EN­FANT TER­RI­BLE

AUDI’S FIVE-POT GI­ANT-SLAYER

Driven - - Driven - Re­port by FERDI DE VOS | Images © RYAN AB­BOTT (TCB ME­DIA)

WITH A RUM­BLE AND A BURBLE, AND MIND-BEND­ING POWER, THE AUDI RS3 RELIVES THE GLORY DAYS OF THE RS2 AVANT. FERDI DE VOS SETS THE SCENE FOR AUDI’S RAL­LY­ING GLORY DAYS.

It is that dis­tinc­tive sound – an al­lur­ing burble with a par­tic­u­lar rhythm that quickly changes to a re­ver­ber­ant howl with al­lur­ing, oddly har­monic fre­quen­cies – that catches your at­ten­tion first.

It is mes­meris­ing and en­thralling; the beau­ti­ful noise emit­ted from Audi’s five­cylin­der en­gine mas­ter­pieces in full song. So mem­o­rable is it that it should have been trade­marked by now.

Those old enough to re­mem­ber the char­ac­ter­is­tic chirrup from the turbo waste­gate on Su­per­van’s Qu­at­tro S1 echo­ing through the leafy forests of Swazi­land, will prob­a­bly also re­call the first pro­duc­tion five-cylin­der petrol en­gine that pow­ered the sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion Audi 100 in­tro­duced in 1976. De­rived from the VW Group’s EA 827 con­cept, this 2.1-litre pow­er­plant pro­duced 100 kW in the Audi 100 5E, de­liv­ered from 1977.

Many en­hance­ments fol­lowed, with tur­bocharg­ing, emis­sions con­trol, and four-valve tech­nol­ogy, rally en­gines and five-cylin­der diesel units, and over more than four decades they have achieved cult sta­tus – mostly due to their suc­cess­ful de­ploy­ment in mo­tor­sport.

The first tur­bocharged vari­ant, with an out­put of 125 kW and 265 Nm of torque, made its de­but in 1979, and in the “Urquat­tro” of 1980, with tur­bocharg­ing, an in­ter­cooler, and per­ma­nent four-wheel drive, it ini­tially de­liv­ered 147 kW.

By 1984, the four-valve pow­er­plant de­liv­ered up to 331 kW in Group B rally spec­i­fi­ca­tion, and in the 1989 IMSA GTO race­car, it de­liv­ered a whop­ping 530 kW – from lit­tle more than two litres of dis­place­ment.

THE FIRST RS

The first RS, des­ig­nated in­ter­nally as P1, was the re­sult of a col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween Audi AG and Porsche. Un­veiled in March 1994, the RS2 Avant – a com­pact sta­tion wagon with the power of a sports car – took the au­to­mo­tive world by sur­prise.

Us­ing the most ad­vanced ver­sion of the 2.2-litre in­line five-cylin­der en­gine avail­able, now de­liv­er­ing 232 kW of power and 410 Nm of torque, this spe­cial wagon ac­cel­er­ated from 0 to 100 km/h in a scyth­ing 4.8 sec­onds and could reach 262 km/h (elec­tron­i­cally re­stricted) de­spite weigh­ing over 1,600 kg.

It was a pukka su­per­car chaser; ac­cord­ing to tests quicker to 48 km/h than a McLaren F1, and it could hold its own in a straight line, against pur­pose-built sports cars such as the C5 Chevy Corvette and the 996 Porsche 911.

How­ever, the five-cylin­der units bowed out in 1995, with the RS2 su­per­seded by the six-cylin­der RS4 Avant in 1999. Ten years later, five-cylin­der en­gines – now with a dis­place­ment of 2.5-litres, new tur­bocharg­ing tech­nol­ogy, and di­rect fuel in­jec­tion – made a big come­back.

The re­de­vel­oped, now trans­verse mounted en­gine de­liv­ered 250 kW and was first used in the Audi TT RS, fol­lowed by the 2009 RS3 Sport­back and the RS Q3. In 2012 power was mus­tered up to 265 kW in the TT RS plus, and nowa­days the pow­er­plant de­liv­ers an im­pres­sive 294 kW and 480 Nm of torque.

SPIR­I­TUAL SUC­CES­SOR

Com­pared in terms of size and lay­out, the lat­est RS3 Sport­back (and not the RS4 Avant) is the real spir­i­tual suc­ces­sor to the orig­i­nal RS2 Avant. In cur­rent guise, the Sport­back is marginally broader and taller than the first RS2, with a wider track front and rear, and a 40 mm longer wheel­base.

It is slightly shorter than the wagon-like orig­i­nal (161 mm), but has more lug­gage space, due to more ef­fi­cient pack­ag­ing and a trans­verse mounted en­gine. And de­spite more sound-in­su­la­tion ma­te­rial, it is about 60 kg lighter.

The first Sport­back re­de­fined the com­pact hot hatch seg­ment. Pro­duced in lim­ited num­bers, Audi SA de­liv­ered 174 units in the lo­cal mar­ket and sold 265 of the sec­ond gen­er­a­tion, which fol­lowed in 2015.

The lat­est Sport­back has strik­ing de­sign de­tails, such as a more sculpted sin­gle­frame grille, new front bumper blade de­sign, new head­lights with a jagged lower edge, a rear dif­fuser in­sert di­vided by ver­ti­cally run­ning struts, large el­lip­tic tailpipes and a dis­tinc­tive roof spoiler.

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