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