a set of MB Design LV1s, and the visible affect alongside that sidewall-tucking stance has received it inside areas at exhibits. It’s an all-rounder so easy that it’s left room for previous habits to creep in within the background – just like the bikes he grew up with, there’s a slow-burner competing for consideration.

“I’ve had my very own ’89 BMW E30 for a few years now, my dream automobile. It’s an absolute rust machine however I’m simply stepping into the restoration with hopes of finishing it within the subsequent three-ish years. It’s a good distance off, however I’ve acquired the necessary components sorted – the very first thing I purchased for it was the reg plate: E30 WTF,” he tells us, laughing.

Bagged Audi S3

It’s a sizeable benefit for not taking the best route. With a leg-up from the Golf R’s reputation, Phil’s bagged Audi S3 has all of the acquainted sizzling hatch capabilities however with a fair wilder wild aspect than Audi packed into the RS3. And all with out taking a step into the unknown.

Tech Spec: Bagged Audi S3


1984cc four-cylinder turbocharged petrol (CDL), APR Stage 2+ with transmission management unit (TCU) improve, ITG induction package, APR race front-mount intercooler, Milltek 3in turbo-back exhaust (non-resonated), Trackslag 3.5in downpipe, APR runner flap delete, Loba Motorsport excessive stress gas pump, RS4 gas return valve, R8 coil packs, iridium plugs, polyurethane engine and gearbox mounts


Air Carry V2 administration, Air Carry Efficiency Sequence struts, Bilstein shocks, H&R 24mm (entrance) and 26mm (rear) anti-roll bars, polyurethane wishbone and subframe mounts, AP Racing four-piston calipers, Vagbremtechnic 340mm (entrance) and 335mm (rear) grooved discs all spherical, 19×8.5 ET49 BBS CH-R wheels, 225/35 Falken FK510 tyres


RS3 grille, RS3 spoiler, RS3 rear bumper, Maxton Design splitter, sideskirts and spoiler, customized diffuser, tinted home windows, all badges eliminated


Customized RS3 ‘wingback’ Recaro seats, customized C7 RS6 steering wheel, carbon centre console seize handles, carbon fibre dashboard trim and finish caps, customized boot construct and rear seat delete, customized roll cage (painted white), NewSouth Efficiency increase gauge