Grunt-packed hy­per hatch fails to over­power the podium

Motor (Australia) - - FIRST DRIVE -

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

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