MO­TOR­ING

This is the sporti­est model of Audi’s A3 se­ries and it’s got the most pow­er­ful pro­duc­tion five-pot in RS his­tory. wheels’ Im­ran Ma­lik thinks it should be pretty good then...

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The sporti­est model of Audi’s A3 se­ries has ev­ery­thing to make it the leader of the pack.

Wrong. It’s great. And there goes the ver­dict. It would hardly have been a sur­prise to have said that at the very end of this ar­ti­cle though, be­cause you’d have known as much just by look­ing at the new RS 3 Sport­back. It’s an ag­gres­sive lit­tle num­ber with some large per­for­mance fig­ures.

In­gol­stadt’s lat­est can hit 0-100kph in 4.3 sec­onds (0.3 sec­onds quicker to the tonne than the pre­vi­ous model), makes 367 horse­power, 465Nm of torque and has a top speed of 250kph, which can be in­creased to 280kph upon re­quest should you feel the need.

How­ever, it isn’t just the num­bers that im­press. Ac­com­pa­ny­ing those big dig­its is a won­der­fully throaty sound from the tur­bocharged five-cylin­der. And superb driv­ing dy­nam­ics. And a bril­liantly snappy seven-speed S tronic au­to­matic gear­box.

But hold on a sec­ond. Let’s start from the top and that strik­ing ex­te­rior, fin­ished in Catalunya Red Metal­lic, which re­veals much of that po­ten­tial.

The front end is as ag­gres­sive as it can get. The ti­ta­nium gray Qu­at­tro script in the lower sec­tion of the grille is a telling sign of things to come. It isn’t sub­tle, and nor is it sup­posed to be – this lit­tle Audi likes to shout about its per­for­mance long be­fore you push the start but­ton. The high-gloss black sin­gle-frame grille fea­tures a hon­ey­comb pat­tern and is wider than the unit fit­ted on the orig­i­nal RS 3. The huge in­lets are able to suck up vast amounts of air to keep the Audi cool and they look rather fetch­ing with that blade in­te­grated into the front apron. It ex­tends up into the in­lets and forms a ver­ti­cal di­vid­ing bar.

The pro­file of this hot hatch re­veals those widened front fend­ers, the chis­elled side sills and a large roof spoiler. It also has a pro­nounced bumper, a high-gloss black four-blade dif­fuser and two large oval tailpipes that emit a mighty roar. It rolls on a set of 19in wheels hid­ing 370mm car­bon fi­bre ce­ramic brake discs at the front and 310mm at the back. A smat­ter­ing of RS 3 badges round off the ex­te­rior.

The in­te­rior ef­fort­lessly blends sporti­ness, lux­ury and lots of tech­nol­ogy. The dom­i­nant colour in here is black (yes, I know, black isn’t a colour...) and the light grey trim on the bucket seats (wrapped in Nappa leather) and cen­tre con­sole breaks it up nicely.

The leather and Al­can­tara flat-bot­tom steer­ing wheel is the per­fect size and there are other sporty vi­su­als such as the stain­less steel ped­als and footrest. It also has the RS in­stru­ment clus­ter with the oblig­a­tory black faces, red nee­dles and white scales.

Some of the stan­dard fea­tures in­clude the MMI in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem and park­ing sys­tem, but our test car was fully loaded. The Bang & Olufsen mu­sic sys­tem de­serves a spe­cial men­tion for its clar­ity, but you’ll hardly bother with it be­cause the RS 3 has its own bois­ter­ous sound­track and it’s been turned up all the way, quite lit­er­ally. The tester also had the op­ti­mised RS sport ex­haust sys­tem, best en­joyed with the win­dows down and the AC at full blast. Waste­ful? Yes. But to­tally nec­es­sary none­the­less.

Bet­ter than all this is the way the RS 3 drives and han­dles. That 2.5-litre TFSI has tremen­dous pulling power and is ever so ea­ger to rev in any gear. Noth­ing beats the snarl of a V8 in my opin­ion, but this five-pot (the most po­tent in RS his­tory no less; it weighs 180kg and its tur­bocharger makes 1.3 bar of pres­sure) sure runs close. The two flaps in the ex­haust, which can be con­trolled via the Audi Drive Se­lect Sys­tem, al­low for an even more in­ten­sive sound that varies with en­gine load and speed. It de­liv­ers its peak torque at just 1,625rpm and can go from 60-100kph in fourth gear in just 4.1 sec­onds.

Audi has made sure that it’s eco­nom­i­cal, too. It has added a re­cu­per­a­tion sys­tem, de­mand-con­trolled oil pump and a newly de­vel­oped start-stop sys­tem that turns off the en­gine shortly be­fore the car comes to a stop to give it a fuel ef­fi­ciency of 8.1l per 100km. The mo­tor is good but to get the best out of it, Audi has mated it to its seven-speed S tronic and it swaps the cogs in the blink of an eye. Man­ual shift­ing via the flappy pad­dles be­hind the steer­ing wheel is the or­der of the day, but if this car had a proper row-your-own gear­box, it’d take the al­ready huge driv­ing plea­sure to new, un­charted lev­els.

You’re never short of grip – the Qu­at­tro per­ma­nent all-wheel drive sys­tem, which can send be­tween 50 and 100 per cent of the avail­able torque to the rear axle, sees to that. You can take cor­ners with the throt­tle flat to the floor and it tack­les them with gusto; the short front over­hangs help keep the RS 3 tucked in and there’s no body roll to speak of ei­ther, thanks to the chas­sis. The McPher­son front sus­pen­sion has been widened to a track of 1,559mm and the rear four-link has a track width of 1,514mm, and this greatly aids han­dling. It’s hard to un­set­tle this one, which sits 25mm

This lit­tle Audi isn’t SUB­TLE. It likes to SHOUT about its per­for­mance long be­fore you push the START but­ton and the ti­ta­nium gray QU­AT­TRO script in the lower sec­tion of the GRILLE is a telling SIGN of things to come

lower to the ground than the pre­vi­ous RS 3 and fea­tures the Audi mag­netic ride adap­tive damper sys­tem. You get four modes to se­lect from; com­fort, auto, dy­namic and in­di­vid­ual.

There is some se­ri­ous com­pe­ti­tion in the hot hatch seg­ment, with the likes of the A 45 AMG, Fo­cus RS and the ven­er­a­ble Golf R, and we’ll only know where the RS 3 stands once we as­sem­ble them all for a shoot-out. But on this ev­i­dence, the Audi needn’t feel any pres­sure. It has all the cre­den­tials to be the leader of the pack.

The interiors of the RS 3 are just as sporty as its ex­te­rior, with Nappa leather and large tailpipes adding some se­ri­ous game

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