Audi S3 Track Test
Pacific Raceways in Kent, Washington, may be the best track youve never heard of: a 2.25-mile road course that scrambles up and down 125 feet of elevation, all within an Uber ride from SeaTac Airport. Guys like Unser, Gurney, Jones, and Hill have turned wheels at this place over the past 54 years, and on a quiet weekday morning with cold fog rolling over wet asphalt, it feels like hallowed ground. The track is open all year, hosting SCCA, kart, motorcycle, and club events as well as a performance-driving school and local law-enforcement training. Its a busy place. General manager John Ramsey was kind enough to hack a half hour out of the schedule for R&T before the Kent Police Department showed up to dust off its pit maneuvers. I couldnt help but get giddy at the sight of what I affectionately call “the Ridge,” a double, late-apex switchback that tumbles down from the front straight to the tracks back section. The switchback looks simple enough on paper, but its one of those sections that would take a day to do well and a lifetime to perfect. With the S3s traction control off, the car wants to push in the tight downhill turns. The front tires chirp and chatter across the pavement, and the only real rotation comes from a big, heartfelt lift of the throttle. Even then, the rear never seems too interested in getting out of line. Its the kind of old-school all-wheel-drive understeer you dont want to find in a sport sedan. The car has no lust for hooligan antics. Nor is it a lightweight. The Audi tips the scales at over 3400 pounds, but transitioning down the back straight, it feels good. Its tight and solid. The course is narrow back here, and the enveloping fog makes everything seem closer than it is. The trees and grass blitz past as I head into Turn 5, the start of an easy chicane before the track heads back uphill. The temptation is to get cozy with the curbing, clip the apex, and straighten the chicane as much as possible, but theres a hell of an angle on those red and whites. Getting too close is a one-way ticket to low orbit. Turn 7 is a fast left-hand sweeper that climbs back up. The asphalts smooth and sticky, even with water on the track, and the car eats it up before swinging around to the front straight. Theres a drag strip here, and the road course jumps over to the strip before crossing start/finish. The transition happens at a good clip, but the S3 is ready for it. The half hours over quicker than Id like, but I have no interest in holding up Kents finest. By the time I pull off the track, the first officers are already hovering around a pack of beater Crown Vics near the front straight.