AUDI RS3 SPORTBACK
Grunt-packed hyper hatch fails to overpower the podium
IF YOU’RE going to be the most expensive entrant in the Bang For Your Bucks contest, you’re going to want to be extremely quick to have any chance of a decent result. And boy is the updated Audi RS3 Sportback quick. It dominated the drag strip, setting the fastest figures ever recorded at BFYB, jetting to 100km/h in 4.01sec and blitzing the quarter mile in 12.18sec at 186.57km/h, while 80-120km/h takes just 2.4sec. Nothing else came close.
The new all-alloy 2.5-litre turbo five-pot has shaved a couple of tenths off its predecessor’s acceleration times and has thankfully retained the RS3’s signature warble. It provides a great accompaniment to hot laps around Winton, but of greater importance to its dynamics is the 16kg weight loss the engine’s new, lighter construction provides.
The RS3 has always felt more at home on the road than the racetrack, and despite the lighter nose, understeer is the predominant handling trait at the limit. However, crucially, there’s just enough chassis adjustability to prevent hot laps being an exercise in frustration. Carry the brakes gently on turn-in and the rear will edge out slightly, relieving the front tyres of some stress and allowing a straighter exit – from there the monster engine takes over once more and rockets you in fast forward to the next bend.
Push hard and Audi’s five-pot hottie starts to get a bit sooky: the gearbox won’t accept early downshifts making it hard to slow the car sufficiently, at which point the nose runs wide of the apex. The RS3’s Haldex-based all-wheel drive system works a treat at getting all the power to the ground, but can’t divert enough power to the rear to really help steer the car.
In fact, the RS3 now almost feels a little overpowered, the front pulling wide if you get greedy with the throttle on corner exit – the VW Golf R is certainly the better balanced, more rewarding tool, a fact reflected in every judge placing the slower, less powerful car ahead on their scorecards.
It’s a feeling backed up by the stopwatch: for all its power and acceleration, the RS3 only lapped 1.4sec faster than the Golf R, which itself wasn’t particularly brisk, and trailed the Peugeot 308 GTi 270 by 0.2sec. The culprit is its mediocre corner speed, its 77.2km/h average in the same league as the Suzuki Swift Sport and Skoda Octavia RS245 rather than taking it to the Ford Focus RS or Honda Civic Type R.
But who needs corner speed when you have a hot hatch that sounds like a baby supercar, can pin your body into the seat under acceleration and has a top-notch interior? By playing to its strengths, the RS3 nabs fourth place, missing the podium by a whisker. –
HIGH FIVE Audi’s venerable five-pot dominates the RS3 experience, proving to be fast and magic to the ears, but it doesn’t equate to a quick lap