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