Audi settles score with a roar
RS3 PRACTICAL, SENSIBLE... UNTIL YOU UNLEASH THE BEAST
When Mercedes-Benz decided to crash the AWD Hot Hatch party with its sensational small AMG offerings, it was always fairly certain that Audi wasn’t going to take things lying down.
After all, Audi had been doing the grunt AWD Hot Hatch thing for quite some time and isn’t the sort to go down without a fight. Plus, there was all that rally heritage ...
Mercedes issued a rather shouty challenge in the form of the A45 AMG (and its related variants) with its AWD drivetrain, angry 265kW/450Nm turbo 4-cylinder engine and arsenal of scoops and bulges.
And the RS3 is Audi’s more subtle, less shouty answer. Unless you select “Dynamic” mode, then it gets rather shouty indeed.
The RS3 packs Audi’s familiar 2.5-litre five-cylinder petrol turbocharged engine that produces, predictably, just a bit more power than the AMG unit — 270kW and 465Nm — and can propel the little Audi to 100km/h in just 4.3 seconds.
The 2.5-litre engine is hooked up to a lightning-fast, slick and smooth dual-clutch transmission, while all the power is channeled to the ground via Audi’s quattro AWD system.
The RS3 lands in New Zealand as a single model that retails for $99,900, pricing it slap up against the A45 AMG.
The RS3 comes standard with a long list of equipment, including 19-inch alloy wheels, a tyre pressure monitor, RS sports suspension, an RS exhaust with switchable valves to control the noise, heated RS sport seats, magnetic ride damper control, xenon headlights, a 7-inch pop-up infotainment monitor, Bluetooth phone connectivity and audio streaming, a flat-bottomed RS multi-function leather and Alcantara steering wheel, front and rear parking sensors, a reversing camera and much more.
Available options include matte titanium or gloss black finish wheels ($1750), LED headlights ($2000), aluminium or gloss black exterior styling packs ($2000), an assistance package that includes active cruise control, autonomous emergency braking, lane assist and high beam assist ($3000), fixed-back RS racing bucket seats ($5500), a Bang and Olufsen 14-speaker audio system ($1900), panoramic glass roof ($3000) and an RS interior design package ($2500).
Audi chose to make the RS exhaust and magnetic damper control system standard on New Zealand cars and these two things alone give the RS3 a distinct edge over its AMG rival.
The magnetic damper control system allows for a far more comfortable everyday ride from the RS3 than the — admittedly impressive — AMG can manage, while firming the ride up in Dynamic mode reveals a firm, incredibly well-balanced car that savages corners.
Hitting Dynamic mode also unleashes the full furious noise of the RS3, with valves in the exhaust opening up and belting out a glorious howling bellow, replete with many small explosions on downshifts. The quality and volume of said small explosions actually put the extremely noisy AMG to shame and are thoroughly addictive.
Switching everything off again settles that RS3 down into a remarkably comfortable, practical and sensible everyday hatch — much like an ordinary A3 — but while things are quieter and more comfortable, the utterly ferocious performance of the 2.5-litre 5-cylinder engine is never more than a prod on the loud pedal away.
The ferocious performance of the 2.5-litre 5-cylinder engine is a prod of the pedal away.
And does it pack some serious performance — nailing the throttle at any speed sees the RS3 surge smoothly, purposefully and remarkably quickly forward, with either a deep-throated growl or a blood-curdling roar, depending on the exhaust setting. The sheer forward momentum from the RS3 under full throttle is astonishingly unrelenting at any speed and can easily propel the unwary into thoroughly illegal realms before you even realise it.
Audi held the local launch at Taupo Motorsport Park, where the weather was anything but friendly. Normally piloting a very powerful car around a very wet track is an exercise in frustration, as you rarely get to fully unleash its full performance.
But not in the RS3’s case. In fact, the awful weather gave the RS3 the chance to utterly shine on the track. Almost stupidly adjustable on the throttle and delightfully well balanced, the RS3 belted its way around the Taupo track like the ever-increasing puddles weren’t even there.
The few areas that the RS3 was prepared to admit the track was wet revealed a car completely balanced, predictable and utterly addictive.
Savagely fast, raucous and violent, the RS3 is also fully capable of pretending it isn’t an anti-social beast. And that is the utter beauty of it.