Sometimes amazing things come in small packages
TheHonda Civic Type-R is the new poster child/benchmark of compact-car performance. Perhaps Audi has something to say about that.
The genesis of the 400-horsepower all-wheel-drive Audi RS3 starts with the A3 sedan.
This humblest Audi member arrived as a sedan for 2015. The near-luxury model is a decent enough runner with a turbocharged 170-horsepower base engine and is priced in the low-$30,000 range. The hangup for the A3, however, is that that kind of money will get you a well-equipped midsize sedan from Honda, Ford or Toyota, one that has more power and much more rear-seat room. For fans of Germany-based sporting machinery, that likely won’t matter much.
The more powerful S3’s 292-horse turbo four-cylinder yields a snappier four-door, but the fun factor is dialed up to 10 with the RS3’s arrival.
From the outside, the hot Audi is all business, especially if your “business” involves European performance vehicles and the piloting of same. The blacked-out honeycomb grille flanked by oversized air scoops certainly makes a bold statement. At the opposite end, the lower panel beneath the bumper (called a diffuser) houses a pair of large oval exhaust pipes that collectively exude an equally aggressive demeanor.
The exclamation points on the sedan’s design are the fender-filling 19-inch wheels available in a variety of optional flavors.
The interior is tailored and decidedly upscale. Premium leather covers the seats, center console, door panels and flat-bottom steering wheel. The sport buckets are supportive and considerate of more portly passengers. The driver’s side is optionally power-adjustable, but the co-pilot’s chair is manually operated only.
The tablet-style touch-screen perched atop the dashboard is subtle enough that it shouldn’t cause any serious distraction. It’s relatively straightforward to operate.
Drivers should be distracted, but in a good way, once they’re settled in behind the wheel. Pressing the red-lit starter button activates a turbocharged 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine that produces 400 horsepower and 354 pound-feet of torque. That’s a lot of punch for a 3,500-pound car that’s smaller than the much-ballyhooed (and lighter) 306-horsepower Civic Type-R.
The standard seven-speed paddleshift transmission is a slick piece of work and deftly selects the appropriate gear in seamless fashion. Audi measures the zero-to-60-mph time at 3.9 seconds— a full second quicker than the front-drive Civic Type-R— which places the car in some very fast company. The optional carbon-ceramic brakes do a great job at hauling the RS3 down in a hurry. The RS3 is rated at 19 mpg in the city and 28 on the highway (22, combined) on premium fuel.
If there is a downside to the RS3, it’s the sport-suspension setup. Even set to comfort mode, the ride is unnecessarily firm over rough pavement.
All this performance will set you back just under $56,000— about $21,000 more than a Civic Type R— including destination charges, which includes a modest assortment of luxury trimmings. The exterior includes a panoramic sunroof, LED headlights, folded outside mirrors rain-sensing wipers and summer performance rubber.
Along with perforated-leather seats, interior upgrades include a 180-watt sound system and front and rear parking sensors.
The RS3 will run just as quickly without adding any of the tempting option packages, some of which are mostly dress-up extras. However special mention goes to the excellent Bang & Olufsen sound system plus the suite of dynamic safety technologies that are worth the extra cost.
The RS3’s small size versus cost will be off-putting to some buyers, but performance enthusiasts understand that being small also means being quick and nimble.
Such buyers will also be won over by the RS3’s style and elegance. It’s a oneof-kind package based on a philosophy that has yet to be adopted by North American and Japan-based automakers.
Audi is a master at crafting seats that are comfortable and artful. (Photo courtesy of Audi) The turbocharged five-cylinder engine is unique to the RS3 and makes 400 horsepower. With standard all-wheel-drive and seven-speed paddle-shift transmission, Audi claims the car hits 60 mph from rest in less than four seconds. (Photo courtesy of Audi) The center console has a dial that lets the driver run the various screen systems on a feel basis. Note the audio-system volume control to the right. (Photo courtesy of Audi)