Monster. Yep, its fair to say when you drop 400hp in to a compact body like the Audi A3’s the massive power output turns a once smart little business machine in to a beast.
Available as a hatch or saloon my test car is a classic three box. The outside of the excellently proportioned RS3 looks sporty and smart with only the ‘quattro’ lettering on the lower front bumper an obvious clue to its potential. When you see the rear of the car for the first time you’ll do a double take at massive exhaust pipes. Quickly people realise the RS3 is no ordinary A3. Slightly flared wheel arches and a subtle rear spoiler ooze class.
Under the bonnet sits he World’s most powerful series-production 5 cylinder engine. The 2.5 litre TFSI petrol engine, also used in the TT RS, is lighter than before and produces an impressive 480nm of torque from as little as 1700rpm. Audi’s legendary quattro system delivers all the power to all four wheels and the result is a blisteringly quick and seriously thirsty compact car. The sprint from 0-100km/h takes 4.1 seconds and the top speed is electronically limited to 250km/h but it can do 280km/h (174mph) unrestricted, which you can be carried out on request. To say the 1590kg machine is nimble is an understatement. The suspension is tuned with a clever multi-link rear set up plus the RS3’s chassis lowered by 25mm. Sitting on 19 inch alloys with super sticky tyres the RS3 is incredible precise to steer and drive, in fact the RS3 is so competent it almost feels dull. With a two wheel drive performance car you are kept more on your toes than in a quattro machine. Two-wheel drives always need more driver input to get as much traction down on to the road surface to accelerate, brake and steer. This is great fun for example in a rear wheel drive BMW M2 – as its backside wants to slide away and drift under power. Even a front wheel drive Civic Type R makes you battle with the steering wheel to hustle the car along. What I’m trying to say is that in day to day driving quattro is not that entertaining despite being technically better. Don’t get me wrong quattro has evolved over the years from a strict 50/50 split of power to a more variable split between axles depending on demand. The latest RS3 will shift the a great amount of power to the rear when sportier driving is detected.
The wonderful RS3 has an active flap exhaust that you can customise. At its quietest the RS3 sounds… purposeful on start up but you can dial up its soundtrack to full ‘ASBO’ hooligan in the driving modes settings (of course I did). The car burbles and barks and rewards you for shifting through the gears. The 7 speed S-Tronic auto (dual clutch) has the standard D and S shift settings and of course there are steering wheel paddle shifters for even more control. I managed to do an average of 8.9l/100km – something similar to what I’d manage in a full fat Range Rover. In truth this is not bad consumption for such a powerful machine.
The RS3 saloon starts from €72,378 (hatch is roughly a grand less) yet my test car came with an additional €17,054 of options – that I wouldn’t opt for as they should be standard. The sticker price came in at €89,432. Serious enthusiasts and Autobahn users should only select the items that will enhance the driving experience. If you want creature comforts and luxuries get a regular A3 and spec it up. The stock RS3 is perfectly comfortable and the only thing missing is a head up display. With the brilliant RS3 I’d only select the more interesting options of ‘RS suspension plus with active damper control’ and the ceramic front brakes that are vital for extended high speed driving, and as with any car I’d upgrade the lights from the standard LED headlights to the matrix LEDs.
The Audi RS3 is a wonderful car that while pricey is technically brilliant.