Audi RS3 sedan

Up­dated RS3 gains a new 294kW en­gine and the op­tion of a proper boot

Motor (Australia) - - FIRST FANG -

OMAN seems like an odd spot to launch a new car. Snug­gled up to a coun­try where women aren’t al­lowed to drive (Saudi Ara­bia) and the cur­rent war-zone that is Ye­men, Oman is a free, safe but nev­er­the­less sandy des­ti­na­tion. And though the roads through the Dho­far Moun­tains in Oman’s south are smooth, wide and empty, they’re also cov­ered in a layer of dust, blown-in sand and camel tail-pipe emis­sions. I’m not mak­ing any of this up. At least the camels them­selves seem pretty road­s­mart. The goats? Not so much.

But maybe there was ge­nius in Audi’s de­ci­sion to launch the up­graded RS3 in such a lo­ca­tion. For a start, once you’re out of the city, the speed cam­eras peter out and the road starts to rise into the rather mag­nif­i­cent Dho­fars, twist­ing into some oddly-cam­bered bends in the process. There are straight bits where it’s pos­si­ble to let the new 294kW en­gine off the leash and the curly bits give you a chance to get a feel for what is a very tac­tile plat­form with sharp steer­ing and firm-but-fair sus­pen­sion. And when you sud­denly go blast­ing into a camel-ex­haust sec­tion, the ac­tive cen­tre diff can have a play at get­ting you through still pointed in the right di­rec­tion.

Two things (mostly) are new about the facelifted RS3. The first is that it’ll now be avail­able in a sedan bodyshell, which is ac­tu­ally pretty ap­peal­ing as it ditches the shop­pingtrol­ley thing that the Sport­back does so ef­fec­tively. Yet it’s still kind of cud­dly look­ing in the same way that a pit­bull still likes a pat.

The other news is that there’s an all-new en­gine lurk­ing un­der the lid. It re­mains at 2.5 litres and it’s still a tur­bocharged five-cylin­der, but now it’s all al­loy, weighs 26kg less, has an im­proved vari­able valve tim­ing and lift sys­tem, and makes an ex­tra 24kW and five New­tons. Thedevil is in the de­tail and with stuff like a big­ger in­ter­cooler, a wa­ter-to-oil en­gine-oil cooler, a sim­pli­fied ser­pen­tine belt sys­tem and a sec­ond set of port-mounted in­jec­tors to help the di­rect in­jec­tors, it’s tak­ing things to new heights. The per­for­mance hike mightn’t sound like much but, clearly, this is a big step­ping stone for Audi en­gines gen­er­ally.

The rest is the rest: the ac­tive cen­tre diff re­mains and the only other real piece of new ground the RS3 breaks is the op­tion of a set of car­bon-ce­ramic brakes at this price-point. Don’t know what they’ll cost yet, but fig­ure on some­where be­tween $12,000 and $15,000.

And while they only re­place the front hard­ware, they do fea­ture 370mm ro­tors, eight-pis­ton calipers and they take an­other 12kg off the Audi’s front axle.

Like the pre­vi­ous RS3, the new car is a might­ily tac­tile thing. The steer­ing is pin-sharp and the ride, while firm, en­sures you stay in con­tact with what all the bits and pieces of the car are do­ing. It never comes across as sen­sory over­load, but you won’t be left won­der­ing. This is a good thing.

The en­gine feels fa­mil­iar and, im­por­tantly, it re­tains that yam­mer­ing five-pot sound­track, es­pe­cially with the ac­tive ex­haust valve open. The seven-speed twin-clutch (Audi calls it S tronic) is the only gear­box the RS3 will get, how­ever it has that knack of smooth­ing out full-throt­tle shifts while keep­ing them snappy at the same time. It’s cut from the same philo­soph­i­cal cloth as the chas­sis.

There’s a gen­eral feel­ing of there be­ing a bit less weight over the front end, but you’d prob­a­bly need a back-to-back ex­pe­ri­ence to de­fine it any fur­ther than that. One thing that may have changed, though, is the ab­so­lute re­quire­ment to tick the Mag­netic Ride (MR) box when out shop­ping. In the past, MR has been a no-brainer and the car hasn’t felt right with­out it. But now, we’re kind of left won­der­ing. See, the dif­fer­ence be­tween Sport and Com­fort ap­pears to have been short­ened up a bit, while the loss of 26 front-axle ki­los seems to have made the non-MR plat­form al­most as good. But here’s the catch: we only drove the non-MR car with the car­bon brakes fit­ted, so there goes an­other 12 ki­los. A drive of the non-MR, non-car­bon-braked RS3 is what’s needed. And we’ll do that as soon as they hit the beach Down Un­der.

But we can tell you that the cen­tre diff and the ESP match beau­ti­fully with the RS3 able to shuf­fle from a lit­tle en­try-push to a proper tail-out exit should you hap­pen across a patch of drift­ing sand or, that most Omani of sit­u­a­tions, the mid-corner camel turd.

New RS3's ex­te­rior styling might be un­der­stated but its new colour palette cer­tainly isn't – this is Viper Green

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