Audi RS3 Sportback brings 2.5-litre turbo power to the Audi A3 – but you can only have it as a five-door.
Powered by the same engine as the Audi TT RS, the 335bhp Audi RS 3 Sportback becomes one of the most powerful hot hatches ever. But does so at quite a price.
Check out other hot hatches in our hot hatch group test video
Audi RS3: serious firepower
The new Audi RS3 Sportback is the first high performance RS family hatchback to be offered by Audi. So far only a five-door version has been confirmed, making this more like a super-fast compact estate than a regular hot hatch. But it certainly promises stacks of performance.
There’s a five-cylinder 2.5-litre turbocharged petrol engine under the bonnet. Combined with quattro four-wheel drive and a seven-speed S tronic twin-clutch paddleshift transmission (Audi’s version of Volkswagen’s DSG), it offers 0-62mph in a scant 4.6 seconds and an electronically limited 155mph top speed.
A ‘launch control’ system juggles turbo boost and wheelspin to give the maximum possible standing start acceleration when required, while brake energy regeneration, on-demand oil pump and a very tall seventh gear keep the economy and emissions to reasonable levels considering the performance.
That’s ‘reasonable’ as in 212g/km CO2 and a claimed 31.0mpg combined.
Audi RS3: Sharper drive, aggressive looks
In order to contain all that power, Audi has sensibly upgraded the suspension and the brakes.
The brakes feature larger discs all round and four-piston callipers, finished in black and detailed with the RS logo. Suspension wise, new springs and dampers aim to improve handling and grip – though in typical Audi fashion this will likely make the ride harsher – and the track is wider, too.
Compensating for the extra width, not to mention the enormous 19-inch alloy wheels, Audi has fitted wheel arch extensions made from carbon-fibre reinforced plastic. These also help give the RS 3 a really beefy look.
The RS3 also sports new bumpers, side skirts and rear spoiler, an anthracite grille surround and matt-aluminium door mirrors. The dual-exit exhaust even features a ‘sport flap’ activated by a Sport button inside the car, allowing the driver to enhance engine note when required.
The Sport button also improves throttle response – making for an even sharper drive. The standard fit stability control system has its own Sport mode, aimed at more spirited drivers (it can even be deactivated altogether, though we would not recommend this on the road).
Audi RS3: Sporty inside
On the inside the RS3 looks every bit as exciting as it does on the outside.
There are sports seats finished in Nappa leather with contrasting silver stitching, a flat-bottomed leather steering wheel, and a choice of piano black or race aluminium trim.
Standard kit includes that Sport button, but also rear parking sensors, climate control and xenon plus headlights, which also feature LED daytime running lights. Options include aggressive bucket seats, various styling packages, and matt aluminium roof rails – in keeping with the Sportback’s functional estate car vibe.
Audi RS3: Performance price tag
In many respects the Audi RS3 Sportback is the spiritual successor to the original RS Audi – the RS 2. This, too, was a compact estate powered by a five-cylinder turbo engine.
The performance from the new car, however, makes it a match for any other current hot hatch on the market – in fact there are no regular rivals able to get anywhere near its 4.6-second 0-62mph time; only cars such as the limited edition Subaru Cosworth Impreza STI CS400 and Mitsubishi Evo FQ400 manage to be faster.
All of this goes some way to explaining the RS 3’s £39,900 asking price.
But while that’s some £8,000 more than the previous A3 range-topper, the £31,605 Audi S3 Sportback, it’s also by far the cheapest RS Audi available. And, at nearly £6,000 cheaper than the £45,810 TT RS coupé, with which it shares an engine, plus the added practicality of a hatchback body, the RS3 might even be considered a bargain by some.
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