IF you are ever planning a stealthy exit from some shady rendezvous, don’t bring along the Audi RS 3 Saloon. Because firing up this quattro unleashes a ferocious growl from raucous oval exhausts that attract immediate attention leaving no one in any doubt as to the intentions of a motor offering supercar performance levels at a fraction of the cost.
Not that I’m saying the £45,675 price-tag for the RS 3 is cheap, but for a car that can reach 62mph from a standing start in a shade over four seconds, on its way to an electronically limited top speed of 155mph, it is value for money. Indeed pay to have the limiter removed and you’ll hit 174mph.
And I have not even got to the two most surprising facts about Audi Sport’s scintillating saloon.
Firstly, it really does achieve on or about the average claimed fuel economy figure of 34mpg – alleviating my initial concern that I would spend most of my time at a petrol station filling it up.
And secondly, despite the red-hot pace, you can drive around town with the minimum of fuss and use it as a family runabout without a hint of complaint.
Not that you will go unnoticed though, thanks to the marvellous soundtrack from the 2.5-litre, 400ps, five-cylinder petrol engine, eyecatching paint jobs and natty bodywork.
Go to the drive select button and put the car in Dynamic mode and you’re guaranteed to bring a smile to the kids’ faces as it induces fireworklike bangs from the exhaust which herald the transmission changing down a gear.
However, not all the attention is welcome as there are plenty of idiots trying to repeat their favourite scene from the Fast and Furious film franchise as soon as you stop at traffic lights.
The RS 3 is gorgeous to look at with edgy body styling, a grille featuring a gloss black honeycomb mesh with big air intakes either side, in-your-face 19-inch alloy wheels, nifty LED lights and a lowered sports suspension.
It is even better to drive as the astonishing turbocharged power unit is linked to numerous systems allowing you to control the beast.
The star turn on that front is the four-wheel drive quattro system which gives a ton of grip and, more importantly, confidence when making the most of an impressive power-to-weight ratio.
Other natty electronics include a launch control function that is very Formula One allowing you to experience breathtaking acceleration. The seven-speed DSG gearbox is a delight with lightning quick shifts that are never short of seamless. Paddles are also provided behind the leather and Alcantara-covered flat-bottomed steering wheel for manual control.
You would think that a sports set-up would put your fillings at risk over rougher surfaces, but the four-door saloon does a remarkable job of smoothing out all but the most potty potholes. On long journeys it is reasonably civilised thanks to dual-zone climate control and supportive leather-upholstered seats – the wonderful engine noise under hard acceleration the only thing to breach the car’s sound-proofing defences.
The handling would shame a jet fighter as sharp reflexes are accessed through the pinpoint accurate steering while body control is sublime.
The cabin comfortably cossets four adults while the boot is a practical shape and size for their luggage. The interior is well designed with nice touches including brushed metal pedals and RS 3 badging.
The latest mod cons are on show including a decent sat nav system viewed on a 5.8-inch colour screen, digital radio, smartphone connectivity and an instrument cluster featuring a digital boost indicator for the turbo.
So, if you want performance that is in all honesty insane within a smart package that offers real-world practicality then the RS 3 Saloon is definitely a contender.