2007 Audi A3 2.0T
Two years after its debut in the US, the Audi A3 8P hatchback is still a rare sight on the road. Offered only as a four-door, the coveted Audi looks more like a wagon than a sporty hatchback. In fact, it's only a foot shorter than the A4 Avant yet doesn't come with Audi's signature all-wheel quattro drivetrain if you opt for the more affordable 2.0T (although it's now available on the '09 model). The A3 also sells at a premium compared to the VW GTI on which it's based, yet comes with similar amenities and performance.
For the North American auto enthusiast, the A3 is arguably under-equipped and overpriced. So in order to buy one, you'd really have to want an A3. And that's what makes individuals like Dan Mermelstein of Vivid Racing so extraordinary. Having never driven an Audi before, Dan fell in love with the 8P chassis and rolled the dice on this '07 A3 2.0T as a shop project.
He designed a clean and quick A3 without overwhelming the car with parts. And after a year of working on it, this A3 has 300hp thanks to a larger turbo, racing seats, big brakes and looks to kill.
If you haven't heard of Vivid Racing, don't be surprised. After starting up in 2001, Vivid focused on Japanese imports. Since then, the Arizona-based tuner has clientele with everything from Porsche and BMW to Mitsubishi and Subaru. Not just a domestic business, they have a customer base around the world.
"My other car is a 700hp Porsche 996 twin-turbo, which had everything built from suspension and brakes to rollcage. But it also has everyday styling mods and good drivability, so I can commute to work in it everyday," said Dan.
We're certainly jealous of him, but his experience with the rear-engined monster was applied to the A3. With a proven formula, the A3 project blasted off in '07, beginning with the wheels, brakes and then the suspension.
Flat black was chosen for the wheels to give the A3 its evil profile, and Dan didn't hesitate contacting friends at iForged Performance Alloys. Made to sit flush in the fenders, iForged built a set of forged TE-10 monoblock wheels measuring 19x.8.5" all-round. Arizona doesn't see much rain, yet 235/35-19 Michelin Pilot Sport PS2 tires were mounted for maximum grip in all conditions. Behind the front rims, 13.1" slotted 'n drilled rotors with Rotora calipers summon more stopping force. Dan also replaced the brake lines with braided steel ones for a firmer pedal feel.
Not to overlook the handling, Dan lowered the car 1.5" with JIC Cross coilovers. The stiffer, lower ride enabled tighter cornering for spirited driving, while a Neuspeed rear sway bar helped the car rotate better.
At first glance, the car looked slammed but Dan admitted the body kit tricks the eye. The Rieger aerodynamics reduced the ground clearance with its aggressive contours. The Rieger package included the complete front bumper, which is said to be quite rare on the A3. "Most owners go with the lip spoiler on the stock bumper, but the Rieger bumper is bigger and requires an S8 front grille," Dan said.
When the time came to give the 2.0T its power package, Dan started with a custom dual exhaust to exit the Rieger rear arpon. Vivid Racing's brother company, Agency Power, developed a free-flowing exhaust with four titanium tips. Next up was a Neuspeed intercooler pipe, K&N intake and O.CT software.
Bolt-on performance was great for the daily-driven Audi, but the full potential was yet to be realized since Dan wanted power that would push him back into his seat. He contacted Stasis Engineering for advice and their solution was its own K04 turbo upgrade.
Not an overly-ambitious kit, it would give increased power across the rev range without sacrificing drivability. The stock K03 was ditched for the slightly larger K04 before high-flow injectors and a new diverter valve was installed. Stasis switched the software to its GIAC program and new silicone hoses would keep it buttoned-up.
To make the 2.0T more efficient, a Neuspeed crank pulley was installed, as well as a Forge Motorsport front-mount intercooler. And when all was said and done, Dan estimates he has 300hp at the crank and 290 lb-ft of torque.
The car had the six-speed DSG transmission, for which Dan developed paddle shifters with Agency Power. "They were something I wanted before I even bought the car," he explained. "It's a complete CNC aluminum piece that clips onto the factory control module. It took a year to finish the prototype but it shares the look and feel of the E46 M3 or Ferrari paddles. Now, no matter where your hand is on the steering wheel, you can select gears because the shifters are taller and more functional."
To improve driving comfort, a set of Status Racing's Laguna GT seats were fitted. The wider racing seats were deemed comfortable enough to daily drive; yet kept you planted when attacking corners. Finished in black leather, the seats were crafted from a lightweight carbon/kevlar composite to shave weight, and were also stitched red to match the paint.
Dan's final order of business was the Dice iPod integration kit. With the factory navigation installed, the iPod kit hooks into the CD changer and goes behind the radio, allowing full iPod control using the factory buttons on either the steering wheel or the car's head unit.
"It's the most fun and verstile car I've owned," Dan concluded. "The only thing I'd change would be to have quattro, but otherwise it's a great street machine with power to back it up."
Perhaps Dan will build a quattro now they're available with the 2.0T, but make no mistake, Vivid Racing will be back to show us again they aren't a regular import tuner but Euro guys like us.
2007 Audi A3 2.0T
Owner: Dan Mermelstein
Location: Phoenix, AZ
Occupation: Co-owner of Vivid Racing
Engine: 2.0 liter 16v turbo with Stasis K04 turbo kit, GIAC software, K&N CAI, Neuspeed pulley, upper intercooler pipe and carbon cover, Forge front-mount intercooler, Agency Power dual-exit cat-back exhaust with titanium tips
Drivetrain: six-speed DSG transmission
Brakes: 13.1" Rotora front brake kit with steel braided lines, drilled/slotted rotors, four-piston calipers
Suspension: JIC Cross coilovers, Neuspeed rear sway bar
Wheels & Tires: 19x8.5" iForged TE-10 monoblock wheels, painted flat black, 235/35-19 Michelin Pilot Sport PS2 tires
Exterior: OE S-Line package with S8 grille, Rieger front bumper, side skirts and rear valance
Interior: Status Racing Laguna GT carbon/kevlar seats, Agency Power aluminum paddle shifters, Dice iPod integration kit
Thanks: Agency Power, Dice, Forge Motorsport, iForged Performance Alloys, JIC, Michelin Tire, Neuspeed (www.neuspeed.com), Rieger, Rotora, Stasis Engineering, Vivid Racing (www.vividracing.com)