Flair and tear

The RS3, with the world’s most po­tent five-cylin­der en­gine, looks as fast as it goes, writes Iain Curry

Herald Sun - Motoring - - PRESTIGE -

AUDI’S claim that its new RS3 sedan de­liv­ers more “bang for buck” than any RS model be­fore it sounds like typ­i­cal hype — but it’s hard to ar­gue with.

For $84,900 be­fore on-roads, you take home a prac­ti­cal, hand­some four-door that will pro­pel you from rest to 100km/h in a mere 4.1 sec­onds, a fig­ure that won su­per­car brag­ging rights just a few years back.

Such ve­loc­ity in this sporti­est of Audi A3s comes from many fac­tors but at the heart of the mat­ter is a new light­weight 2.5-litre five­cylin­der en­gine.

With mighty out­puts of 294kW and 480Nm — the lat­ter avail­able from just 1700rpm — it has an ex­haust note to make the Audi afi­ciona­dos go all gooey.

The five-cylin­der traces its roots to the leg­endary Sport quat­tro S1 rally car, a World Rally Cham­pi­onship star in the early 1980s. The RS3 can’t quite ri­val such fire-spit­ting turbo au­ral per­fec­tion but clever “ac­tive baf­fles” in the sports ex­haust cre­ate rally-es­que bangs and pops through the sporty cabin.

Out­puts in­crease by 24kW and 15Nm over the en­gine used in the cur­rent RS3 Sport­back (it gets the new en­gine and up­dates later this year). Much of its 26kg weight sav­ing is down to its alu­minium block, in place of iron.

Per­for­mance is kept user­friendly through a lighter seven-speed dual-clutch auto gear­box and the lat­est ver­sion of Audi’s all-wheel drive.

The set-up sends more torque — up to 100 per cent — to the rear wheels dur­ing dy­namic driv­ing. Purists may lament the lack of a man­ual gear­box but the auto is so re­spon­sive — es­pe­cially in dy­namic mode — even the most diehard three-pedal fans should come around.

The RS3 looks as fast as it goes. Wheel arches are flared but not over­done, there are over­sized front air in­takes, a quat­tro em­blem on the sin­gle frame grille, a brace of large oval tailpipes pok­ing out of an RS rear dif­fuser and a sub­tle bootlid spoiler.

Fur­ther vis­ual per­for­mance hints in­clude gi­ant 370mm front brake ro­tors clamped by red eight-pis­ton calipers be­hind 19-inch wheels.

Audi hasn’t skimped on the in­clu­sions ei­ther. The RS3 sedan has LED wedge head­lights, ad­vanced sat­nav, in­car Wi-Fi and the trade­mark “vir­tual cock­pit” — the 12.3cabin, inch dig­i­tal dis­play with key driv­ing in­for­ma­tion, sat­nav and me­dia pro­jected in high­res­o­lu­tion be­hind the steer­ing wheel.

Ad­vanced driver aids in­clude radar cruise con­trol, blind spot alert, lane de­par­ture warn­ing with steer­ing in­put and rear cross traf­fic as­sist.

ON THE ROAD

Di­a­mond-pat­tern leather greets the oc­cu­pants — four adults can en­joy the fun in am­ple space — in the up­mar­ket which shades like-priced sporty Ger­mans.

On the road, the RS3 bal­ances plush­ness and sporti­ness very well, while the flat-bot­tom steer­ing wheel trimmed with Al­can­tara and leather adds to driver en­joy­ment.

There are fire­works as soon as you flick the en­gine — the world’s most po­tent pro­duc­tion five-cylin­der — into ac­tion. Leave the drive mode in com­fort and it han­dles town roads with­out too much jar­ring and the steer­ing is ef­fort­lessly light.

Se­lect dy­namic mode and the mon­grel ar­rives. The bark­ing ex­haust note in­ten­si­fies, as throt­tle re­sponse sharp­ens and weight is added to the steer­ing. Peak power is on tap be­tween 6000rpm 7000rpm, en­cour­ag­ing you to play close at­ten­tion to the red­line of this glo­ri­ously revvy mo­tor. And that sound never, ever gets bor­ing.

This is a truly rapid car. Turn-in is ea­ger and pin­point ac­cu­rate thanks to the weight shaved from the front. It feels un­flap­pable. If there’s any com­plaint it’s that at le­gal road speeds, even on the twisties, there is no chance to ex­plore its po­ten­tial prop­erly.

Sev­eral RS3 own­ers will be race­track bound. You can spend plenty more on Audi op­tions to en­hance its po­ten­tial there, in­clud­ing a car­bon-ce­ramic brake pack ($9500) and wider front tyre pack ($1500).

VER­DICT

A fe­ro­ciously quick and ca­pa­ble lit­tle sedan, ooz­ing mus­cu­lar style, cabin lux­ury and am­ple tech. It’s ex­pen­sive for an A3 — not least if you tick op­tions boxes — but as a bal­lis­tic per­for­mance tool, it’s a bar­gain. V1 - MHSE01Z02CG

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