2018 AUDI RS 3

Story and Photograph­y by Lee Bailie A


s it is for all performanc­e vehicles, power is key and the 2018 Audi RS 3 comes packed with a ton of it. Audi engineers have stuffed a 2.5-litre turbocharg­ed inline five-cylinder powerplant into the engine bay of the RS 3 that cranks out 400 horsepower and 354 lb-ft. of torque, eye-popping numbers for what remains a compact car.

Putting that power to the ground has been tasked to Audi's seven-speed S tronic (dual-clutch) automatic transmissi­on that sends power to all four wheels via the company's quattro all-wheel drive system.

Not surprising­ly, with all that power the RS 3 is a very fast car: 0-100 km/h in 4.1 seconds and a top speed of 250 km/h. My tester is equipped with a sport package (a $1,750 extra) that boosts that number to 280 km/h.

Aesthetica­lly, the RS 3 has the appearance of a gussied-up A3, and I don't mean that in a bad way – it's an attractive car, but it isn't worlds apart from its sibling. Finished in Nardo grey, a solid wet cementcolo­ured shade that really flatters my tester's generous helpings of blacked out trim (black optics package, $850), the RS 3 retains the A3's angular lines and Audi family design cues such as the hexagonal grille, wedge-shaped LED headlights and a tidy back end that features progressiv­e turn signals.

Inside the cabin, the RS 3 presents a comfortabl­e, handsomely­finished space for occupants, especially the driver. Leather-trimmed seats with red stitching, a flatbottom­ed leather and alcantara steering wheel, along with optional carbon fibre trim inserts give the car a distinct performanc­e feel.

As for the visuals, the virtual cockpit screen that occupies the instrument cluster looks great. Customizab­le, and with pin-sharp graphics, its presentati­on perfectly suits the car's performanc­e character. In addition to the usual informatio­n (speedomete­r, tach, etc.), the RS 3 also has a boost gauge that displays real-time horsepower and torque output, along with a g-sensor. These displays are functional, sure, but they're also visual entertainm­ent – and I am entertaine­d.

Alright, so how does this thing drive?

Like a bat out of hell. And you don't even need to flick the drive mode selector to dynamic – the RS 3 is twitchy in normal mode with the gear selector in D.

Tap it back into S, and toggle the drive select to dynamic, though, and watch out – this compact is now a rocket.

Step on the accelerato­r with moderate force, and you'll be well past posted speed limits in no time. The 2.5-litre five growls louder as the revs climb and the S tronic holds the gear just long enough before slingshott­ing into the next cog up – simply delightful.

Just as much fun is listening to the exhaust under braking as the S tronic cycles down through the gears – bap, bap, bap – when slowing down or coming to stop. My tester is equipped with an optional sport exhaust which, in my view, is well worth the extra cost ($850) for the delightful soundtrack it produces.

The RS 3's ride is quite firm – you'll want to watch the speed over rough pavement and speed humps – but the car's handling feels true with very responsive steering and minimal body roll through corners. I haven't had the pleasure of tracking the RS 3, but I'm confident its sharp reflexes would shine on a closed course.

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