Have you ever seen movies from the Group B rally era? They are easy to find on Youtube and are advertised with titles like ‘Pure Sound’ or ‘Too Fast to Race’. When you play them, you see monsters flying by, often a few centimeters from the audience: the Lancia Delta S4, the Peugeot 205 Turbo 16 and the Audi Sport Quattro S1. The latter is the most spectacular, with its caricatured winged body and its screaming five-cylinder turbo engine.
The sound of a five-cylinder engine can be recognized from thousands: a hoarse roar with a dark undertone, which you feel is half as high-speed as a V10. And thankfully, the new Audi RS 3 howls just as dramatically as the Sport Quattro S1, especially in the interior, where the engine’s soundtrack is amplified through the speakers. Bystanders, on the other hand, will also know what you are traveling with. A deafening roar still rises from the oval fake exhausts of the RS 3 (behind it are small pipes).
The power source. We hardly dare to speculate about it, but this may well be the last RS 3 with a five-cylinder turbo engine. The ‘dirty’, thirsty block will have to give way in the future to a three- or four-cylinder with hybrid technology, so make your move while you still have the chance! The RS 3’s 2.5-liter TFSI engine is 400 hp and 500 Nm strong. It is mated to an S Tronic dual-clutch automatic transmission, which switches gears at lightning speed and seamlessly.
Aided by its four-wheel drive, the RS 3 reaches 100 km/h after 3.8 seconds. That is 0.1 seconds faster than even the previous generation Audi R8 V10. The top speed of the RS 3 depends on the size of your wallet. Standard is 250 km/h, but if you leave extra flaps at the Audi RS dealer, the electronic spoilsport in the engine management generously allows 280 km/h or even 290 km/h.
Interesting is the so-called RS Torque Splitter. The Volkswagen Golf R also has this and replaces the differential on the rear axle with two electronically controlled clutches, one for each wheel. The Audi RS 3 can thus actively distribute its driving forces over the rear wheels: in the case of understeer (if the nose wants to go straight), the outer wheel gets more, in the case of oversteer (if the rear breaks out) the inner wheel.
The latest driving impressions in your mailbox every week?
Subscribe to our Auto Review newsletter.
During the press release of the new RS 3, we not only drove on beautiful mountain roads, but we also got to hit the track. In both cases we noticed how big the influence of the RS Torque Splitter actually is. If you switch the RS 3 from Dynamic driving mode to RS Performance, it transforms. The rear wheels seem to suddenly countersteer when cornering, so great is the influence of the RS Torque Splitter. You brake late, steer in and can quickly hit the gas. The smart diff will drag you out.
The RS 3 has loads of grip, especially on the optional semi-slick tires. If you put it in RS Performance, a threatening warning appears on the digital dashboard: ‘Note, the safety systems are now in Sport, so stability can no longer be guaranteed’. Don’t be alarmed, because even with the electronic watchdogs in a half-asleep you’ll have to make it very hard to end up backwards in the undergrowth.
With the RS 3, Audi has created a hot hatchback / sports sedan in which you quickly feel like a Stig Blomqvist or Michèle Mouton. It flatters you with an exciting, yet safe mix of an extremely strong power source, a competent gearbox and almost foolprooffour-wheel drive chassis. There’s unfortunately little feel in the steering (as there is on more sporty models these days), and the optional carbon-ceramic brakes are for the average user. overkill.
Forgive us for being fussy, but you can expect something from a hot hatchback costing almost 100,000 euros. And so we find it astonishing that Audi has used such nasty plastics in the interior of the RS 3. Especially from the plastic around the center tunnel, you can see that the budget department’s skimpy hands have had their way.
Another minus in the cabin is the volume control of the audio system. With the rotary knob in older Audi models you will have the sound to zero in no time if Paradise by the Dashboard Light is started on the radio. Now you have to fiddle with a touch disk, which doesn’t always respond the way you want.
Do you want to be woken up every morning by such a wonderful five-cylinder turbo engine, then you can order the Audi RS 3 from 92,467 euros for the RS 3 Sportback and 93,115 euros for the RS 3 Limousine. There is hardly any competition. At Mercedes-AMG they have the A 45 and A 45 S in the showroom, with 387 and 421 hp respectively. They are only available as a five-door hatchback, have four-wheel drive just like the Audi, and cost at least 88,747 euros (A 45) and 95,021 euros (A 45 S).
Lower in rank are the BMW M135i (4WD, 306 hp, 62,551 euros), Mercedes-AMG A 35 (4WD, 306 hp, 71,549 euros), and Volkswagen Golf R (4WD, 320 hp, 66,390 euros). The Mercedes is also available as a four-door sedan. If you want that body shape at BMW, then you have to turn to the M235i Gran Coupé. The big difference between the RS 3 and all the opponents mentioned above is the motorization. BMW, Mercedes and Volkswagen opt for four-cylinder turbo engines. Audi remains true to its rallying past and adds one more cylinder.
I’m quite fond of the Audi. He’s a guilty pleasure. You can hardly come up with it – given its caps image – but the RS 3 is an irresistible hot hatchback / sports sedan. Thanks to that hellish five-cylinder in the front, of course, but also to the greatly improved driving characteristics. If you see the chance to take the RS 3 into the mountains or onto the track, you will notice that the RS Torque Splitter on the rear axle makes a world of difference. The active differential gives the RS 3 an un-Audian agility and makes even the mediocre ‘driver’ feel like a hero.
Well, many lease drivers have already opted for an electric car in recent years, since…
Well, retro... The Hyundai Ioniq 6 doesn't have the futuristic seventies look of the Ioniq…
Nelson Piquet (second from left) scolded Lewis Hamilton (r.). Nelson Piquet, three-time F1 world champion…
After Red Bull recently suspended Juri Vips for using the N-word during a livestream, a…
The maximum tax-free kilometer allowance will increase from 19 to 21 cents next year. A…
And we thought BMW would only celebrate 50 years of M with a terrible plug-in…