Fast Audis aplenty on the Audi Sport Tour

Fast Audis aplenty on the Audi Sport Tour

Audi Sport TourStory and photos by Dan Heyman

The Audi Sport Tour recently swept through Vancouver, allowing both potential customers and those willing to spend a couple of bucks for a day of fun the chance to sample some of the most hardcore road cars Audi makes.

And we were lucky enough to go be invited along for the ride.

Starting at Vancouver’s OpenRoad Audi dealership, we were given the keys to the R8, R8 Spider, RS7, TT RS and RS3 to take on roads throughout the heart of Vancouver. There were predetermined routes, but we were given a surprising amount of rope to do things our own way, just as long as we got the car back in a reasonable amount of time.

Choices, choices…

Audi RS7

The R8 is an extreme performer to be sure, but when you’re sat behind the wheel of something as massively powerful as the RS7, you do get the feeling that it packs quite a wallop of its own, one that for some reason feels just as heavy as that which is provided by the R8. There’s just something about a 4,500-plus pound super sedan (remember; this is essentially a hatchback version of the A8)  that packs up to 605 hp (if you choose the Performance model) from a twin-turbo V8 lump.

Audi Sport TourAs soon as you dip into that throttle, the RS7 blasts forward with nary a complaint as its Quattro AWD system delivers power to the fat 275 mm Pirellis and on to the scorched tarmac below. You really do get the image in your mind of the tarmac being cartoonishly bunched up and spat out behind your rear wheels as you dip in; it feels like there’s nothing that can stop this rig of a car.

As you take time to appreciate the finer details, however, you realize that there’s so much more to the RS7 than a big engine. Indeed, when your asking price is starting north of 140 grand, you’d best be serving up more than just a freight train of a powertrain.

The RS7 provides, with hexagon-print fine leather, Alcantara suede inserts and all manner of aluminum interior detailing, as well as an infotainment screen that magically appears from its stowed position atop the dash as soon as you fire the ignition. Add the properly gorgeous and oh-so-gorgeous Bang and Olufsen speakers whose tweeters stand on little, intricate towers above the dash, and you’ve got luxury performance motoring of the highest degree. No wonder Audi pretty much sells every one of these it builds.

Audi R8 Spyder

This, of course, is the performance flagship of the Audi brand, which can be felt as soon as you set off. While the RS7 keeps you son insulated that you really have to get on it to see what it’s all about, the R8 makes its intentions pretty clear as soon as you set off, even at a crawl. The way the car’s interior kind of bundles you up, for example – even with the top down – is an indication that you’d best be focused on the driving, simply because creature comforts just aren’t priority #1. It has some of this, of course; heated steering wheel and seats, Bluetooth capability, auto climate control, and a fast-acting automatic convertible roof are all here. Look more closely, however, and you’ll notice there’s just a triumvirate of toggle switches where any form if infotainment screen would usually reside and the gauge cluster is digitized so you can get as many performance readouts as you so wish. Many cars – from the Volkswagen Beetle to the Nissan Rogue – have a flat-bottomed wheel like the R8 does, but it’s mainly for effect. In the R8, however, it’s required as you need to be able to somehow fit your thighs under there.

Audi Sport TourNot that you’ll be worried too much about creature comforts when the road finally opens up in front you, of course. It doesn’t even have to open up that much to get a sense of what you’re working with; even a little poke on the throttle on a somewhat open stretch between traffic lights is enough for you to feel the lack of inertia an immediacy of the R8’s powertrain. There’s a reason why you see a lot of these; they can be used as daily drivers, offering just enough of a window into the fire below for small bursts, making your daily commute that much more interesting.

When we did manage to find a bend or two, the R8 Spyder was impressive, especially considering its convertible body should mean that it may not feel quite as taut through corners, the roof being such an integral part of any car’s chassis reinforcement. Spyder or no, however, this is still an R8, meaning it gets a super-stiff aluminum monocoque which should – and does – assuage any fears of firmness. I’m not usually one to select the drop top version but if I were lucky enough to actually be considering purchasing one of these, I just might.

Audi RS3

We knew the RS7 would slug us in the face with power. We knew the R8 would turn a head or two (or 1,000) and slice through turns like a scythe. So, as good as those cars are, there weren’t too many surprises there.

Audi Sport TourThe RS3, on the other hand, was an entirely different story. So different and surprising, in fact, that it may have been the biggest take home of the day.

A quick backstory: the RS3 only just made it to North America this year, but it’s been in service in Europe for quite some time, now. It was always a hatch there, but North Americans – especially Americans – love their sedans and so it comes here in that form, and that form only. No matter; you may lose a little in the practicality department, but the RS3 makes up for it in the styling department, proving to be an exercise in muscular yet compact proportions and smart detailing. Cool rims, body-contrasting wing mirrors and aggressive front splitter all combine to demonstrate a car that’s got something going on.

That something? How about a five-cylinder turbo lump shared with the TT RS, good for 400 hp and 354 lb-ft of torque? Yeah, that’s what I thought,

And holy moly if you don’t feel it right from the get go. Yes, the RS7 makes a tonne more power but it’s heavier (also by about a tonne, as it happens) and as a result, I’d hesitate to say that on these roads and in these conditions, the RS3 feels just as fast. I’m sure if you threw a couple more serious bends at it, its focus would become that much clearer: a sprightly little car that likes to be tossed, and can be done so – safely — even if you don’t have a racing license.

Further, since it’s smaller and you’re less insulated (and that five-cylinder warble sounds FANTASTIC) than the RS7, it feels like you’re moving at a much quicker pace. I jumped in expecting a VW Golf R in drag, but when I mentioned that I was met with glares that I would call just short of hostile from the Audi people on-site. There’s an error I’ll never make again. Oh, and its infotainment display deploys in a slick way, too, if that’s your jam. Would love to spend more time in this one.

Categories: Driver Plus, Road Tests