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…….


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  1. May I be the first to note that this was written on April Fools Day. Intentional or not, Pete?


  2. To me Audi Quattro and the 80’s rally cars give me an uneasy feeling of Speed, crash, death and Rally changing for the worse. The Quattro brought extreme power to the courses that ended with regulations being changed because to many accidents happened.

    Audi…. Audi Sweden lying through their teeth regarding crappy electrics in the early -00’s.

    Why some at Saab set Audi as some sort of yardstick I will never understand. Saab must be their own and only learn from Audi when it comes to marketing.

    Rather buy a Toyota…


  3. Ahh well, each to their own Tompa. I’ll agree that Group B rallying ( not to mention the insane lack of crowd control/safety measures) did not go well during the 1980’s and there were some tragic events which ultimately caused the whole sport to be re-organised.

    As I write this, WRC is again in trouble, although for different reasons now, not safety at least. I hope they can work out a survival path as its a great form of motorsport in my view.

  4. When I see an Audi TT I am full of hate…TT has ONLY one meaning and it’s the tourist trophy on the Isle of Man…NSU has a history in motorbikes – Audi as a brand rescued from Daimler Benz in 1964 and resurrected in 1967 because Auto Union wanted to move upmarket and DKW sounded ‘cheap’ has no legacy. Give me a Golf anyday.

  5. Every one of those spectators should walk up to Walter, if they are still breathing today, and thank him for his Balletically Amazing feet. Their lives depended more than they surely knew, on the most amazing coordination between his brain and feet. In some clips you can even see people trying to touch the car as it speeds past…

  6. Nice article.

    But…as the current owner of two 1990 900 SPGs, an ’03 9-5 Aero Sedan…AND an ’10 Audi A5 Sport Package…I can tell you that the A5 is a very good car…and not one of “deluded grandeur”.

    And no…I am not taking the comment personally…you just need to have had your backside in the driver’s seat of one for a while to realize that it is a fantastic car to drive. I spent nearly 10 years working for a well known race driving school in the northeast part of the US, and I know what makes a good driver’s car. The A5 is definitely one.

    My wife & I have owned nothing but SAABs since our first 1978 99 Turbo, and have owned nearly 20 in total over the years. Went with the Audi in December of 2009, because I couldn’t lease any SAAB in the US. Searched a long time for something that was as enjoyable to drive as the SAABs, and the only car that fit the bill was the Audi. Trying to find a non-US made coupe with a manual trans in the US is a very difficult task. Not many choices. Considered the A3, but it only has the manual in the FWD model here. S/RS3 isn’t available in any form here either. Too bad. It’s a nice ride.

  7. Glad you enjoyed the article and also that you didn’t take the comment personally. On reflection, it does look a little high-handed, particularly as I won’t disagree with you; the A5 is a great drive. My father in law has one (3.0d Quattro) and its a very nice car. Nevertheless, if I can explain somewhat: the launch of the A5 seemed to focus a great deal on how Walter da Silva was pronouncing this as the greatest car he’d ever designed and words like”beautiful” were used by Audi in their marketing. They were going after the BMW 3 series coupe but it always seemed a stretch to me. So, despite all its virtues, they lost me at that point. As good as it is to drive, its not beautiful in my eyes and never will be. Maybe I’m a contrarian but I always thought the A6 Avant or TT vied for most attractive Audi, not the A5.

    All that said, you have an enviable fleet of cars there for sure. Not to mention all the ones you must have had over the years. Like you, I too ponder life without Saab and although my most recent purchase was a Volvo, Audi were certainly on the shortlist.

    1. As they say…”beauty is in the eye of the beholder”. The TT is nice, and considered it, but at the time we still had a dog we traveled with, and needed the added space to carry him. Now that we are “pet-less”, just might seriously consider a TT-RS next Fall when my lease expires. 🙂

      I looked into a 3-series BMW…very breifly…but where I live, 3-series are so common, it is nauseating. If you threw a rock in nearly any parking lot around here, you probably would hit a half a dozen 3-series BMWs.