Audi RS3

Now it’s run-in, our 394bhp Audi can be fully un­leashed (weather de­pend­ing)

Evo - - FAST FLEET - James Dis­dale

IT’S BEEN A FAIRLY BUSY MONTH for the mean green ma­chine, with fam­ily trips to North York­shire and South Devon helping to make fairly straight­for­ward work of the run­ning-in pe­riod. As a re­sult, I’ve fi­nally been able to un­leash the star of the RS3’S dy­namic pack­age: the en­gine.

Un­til re­cently, the 394bhp tur­bocharged five-pot has been kept on a tight leash, with re­stricted revs and a care­ful eye on the oil level. A tall sev­enth gear meant that fast mo­tor­way cruises were OK, while the low­down torque de­liv­ered more than enough poke to pull clear of traf­fic else­where. But it’s only be­yond 4000rpm that this en­gine re­ally gets into its stride.

It’s not just the elec­tri­fy­ing ac­cel­er­a­tion I crave, it’s the noise, too. As the nee­dle on the dig­i­tal rev counter sweeps past the big ‘4’, the valves in the ex­haust open and the RS3 finds its voice, and then some, blend­ing the war­bling off­beat war cry of the Ur-qu­at­tro with the sharper me­chan­i­cal howl of the R8’s V10. It’s a truly ad­dic­tive sound.

And it’s all nat­u­ral – no sound sym­posers or hi-fi-en­hanced notes, just the sound of su­pe­run­leaded be­ing in­gested, com­pressed, ig­nited and ex­hausted quite a few thou­sand times ev­ery minute. It’s just the right side of loud, too, both in­side and out­side, let­ting both oc­cu­pants and passers-by know that this is no or­di­nary A3 (the paint does a good job of that, too), but with­out the over-the-top, in-your­face bom­bast of AMG’S V8-en­gined prod­ucts.

The en­gine is so good in fact, that it’s easy to over­look the rest of the car (apart from the paint, ob­vi­ously). It even looks the part, with a proper cam cover and a lovely crackle-fin­ished in­let plenum. Open­ing the bon­net for a peek is a genuine plea­sure. OK, maybe that’s just me.

I’m also quickly dis­cov­er­ing that there are few faster cars in the real world than this Audi. Sure, it’s not the most ag­ile or en­gag­ing thing (there’s still too much weight over the nose), but the com­bi­na­tion of four-wheel drive and wieldy di­men­sions mean that the RS3 is quick and com­posed come rain or shine. Some more ad­justa­bil­ity would be wel­come, but take a neat and pre­cise ap­proach and be spot on with your cor­ner en­try speed and the Audi can pick apart the av­er­age B-road at a barely be­liev­able rate. It also keeps go­ing when the snow starts fall­ing (again!), which isn’t some­thing that can be said for its rear-drive ri­vals.

There are some nig­gles though, the big­gest of which is the seven-speed twin-clutch ’box, which is light­ning quick and as smooth as a silk­worm’s py­ja­mas when push­ing on, but can get wrong-footed when at a crawl. It’s at its worst when pulling away from round­abouts or junc­tions, where pa­tience and a sen­si­tive right foot are needed – go for a quick get­away and it feels like the trans­mis­sion tries to en­gage two gears at once, then changes its mind and sim­ply drops the clutch, caus­ing you to lurch off like a learner. I’m go­ing to try dis­abling the start-stop to see if this smooths things out. Still, once the RS3 is rolling, nor­mal ser­vice with the gear­box is re­sumed, mean­ing you can just get on with en­joy­ing that en­gine.

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