Wednesday, December 16, 2020

New Garage resident - 2018 Audi S3

So with the 2015 GTI having reached the end of its factory warranty coverage, a search commenced for its successor... as I'd learned from experience with my Mk5 GTI that serious mechanical issues can arise just after the warranty expires.
The brief for the Mk7 GTI's successor was very similar to that for the Mk5's. Pre-owned compact sedan or hatchback with remaining factory warranty, four doors, AWD, ~300hp. I had dropped "manual transmission" from the spec as there are so few late model cars that offer one. 

I drove a number of cars since the Spring, including an Alfa Romeo Giulia (beautiful, fun to drive, great 8-speed ZF automatic, but increasingly hard to find a pre-owned one), Cadillac ATS (a little big, powerful but didn't seem really quick, best steering wheel I've ever held), Jaguar XE F-Sport (also beautiful but larger, with complex and confusing screen interface), and Genesis G70 (nice but new, and too large and luxe). I also drove a couple of Audi S3s which I loved, unsurprisingly. It's an attractive 4-door sedan and the right size, being based on the same corporate MQB platform as my GTI. Its 2.0 litre turbo four kicks out 292hp, and puts the power down through its Quattro AWD system. Boxes ticked.

But while I came close to buying a white 2017 S3 from a local VW dealer, I couldn't get comfortable with that car as it had some "stories"... a lease return from BC, it had a $9K collision repair on its Carfax report and several runs through auctions before it landed at the VW shop.
So I kept my eye on and the Audi Canada website's used listings, and came across this lovely 2018 S3 Technik in Navarra Blue, located at the franchise dealer in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

After some email exchanges with their salesman, we made a deal that included me trading my GTI towards the S3. This was really important to me, since while I have always sold my own cars privately, the GTI would be at a price point where many people would need financing and that makes private sales complicated. In addition, the pandemic means that offering test drives is not really possible, so trading the GTI was a mandatory part of any new car deal.
Having negotiated the price and made a deal subject to test driving the S3, I drove the GTI out to Saskatoon a week ago last Monday. It's an 800km trip more-or-less and since I enjoy highway driving, it was a pleasure to escape the city for a bit. I stayed at a hotel near the Audi dealer and rolled over to the shop first thing on Tuesday morning.

While I test-drove the S3, the dealer staff drove my GTI and confirmed that all was as described. All that remained was for me to go get a bank draft and arrange a transit permit from SGI (which it turns out I needn't have done since MPI allows plates to be transferred to a new car for a week after purchase... grrr).
With the deal completed I jumped in the S3 and headed for home via Regina and Brandon. The car's great on the highway - it's equipped with a 7-speed DCT ("S-tronic") gearbox that usefully reduces engine speed at cruise, when compared with the previous 6-speed unit.

The car also came with "Technik" equipment, which notably includes the fabulous "Virtual Cockpit" dash - which I felt was a must on my new S3. What the car didn't include, unfortunately, was a front license plate bracket... fortunately I had a temporary solution in the garage.
The S3 also came with winter wheels and tires (shown) in addition to the stock 19" wheels which I also brought home with me. I don't mind the black wheels but kind of wish that the previous owner had gone with red-painted brake calipers. Would've been a nice pop of colour to go with the lovely Navarra Blue paintwork.

The interior is certainly a nice place to spend time. Upholstery is leather of course, but sports seats weren't specified, which is OK. The Audi MMI interface takes a little learning and doesn't seem as intuitive as my old GTI's touchscreen. I'll get used to it though.

I love the car so far - it's a real rocket (0-60 in under 5 sec) and performance is very configurable through the Drive Select menu. It's really sharp looking outside and comfortable inside, but is a size that makes it handy and nimble. I think it'll be sticking around for awhile to come.

2018 Audi S3 Technik, Navarra Blue/Black
Black Optics, Advanced Handling Packages  

Monday, September 16, 2019

Sounds of Things That Go

So, I've uploaded some videos (with sound) of my Things That Go (well, the ones that make cool sounds, anyway).

Here they are:

'85 Porsche 911 with M&K exhaust

'86 Suzuki GSX-R1100 with D&D exhaust

'95 Ducati 900SS/SP with D&D exhaust

'08 Ducati 848 with Termignoni exhaust

So that's the current stable. I'm not going to bother with clips of the GTI or the R1 as they both still run stock exhausts and honestly, while they can be exciting to drive and ride, they're not that exciting to listen to :-)

Friday, September 7, 2018

Red River Ramblings Recognized!

... as the best newsletter in the PCA's Class II Regions (those with 100-199 members)!

As always, the newsletter can be found on the Red River Region's website, which BTW was awarded best website in the entire freakin' PCA!

Thanks to all who made this possible - those who contribute pictures and stories, and our printer (and my predecessor as Editor) Ray Larrivee of The Press Room Ltd. who prints the newsletter every month! 

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Red River Ramblings massive links update

For anyone who's interested, you can access our local Porsche Club of America chapter's newsletter on the web at

Working backwards, we have:

May/June 2018 - Porsche Experience Centre, Toronto International Auto Show, Vegas Exotics Experience

March/April 2018 - Camp4 Report

January/February 2018 - Bruce's 72 911E Targa feature

November/December 2017 - IMSA Races at Road America, Concours d'Elegance Report

September/October 2017 - Porsche Parade Report

July/August 2017 - 964 Engine Rebuild, Porsche Driving Experience

May/June 2017 - Secrets of the DME

Please feel free to surf on over and check them out!

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Sportbike Evolution - Styling, Cockpit and Controls

So with the near-completion of the almost-decade-long (!) GSX-R1100 restoration project, I now have an opportunity to do some direct comparisons of the bikes in the stable, and look at the evolution of the sportbike (selected examples) over three decades - the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s.

The machines in the picture - '08 Ducati 848, '98 Yamaha YZF-R1, and '86 Suzuki GSX-R1100 - each represent the hardest-core of sportbike development for their respective decades. While the wild Ducati 1098 was the ultimate open-classer from the Italian manufacturer, the 848 Superbike shared much of its design and chassis development so we'll consider it to be an adequate stand-in :-)

In this post I'll try to delve a little into the differences and similarities of these three machines, made by three different manufacturers, over a 20-year span. Today I'm going to focus on the cockpits, controls and styling.

First off, check out the difference in windscreen height on these three bikes...

The GSX-R definitely looks like it has the most protective windscreen, and it's true. It dwarfs the R1 screen by a good half-a-foot and it keeps that much more wind off on the highway.

Check this out - the top of the R1 screen barely comes up to the bottom of the GSX-R's, and the 848 screen is even lower than the Yamaha's. Reduction in overall frontal area has obviously become a bigger deal over the years and the Yamaha and Ducati are noticeably lower and pointier than the square-jawed Suzuki. For all the press talk of the GSX-R being the hardest of the hard core back in the '80s, it's clear that there was some way to go before we got to the R1 and 848. The Yamaha and Ducati also share 17" rolling stock in common as opposed to the Suzuki's 18" hoops, and this will be the subject of a future post...

Here's the cockpit of the '86 GSX-R1100. Everything's in the same place as universal Japanese standard - turnsignals, high-low beam, horn and clutch on the left bar, starter button, killswitch, throttle and front brake on the right. Clip-ons are set low relative to the seat and as you can see, steeply angled.

Speedo and tach are white-faced analog gauges. Remarkably the speedometer is calibrated to 280kph (that's 174mph in old money) and the tachometer doesn't register until the engine's turning over 3,000rpm. Makes it a smidge difficult to set the engine idle speed!

Warning lights for turnsignals, high beam, sidestand, neutral, and oil pressure complete the Spartan dashboard. Trip odometer is reset by turning the wheel on the left hand side of the speedo.

Fast forward ten years and things are a bit different. Clip-ons on the R1 are somewhat less angled and the bars house the same controls as the Suzuki's in the same places, with the exception of the choke control which has moved from the carbs to the left bar. Brake master cylinder now has a remote reservoir and the clutch is activated by cable. Real carbon triple cover is from SKUR and covers some scuffs put there by the PO.

Analog tach and digital speedo dominate the display. Warning lights only for neutral, turnsignal, high beam and low fuel, but digital coolant temp gauge nestles into the tach. The LCD dash also displays the time as well as two trip odometers. Big Ohlins damper reminds you you're astride some quality kit.

By 2008 the world of superbikes had turned digital. Bar angle is similar to the R1 and same controls appear, with the addition of a multifunction button on the left bar and the deletion of the choke, as the 848 has electronic fuel injection. The key is cleverly placed out of the way on the headstock, there's no way an errant fob will scratch that lovely top triple clamp. Remote reservoirs for both brake and clutch complete the cockpit.

Lots of information on the LCD display. Time, ambient temp, coolant temp, odometer and speed readout (where it says "848" in the pic) plus bar-style tach across the top.

Styling has also evolved over 20 years and that's a matter of personal taste as well. Me, I find aesthetic appeal in all three of these machines - which is why I own them :-)

The seating positions have evolved as well. You sit "in" the GSX-R, not on it, and the seat is low to the ground - I can flat-foot it at only 5'7". The reach over the humped tank to the low-set clipons is a long-ish one. Then you have the joy of folding your knees back almost double to reach the very high footrests. At least the huge bubble keeps the wind off - with footrests a shade lower this would be a great tourer.

As for styling, the ur-GSX-R1100 is just brutish, but the endurance-racer twin-headlight look combined with traditional Suzuki colours really make it a sportbike icon. It is really the prototype for all repli-racers that came after, with its full fairing, exposed frame, and even solo seat cowl. Its twin headlights have even won out with the industry, even if today's GSX-Rs have to make do with a single unit. The one thing that made it so unique also never caught on - the full-coverage plastic side-panels that gave it the nickname "slabbie".

The R1's styling has some '90s in it with the splashy "YZF" graphic but keeps it subtle, unlike competitors like the '90s GSX-Rs and their "shell-suit" styling. The shape of the bike is timeless. Unlike the GSX-R that looks very "vintage", I think the R1 could reasonably be mistaken for a much newer bike with its tautly drawn lines and restrained graphics.

The R1's seating position is paradoxical. The bike itself is lower than the Suzuki, but the seat is higher - I'm on my tiptoes. Footrests are somewhat lower relative to the seat than on Suzuki, but the very low windscreen doesn't block the wind as well as the older bike's. The foot controls are all knurled metal, without even the rubber inserts of the GSX-R's as a concession to comfort. Clearly this is a bike designed for pure speed, but it's civilized enough to use every day or even tour on! The one thing you can't do is carry a pillion in comfort - although the press complained about this in '86, the Suzuki's passenger accommodations are much better than the R1's. The footrests are way too high.

The 848 for me combines the best elements of the 916 series while updating them for a modern eye. The bike looks contemporary but still retains an Italian flair, and looks great in traditional red or pearl white as my example. Twin projector-beam headlights look menacing as well. The under-seat exhaust system carries on a familiar Ducati theme that dated back to the early '90s 916, and was later aped by the Japanese, including on the R1. A great look but a terrible idea - on a warm day your nethers get a good roasting and that's not fun at all. Leathers are certainly recommended for this reason.

And while the 848 got a reputation as being a torture rack to ride, I personally find it OK - but coming from a person that tours on an R1, I may be in the minority. However, being a person of smaller stature (5'7") helps - shorter legs have to bend less to reach the high footrests. I didn't find the clip-ons objectionably low either. I haven't toured on the bike (see: under-seat exhaust) but I find it comparable to the R1 in general ergonomics. Pillion seat, as on the R1, is just for show. 

Being that we're in the dead of winter here now with all of the machines asleep under their covers, it's nice to reminisce about riding...

Friday, July 14, 2017

Red River Ramblings Recognized

A few days ago I got a nice bit of news from fellow Red River Region members attending Porsche Parade, the Porsche Club of America's annual celebration/jamboree/club awards thing, held this year in Spokane, Washington.

Red River Ramblings was awarded third place in the Newsletters contest for "Class II" regions - these are the 30-odd Regions with between 150 and 275 members. Of course, not all of the Regions enter a newsletter into the contest, but we always have done so.

It's certainly nice to be recognized for the newsletter as it's a lot of work to put together. It helps to have Region members who submit stories and pictures and I have to send big thanks to them for sure.

And speaking of the newsletter, the July/August issue is out now and can be found here on our club's award-winning website (congrats to Andreas, the webmaster, for winning "Best Website" in Class II this year!)

Monday, July 10, 2017

Handsome Brute


So, after NINE YEARS, the '86 GSX-R1100 project has advanced to the point where the bike is rideable and usable. Hallelujah!

So now looks like a good point to look back and ask, in the words of David Byrne, "well, how did we get here?"

The bike was bought back in 2008 as a light cosmetic restoration job. Of course once we got it back to the garage, it was found to have some serious mechanical needs as well - beyond what Dad and I were capable of as not-even-shade-tree-level mechanics. So we ordered factory-repro decals from the UK and after accumulating some panels that were missing, sent the works out for paint. We also had to buy some parts (many parts) - rear fender that had been cut, proper indicators to replace the stuck-on jobs, new subframe, clear windscreen, etc... We also sent the wheels to be powdercoated back to black.

The bike was consigned to a local bike shop for work... that took ages. I think the bike was in the shop for something like three years (!) and we only got it back when the franchise dealer closed (!!)

The panels came back from the painter (one of those guys who uses the boss's booth on the weekends, you know the sort) and while the job was "OK", the panels weren't cleared over so the gloss from decal to panel was not uniform. This would not do, so I sent the panels back to a real shop to get cleared. That was in 2013.

While Dad and I had the best of intentions to "just take a weekend and get this thing back on the road," logistics and the distance between Winnipeg and Brandon made this tough. We'd maybe get one or two days a summer to work on the bike, and often ran into roadblocks that stopped us cold. I'd ordered a new MAC exhaust to replace the rusty stock unit, but the MAC headers didn't fit properly and that stymied us. Carbs needed rebuilding and were sent away, returned and sat on a shelf, when they were finally installed (5 years later!) they had stuck together from sitting. That kind of thing.

So on our work day this year, we fitted up the D&D exhaust and just failed to get the machine running (the stuck carbs issue). So I said to Dad, let's just give the bike to Scott (buddy who runs the Suzuki/Kawasaki shop in Brandon) and get him to get it running. And so we did.

The bike was done last week so I took the bus in to Brandon (!!) and we picked up the bike yesterday (Saturday). We got it home and fitted the panels with new hardware from Speedy Fasteners, and it was ready for the run back to Winnipeg. Two and a half hours of pleasant riding later (we took our time with stops) the machine was tucked up in my garage in Winnipeg meeting its new stablemates!

Gotta love the instrumentation - 280kph speedo (!) and a tach that starts at 3,000rpm (!!)

The office. It's funny - the 1100 was described in the moto-press of the day as being almost too radical to ride on the street. The riding position was said to be racetrack-ready and murder on knees, neck and back... however I have to say it didn't bother me overly on the ride back to Winnipeg. My foot did fall asleep a couple of times and the pegs are quite high, but the stretch to the bars is manageable for me, and the monstrous bubble of the windscreen certainly keeps the wind off.

"Hyper Sports" indeed! Back in the day the GSX-R1100 was touted as making 130hp with a weight of 434lbs... some stunning numbers indeed. However magazine testers dyno'd the machine at under 100hp at the wheel (the ultra-restrictive exhaust system had something to do with this) and weighed it up wet at about 500lbs. I can vouch for this, as pushing the bike around it seems heavier than the R1 or 848.

Acronyms abounded in the glorious 1980s! "SACS" of course stands for "Suzuki Advanced Cooling System", the air/oil cooling method employed in the 1052cc powerplant. Suzuki engineers saved weight and complexity by opting away from liquid cooling for the engine and instead implemented a sophisticated oil-cooling system, with lubricant sprayed at the underside of the pistons and other hot spots. Heat was evacuated from the oil by circulating it through a large oil cooler at the front of the bike.

Nice view of the D&D aftermarket exhaust system here, too. As noted, the stock system's restrictive design robbed the engine of horsepower. The D&D restores some of that power and weighs much less than stock - the tradeoff is noise and plenty of it. At idle it sounds like a pitbull gargling broken glass and as it revs out, a banshee wail...

What's it like to ride? Well, compared to the super sportbikes of nowadays, surprisingly civilized. It idles well, and pulls from low rpm like a liter-bike should. You could ride it around town all day and never see more than 3,000rpm, and still see off any pesky traffic as necessary. On the highway it is supremely stable with its long-ish wheelbase and 18" wheels. Lay it into a sweeping corner and it just tracks imperturbably through. I'm sure it can go mental with the best of them but frame and suspension technology have moved on a lot in 30 years.

I'm really glad we opted back to the blue and white stock colour scheme. I'd considered other liveries, including Skoal Bandit green or even a Barry Sheene GP-bike tribute (with DAF Truck and Men Only magazine sponsorship, naturally)

But in the end, there's really nothing that can beat the iconic blue-and-white traditional Suzuki colour scheme.

Here's a good pic of the fuzzy line left by the painter... grr. Nice crisp decal though :-)

So what's the verdict on this hyper-sports monster, 30 years on? Well, I find it surprising civilized to ride. It feels like a softer modern sportbike. Plusher than the 900SS/SP but with a similar simple/vintage vibe, I could see touring on this bike - all it needs is maybe some slightly lower footrests. The front brakes are phenomenal for a 31-year-old machine, as well. It makes a great noise and people seem to love it. On Saturday I was approached two separate times by guys who saw it and wanted to talk about it. For me, that's cool, because a lot of what I love about motorcycling is talking to folks about their bikes.

There's a few things left yet to do, of course. I have to order a bolt and nut for the passenger footrest as I stripped the threads off the original (don't ask). New mirrors have been ordered to replace the painted ones on the machine. There's a bit of marring on the frame (covered in the pics by the Motul decal) that I have to address somehow, but I have some ideas.

I think it's a keeper :-)

Thanks to:

TransCanada Motorsport:
Urban Autobody:
Speedy Fasteners:
the oil-cooled forum at, especially the Oil-Cooled Classified Ads
my long-suffering Dad for hanging in there with this project. It's finally done!