Audi RS3 Sedan Qu­at­tro S tronic

A mid-cy­cle facelift sees the al­ready gen­er­ously en­dowed RS3 gain 24 kw ... to spec­tac­u­lar ef­fect

Car (South Africa) - - CONTENTS -

3,93 SEC­ONDS… On our test strip, the facelifted RS3 Sedan com­pleted the bench­mark 100 km/h sprint in less time than any BMW M or Mercedes-amg prod­uct we’ve ever tested. That’s an in­cred­i­ble achieve­ment, and it’s one made even more as­ton­ish­ing by the knowl­edge that the Audi is a com­pact sedan built on the VW Group’s hum­ble MQB plat­form that also un­der­pins your cross­over Q2 and your neigh­bour’s Golf 1,0 TSI…

What man­ner of dark magic has en­abled Wolfs­burg to ex­tract such in­cred­i­ble per­for­mance from, what is in sportscar cir­cles, a rel­a­tively mod­est engine? The en­gi­neers thor­oughly re-en­gi­neered the trans­versely mounted 2,5-litre tur­bopetrol, ex­tract­ing an ex­tra 24 kw (thank you, larg­er­vol­ume tur­bocharger) to peg its to­tal at 294 kw, in the process trump­ing the 280 kw MercedesAMG CLA45 for brag­ging rights at the pin­na­cle of the C-seg­ment. Max­i­mum torque, mean­while, has leaped to 480 N.m, an in­crease of 15 N.m, and is de­liv­ered from 1 700 through to 5 850 r/min.

This lat­est ver­sion of the war­bly ve-cylin­der pow­er­plant – a seven-time Engine of the Year vic­tor in its dis­place­ment class – is 26 kg lighter thanks mainly to an alu­minium crank­case that re­places the pre­vi­ous graphite­iron one. That mass sav­ing above the nose should, in the­ory, ban­ish some of the push-on un­der­steer for which we’ve

pre­vi­ously crit­i­cised the RS3.

Un­der the lightly fet­tled skin, the Macpher­son-strut-front/ mul­ti­link-rear sus­pen­sion sys­tem has been fine-tuned to strike a su­pe­rior bal­ance be­tween han­dling prow­ess and ev­ery­day ride com­fort. What’s more, the Qu­at­tro all-wheel-drive sys­tem can send up to 100% of drive to the rear wheels, and the seven-speed dual-clutch S tronic trans­mis­sion is 2 kg lighter. The lat­ter of­fers the cus­tom­ary full-man­ual mode in con­junc­tion with tac­tile pad­dles be­hind the Al­can­tara-trimmed wheel; normal auto drive; or a sportier S set­ting that sends more sound and fury through the two ex­haust flaps, trans­mit­ting the engine’s ad­dic­tive one-twofour-five-three-cylin­der fir­ing se­quence to passers-by.

Cru­cially, the S tronic trans­mis­sion also boasts what might be the world’s eas­i­est-to-use launch-con­trol sys­tem (BMW, take note), which al­lowed the RS3 Sedan to leap off the line on our test strip with­out a chirp from the 255/30 R19 Pirellis aft to post that as­ton­ish­ing bench­mark ac­cel­er­a­tion time. In-gear sprint­ing proved equally in­cred­i­ble, with the Q-car Audi need­ing just 2,24 sec­onds to leap from 60 to 100 km/h and 2,77 to com­plete the 80-120 km/h leg (for com­par­i­son, the CLA45 re­quired 2,56 and 3,08, re­spec­tively). Those are spec­tac­u­lar fig­ures, ir­re­spec­tive of seg­ment.

But we know Audi can do fast. What it oc­ca­sion­ally strug­gles with is mar­ry­ing pace with plea­sure. When we last tested an RS3 in July 2016, we lobbed crit­i­cism at its un­der­steer-led cor­ner­ing stance, which forced the driver to adopt a slow-in, fast-out ap­proach. That ap­peared to suit the Qu­at­tro sys­tem best as it shuf­fled torque to the wheels with the most grip, but proved frus­trat­ing at max­i­mum at­tack. The CLA45 we tested soon af­ter, mean­while, dis­played fan­tas­tic mid-cor­ner bal­ance, while the M2 was sim­ply a riot (and, oc­ca­sion­ally, a right old fright) when we as­sessed it in May 2016.

You may have gleaned from the RS3’S place­ment in Match-up to the left that Audi’s en­gi­neers have been suc­cess­ful with their tin­ker­ing. That feel­ing of ut­ter un­flap­pa­bil­ity is still there – the con­sen­sus in the team is that few cars are as quick as an RS3

cross-coun­try – but, ad­di­tion­ally, the Audi ap­pears more set­tled dur­ing en­thu­si­as­tic cor­ner­ing. That freshly un­bur­dened fron­tend grips harder for longer be­fore suc­cumb­ing to mild un­der­steer, but now it feels like a nat­u­ral pro­gres­sion into slight slip. Lift the sen­si­tive throt­tle and the front-end neatly tucks into line.

The elec­tron­i­cally as­sisted steer­ing, too, is more pro­gres­sive than ever (al­though dy­namic mode in the Drive Se­lect sys­tem sim­ply adds weight, but not feel) and the ride, while un­ques­tion­ably rm, is com­fort­able enough for the RS3 to re­main com­posed on bumpy tar and not punch oc­cu­pants in the kid­neys over scarred city roads at sane speeds.

While the facelifted RS3 has joined its two Ger­man ri­vals for driv­ing thrills, it smashes them out the park in terms of per­ceived qual­ity and over­all cock­pit com­fort; the deep front buck­ets re­main cosy even af­ter hours be­hind the wheel and there’s suf cient space in the sec­ond row. The ve-cylin­der does love a drink, though, and at R925 500, the spec sheet is acutely skewed to­wards ex­pen­sive op­tions, some of which should be stan­dard when the car in ques­tion orig­i­nates in the C-seg­ment, but nudges seven gures.

TEST SUM­MARY

In the past, hot Audis have split opinion in the CAR team. Some loved their com­plete com­po­sure and the con dence gen­er­ated by their el­e­vated grip lev­els; others were left cold by wooden steer­ing and nose-heavy dy­nam­ics. Like the new R8, how­ever, the RS3 Sedan is an ex­cep­tion. Gar­ner­ing rave re­views from all who drove it de­spite some muf ed com­ments that an M2 and its rear-wheel driv­e­train re­mains the more plea­sur­able steer, the new model is nally the ve­hi­cle we all had wished the RS3 would be from the start.

A sub-4,0-sec­ond car for un­der R1 mil­lion is a sweet deal Nikesh Koover­jee

clock­wise from be­low left Min­i­mal­ist cabin de­sign has aged well and this test car didn't emit a sin­gle squeak; red cal­lipers are a R4 180 op­tion, as are the es­sen­tial S Sports seats at R9 000.

Shouldn’t the ul­ti­mate A3 pos­sess a bit more drama? Ian Mclaren

Fe­ro­ciously quick, and what a noise the five-pot makes! Ryan Bubear

from be­low The star of the pack­age, the char­ac­ter­ful 2,5-litre turbpetrol; black styling pack (R9 050) cou­pled with black paint lends the RS3 a real air of men­ace.

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