▶ Why is it here?

Because over the years the classy, crushingly competent RS3 has establishe­d a reputation as being so much more than just a posh VW Golf R. With the latest model, Audi is emphasisin­g the undeniable bloodline between the new cars and the Quattros of road and rally legend, and with good reason.

Any clever stu ? The RS Torque Splitter, examined last month in the Tech section, is a smart way of bringing fully variable torque vectoring to the rear wheels. But ultimately the star of the show is the RS3’s free-revving, high-boost, aluminium-blocked five-cylinder engine, a version of the unit seen in the last RS3 and the current TT RS. Economic sense? Nope, not in the slightest. Great motor? Yes.

Which version is this? The car you see here is the

Launch Edition but that’s no longer available, so the spec and pricing given here are for the current range-topping Vorsprung (now Audi’s standard designatio­n for the top-spec versions of its cars), which starts at £61,655 and comes with adaptive suspension and a top-speed increase (from 155mph to 180mph – how useful), as well as a Bang & Olufsen audio upgrade and more driver-assistance systems. The RS3 is available from £54,405 in entry trim, or £59,055 for Carbon Black. As well as the Sportback (otherwise known as the five-door hatchback), the RS3 is also available in Saloon (fourdoor) form, with near-identical performanc­e and pricing that’s £1k extra. And don’t forget the rather tamer (in a 306bhp kind of way) and usefully cheaper (from £40k) S3. The Golf R is also an alternativ­e not tested here, and considerab­ly more a™ordable.

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