Walter Röhrl’s feet. (Or: In defence of the Audi A3/S3)

Pete’s response to my contention that the Audi A3/S3 is only for knobs. – SW


I guess I gave it away with the title but one of the reasons I’ll always give Audi the time of day goes right back to the early 1980’s and their seminal effect on the world via their rally cars. 

To me, nothing captures this more than the image of Walter Röhrl’s feet dancing across the three pedals of his Quattro like some kind of avante-gard church organist.  There seemed no rhyme or reason to my uneducated eyes but it was clearly a work of genius. 

The fact that Walter was able to translate the potency of his Quattro-driven monsters into pure speed altered the rally game, and then the road car game immeasurably.  Subaru, Mitsubishi, Ford, Citroen, Peugeot, Skoda….. to me they’ve all done a fantastic job of taking what Audi started just that bit further.

What’s more, I tend to see the S3 as the spiritual successor to those early 80’s rally cars, the S1 etc.  It’s compact, robust, built like a bank-vault and if you’re lucky enough to get an RS3 with the 5 cylinder engine, it goes quite well too. 

Those of you patient enough to read my work may recall the RenaultSport Megane also being a favourite of mine.  It’s somewhat of a favourite formula, I guess.  Small, handy, fast and fun.  A car that goes best when driven hard, the tachometer needle spending most of its time on the far side of the dial.

And thus, when confronted with Swade’s post from a few days ago – a choice between an admittedly very similar Audi or Golf – I will always choose the Audi. Well, almost. I”m pretty partial to the Golf R and I like VW vans, too, but perhaps you can see where I’m coming from.

Of course, it makes no sense to a man of Swade’s merciless logic but frankly, I don’t care.  Audi take me to edge of despair with their obsequious kow-towing to the VAG manifesto, their sama-sama interiors and component sharing (imagine how a Lamborghini tragic must feel when confronted with A4 electronics…) so I ignore the nonsense of the A1, the deluded grandeur of the A5 and the whole Q series may as well be invisible.

BUT….. show me a TTRS or even a modest A4 1.8t with a Quattro badge on its rump and the emotions that were forged in my younger days will come flooding back.  I don’t see a Golf in a slinky frock when an A3 pootles by. I see a car that is just a few options-boxes on an order sheet away from a snarling, gravel-spitting slingshot. A car that may well be dropping the kids off at school now but within the hour could feasibly be thundering up Pikes Peak.  See, there is nothing remotely logical about it. 

Now, I’m no rally expert and I really am quite prepared for some of you who I’m sure will go to town on my simplistic meanderings  – and please, feel free.  However, please also note that I’m not writing an expert opinion here, I’m just outlining my personal, subjective view on why I like Audi. 

Morevover, check out Walter Röhrl’s feet in the video below.  No matter what your motoring persuasion, I challenge you not to be impressed.

I should also add a footnote that despite all of the above, I still prefer to drive a Saab.  Don’t get me started…….