Wörthersee, Austria --Achtung! Hot-hatch alert! Five-alarm smoldering hot-hatch emergency warning!
There are some cars in this wide wonderful world whose aura precedes them. This aura creates hype among consumers and enthusiasts alike. The moment the new version is announced, inquiring minds need to know. They want specs, details, driving impressions, video, pictures, words, and comments; and there’s never enough of it to go around. My dear friends, I am your humble servant.
I give you the Audi RS 3.
This compact car is a bottle of pop that’s been shaken to within a millimetre of blowing itself up all over the road, and its up to you (the driver) to harness that nervous energy and put it to good (or evil) use. The RS 3 is droolworthy on every conceivable level. It’s dead sexy, it’s fast, it’s loud, it’s exclusive, and it plasters smiles on faces. It delivers on every promise an RS car makes, and after driving almost all of them (missing the RS 4 Avant…), it has positioned itself as my No. 2 RS Audi, behind only my beloved RS 6 Avant.
Powerful-punch packing pipsqueak
The RS 3 Sportback’s footprint is no larger than that of a Mazda3, so size-wise it’s compact. Consider for a moment the Mazda3, which features a 184-horsepower engine for its 1,377 kilos. The Mazda is brisk on acceleration, to this we can agree. Now, take the 1,520-kilo RS 3 and give it twice the power, AWD and a psycho-fast gearbox and you get a wee-ish land-to-land rocket.
The Audi RS 3 packs a turbocharged 2.5L TFSI 5-cylinder engine that puts out 367 horsepower and 343 lb-ft of torque. This is what we would consider crucial differences. Mated to a dignified race transmission, the 7-speed s tronic and Audi’s mega-famous quattro AWD, the RS 3 will hit 100km/hr in only 4.3 seconds. Please excuse the wording, but that’s retarded.
There’s German voodoo or magic afoot here, I promise you. These stats are mind-blowing, sure; but it’s how it all happens that truly messes with the senses. Max torque lines up as of 1,650 rpm and holds strong until 5,500, the very moment every last member of the cavalry is at full force. Hold the throttle down all the way to 6,800 rpm and the car continues to pull, and hard. It’s uncanny.
Then, there’s the sound of that 5-pot that’ll make the hairs on your neck stand, slap a smile on your face, and make you beg for more. Also (and if you’re so inclined), thank the dazzling engineers in Neckarsulm for being brilliant bastards. If you’d like a brief sampling, check my Instagram feed and look for a brief video on the car. You’re welcome.
To make an RS
It takes a little bit more than massive power to make an RS car an RS car. It starts with street-cred or road presence. A handsome but unassuming A3 body is taken and puffed up with RS-specific bumpers with air inlets, spoilers, a honeycomb grille, diffusers, and side-sill extensions. The mirror housings get an aluminum finish and the rear gains two (fake, unfortunately) oval tailpipes.
Within the flared wheel arches are slapped a set of 19” five--arm rotor wheels that, up front, cover massive vented disc brakes.
The cabin receives specific sport or super sport seats that will have throw out your chairs and couches when you get home. There are a number of accents on tap as well but generally speaking, the interior is essentially lifted from an S3.
To then drive an RS
The excitement is palpable. When we got our hands on the creamy-delicious Nardo grey RS 3, we all giggled stupidly. It took every last ounce of our civility not to trample over each other to see who would get behind the wheel first.
Starting up the RS 3 Sportback is every bit the tease one would expect. The fiver roars delicately to life and instantly purrs intently. Prodding the pedal is met with immediate response, and that special resonating and deep echo-like sound of a 5-cylinder.
It was difficult for me not to leave the s tronic ‘box in “D” given the short amount of time I was going to have at the helm of the RS 3. I immediately set the drive select in Dynamic, the shifter in manual, and the Alps parted before me.
A sharp tug on the wheel-mounted paddles results in the transmission’s instant obedience. Said steering wheel transmits precise inputs to the front wheels, but in true Audi form, feeling and communication is limited. There is, however, nothing limited about the brakes. The big pedal commands large callipers that crunch down on the discs with impressive force. The repeated hard decelerations from the slingshot accelerations did nothing to upset braking power, even when going from 220 km/hr to well under 100.
Getting to 220 was the best part. The RS 3 relentlessly claws at the horizon (or the next mountain pass) and never flinches, not for a nanosecond, and then there’s the 5-pot rumble… A downshift is met with repeated backfiring, with giggles shortly thereafter. What a riot.
Handling and stability are impressive, as you can imagine. At speeds, the RS 3 remains squat and tight. In other words: unflappable. The same goes for switchbacks that seem to annoy the RS 3 more than anything -- as though it was complaining I was wasting its time. Track time is what it and I need.
Worth it, whatever the price
At a little under £40k, the 2015 Audi RS 3 looks like a pricy investment. When it does get to Canada, ‘cause we should be getting it, it will likely tip the pricing scale around the $65k mark or somewhere between the S3 and the RS 5 Coupe. The only real downside to this scenario is that our RS 3 will probably be short a door…as in, a sedan and not a Sportback. Thank you, USA.
Think about it for a moment though: The Audi RS 3 is faster than the RS 5 to 100 km/hr, matches a manual BMW M3 to the same speed (0.2 slower if its got the M-DCT), but has AWD so will crush it when the going gets not-dry. Compared to the CLA and GLA 45 AMG, it drives betters (will be more expensive though), and I think will be more exclusive than the two, same for the M3.
If you think about all of that, the RS 3 may be the most desirable small-supercar on the planet… I’m sad about the saloon part, but I’ll survive. The “want” will keep me going…