Audi RS3 review: a fitting farewell to pure petrol RS thrills?
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2022 Audi RS3
- Torque-splitting rear diff does wonders for handling
- Still sounds great
- Is a petrol purists’ dream
- Doesn’t feel as hardcore as the Merc
- Lack of hybrid system means reasonably high fuel consumption
- 'RS Torque Rear' or drift mode feels like a bit of a gimic
In the automotive industry, the word “hyper” has become somewhat confusing. I could be mistaken, but the first time it became used on a large scale was when the ‘Holy Trinity’ first broke cover over a decade ago.
Porsche, McLaren, and Ferrari had all built incredibly fast supercars that possessed hybrid assistance, and considering that these cars were a step above the supercars of old, it made sense throwing the “hy” in there. These days, the word hyper isn’t just reserved for painfully expensive supercars, but you’ll also see it used on hot hatches that are also rather expensive.
As you’d expect, the hatchbacks that cost over $100,000 make up a rather niche segment, and there are only two – the Mercedes-AMG A45 and the Audi RS3. It’s the latter that we’re focusing on now, as Audi’s latest iteration just recently landed in the country.
Since the RS3’s inception, the exterior design has remained very close to the standard A3, with only badges and wheels being the main differences. This has changed drastically for this new model, with the little hatch’s wide flares looking like they’ve come straight from the larger RS4.
Beneath the tough new exterior, you wouldn’t be blamed for not seeing a difference from the last model.
Here, the turbocharged 2.5-litre five-cylinder engine makes a similar power figure at 294kW, but torque has been upped to 500Nm. This will allow the little RS3 to hit 100km/h in just 3.8 seconds before topping out at 250km/h.
But the real difference lies in how this torque is delivered to the ground. As always, the Quattro system is in use, but for the first time ever, the RS3 gets a fancy torque-splitting differential at the rear.
With this fancy new tech, it’s obvious that Audi is addressing the history of understeering, and it seems that it has thrown the baby out with the bath water in the best possible way.
By sending torque to the outer wheel on a corner, the RS3 counteracts understeer, and the different modes give drivers the choice of how it acts. Toggling through the different traction control levels will leave drivers with less and less help at the rear, and as demonstrated at a recent Audi drive event, it will infact drift like a sports car.
In true German fashion, Audi won’t call it a drift mode, though, but ‘RS Torque Rear’ will send 100% of the engine’s torque to the rear wheels, and once traction control is turned off completely, drivers can slide until the tyres give out (on a closed track of course).
On the road, this Audi RS3 is interesting to drive as I didn’t find it as hardcore as what I was expecting. Sure, the 0-100km/h time is blisteringly fast, but in classic Audi fashion, it’s done with (what seems like) so little effort, so it doesn’t get the blood pumping as other performance cars do. Where this Audi really comes into its own is in the corners, with that fancy diff doing its thing and keeping the car changing direction as it should. It will still understeer before it oversteers in regular performance drive modes, but only at the absolute limit.
As always, the engine is worth talking about, as it’s somewhat of a modern marvel in the fact that it’s avoided electrification of any sort. Unlike AMG’s A45 with its mild hybrid system, Audi has stayed as pure to petrol as possible, and the engine sounds as great as always.
Unlike the AMG, when you want the Audi to be comfortable, the adaptive dampers do a great job of smoothing things out. With ‘comfort mode’ engaged, and the adaptive cruise control system doing its thing, it’s actually a very comfortable car on long trips.
Like the outside, the inside of this RS3 has also gone through some serious changes, with Audi’s new virtual cockpit. It gets a 12.3-inch touchscreen as its main infotainment display, which is flanked by the digital gauge cluster. This system gets wireless Android Auto and Apple Carplay connectivity, as well as its own SIM card for the ‘infotainment plus’ system.
As a whole, this new RS3 doesn’t feel as hardcore as its AMG rival, but I’m sure that this will appeal to a lot of people. It’s nowhere near as loud, and offers a far more comfortable ride, only whilst sacrificing a bit of hair-raising performance. The fancy rear diff does wonders to the car’s handling when its being pushed, and the sound is something that’s sure to bring a smile to any driver’s face.
2022 Audi RS3
ENGINE: 2.5-litre turbo
GEARBOX: 7-speed automatic, AWD