Top-end hot hatches now produce the sort of acceleration you’d expect of a supercar. Only problem is, you could be paying six figures for the privilege.
Here are five things you should know about Audi’s new RS3 hatch and sedan.
The changes are subtle
At a glance, the new RS3 appears a lot like the outgoing model, but there are subtle changes that enhance the look and improve the driving experience. The new car’s front tyres are further apart and wider than the rears, delivering more front-end bite when attacking corners. A new torque-vectoring rear differential also helps to make the car more agile, shifting the power delivery to the outside wheels when cornering to tuck the nose in tightly. There’s even a drift mode that lets you wag the tail, although that feature is best left to track days and skid pans.
The numbers are mind-boggling
The RS3’s five-cylinder turbo and seven-speed dual-clutch auto are essentially carried over, although engineers have managed to squeeze another 20Nm of torque out of the 2.5-litre, taking the numbers to 294kW and 500Nm. That’s less power than its closest rival, Mercedes-Benz’s AMG A45 S, but the Audi takes the drag strip bragging rights, completing the blast to 100km/h in just 3.8 seconds, one-tenth quicker than the Benz. The Audi is also a few thousand dollars cheaper, although at roughly $103,000 drive-away it is about $8000 more expensive than its predecessor.
But they don’t tell the whole story
What the numbers don’t tell you is that this is one of the sweetest, most endearing engines ever made, with an awesome soundtrack, mind-boggling low-down grunt and relentless thrust throughout the mid range. The previous model had lost some of its bark due to emissions regulations but in RS mode, a new variable exhaust turns up the volume, with all the accompanying crackles and pops you’d expect from a performance car. The official fuel consumption of 8.2L/100km is remarkable on paper, but unachievable in the real world. If you drive it like you want to, you’ll see double-digit figures pretty quickly.
It’s relatively easy to live with
Hard-edged performance cars can be a chore when navigating the daily commute, particularly when months of persistent rain have turned suburban rat runs into potholed torture tests, but the RS3 is better than most at cushioning its occupants from bumps and lumps. The dual-clutch auto can grumble and hesitate when asked to pluck a suitable gear in a hurry, but most of the time, the RS3 can be driven serenely around town. Those with sensitive ears may find the tyre roar less than ideal on coarse surfaces, but that’s the trade-off for all that grip and poise at speed.
The cabin ambience is first-rate
Audi has long been at the pointy end of interior design and the new RS3 is no different, offering up a tasteful blend of sportiness and opulence. Heavily bolstered sports seats wrapped in soft, quality Nappa leather grip you tightly through corners, while the crisp digital driver’s display can be configured to suit individual tastes. A head-up display has been added, while audiophiles will love the 15-speaker Bang and Olufsen stereo. Rear knee room is a little tight and the hatch’s load area is stingy at just 282 litres. For an extra $2500 you can opt for the sedan with its bigger boot.
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