► Audi’s drift mode tech in test
► New RS3 torque splitter
► Next Level Torque Vectoring Reviewed
There is a deafening howl of tortured tires and smoke that fills the air. The new Audi RS3 swings sideways like a trolley that has spotted a gap in a Christmas shopping queue, then, aided by a bit of steering wheel juggling, the car is suspended in a huge circular slider.
It’s the party piece of the all-wheel-drive RS3, the Torque Rear mode, made possible by clever software, and the Torque Splitter, Audi’s name for the rear axle drive unit. Instead of a normal differential, the driveshaft is driven at right angles by two T-junction gears to an electronically controlled multi-disc clutch unit on each side.
The Modular Vehicle Dynamics Controller (MVDC) networks the torque distributor with sensors distributed throughout the car and calculates the amount of torque to distribute to each rear wheel. (On this latest RS3, at least half of the total torque output still goes to the front wheels.)
In normal driving, the torque splitter (below) sends a little more torque to the outside wheel to help turn the car, maintain its line and prevent understeer. In sticky or slippery conditions, it transfers torque to the inside wheel to help straighten things out.
Torque Rear mode is intended for showboating. It allows the Splitter to send 100% of the rear torque to the outer wheel alone, to trigger a slide. It’s smart enough to detect when you’re doing it on purpose, then balances torque side-to-side to help maintain drift.
The VW Golf R uses similar hardware, but Audi says its MVDC makes Torque Rear more sophisticated. The now-retired Ford Focus RS’s GKN Twinster rear axle also used electronically controlled clutches, but was matched to a different ratio from the rest of the transmission to help cause slippage, which is not the case here.
Like the Focus RS in Drift mode, sliding the RS3 into Torque Rear doesn’t feel entirely natural. Our test of the system took place on a wide area of tarmac with nothing to hit but cones. Would I feel comfortable trying it on the road? No chance. Selecting Torque Rear flashes messages on the screen to let you know it is for closed circuit use only.
Really, all that side stuff is a bit of a childish (albeit a lot of fun) thing. The real strength of the Torque Splitter is to make the RS3 (and other fast Audis in the future) more positive and less inert in steady driving.
Does Audi Drift Mode Work?
Yes, and it’s a lot of fun, if not entirely natural, and dragging a rear-drive car with a limited-slip differential is more intuitive. The RS3’s torque splitter is most useful for increasing agility in normal, non-lateral riding.
Drifting an RS3: how it works
1) Switch to rear torque
From the Select Drive Modes screen, select Rear Torque (out of the way in the bottom right, so you don’t press it by accident)
2) Switch off the TC
Check the special “track” dials for the little wavy yellow car, making sure the traction control is off
3) Set the tires on fire
Spin the wheel, rev the clog, choke on the stench of burnt rubber (and again the tire bill)
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