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First drive: Audi RS 3 Sportback. Image by Audi.

First drive: Audi RS 3 Sportback
Grip, grunt and go: the Audi RS 3 has got it all. Nearly.

   



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Audi RS 3 Sportback

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5

Chasing the S3 to the showrooms, Audi's hottest of its sensible hatches gets class-leading power, a 911-beating 0-62mph time and crackling five-pot soundtrack, but where's the fun?

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Audi RS 3 Sportback
Price: 39,955
Engine: 2.5-litre turbocharged five-cylinder petrol
Transmission: four-wheel drive, seven-speed automatic
Body style: five-door hatchback
CO2 emissions: 189g/km (Band J, 265 per year)
Combined economy: 34.9mpg
Top speed: 155mph (electronically limited - can be upped to 174mph on request)
0-62mph: 4.3 seconds
Power: 367hp at 5,500- to 6,800rpm
Torque 465Nm at 1,625- to 5,550rpm
Boot space: 280- to 1,120 litres

What's this?

A new Audi RS 3, which, you're thinking is a bit early to the party, right? Seems the chaps at quattro GmbH have been surprised by demand for its most sensible of super hatches. Audi expected to sell around 500 examples of the previous RS3 in the UK and it underestimated that demand by a factor of four. We're not the only ones, as the rest of Europe took double the number Audi anticipated, too. It seems Audi's product planners are a bit crap at their jobs.

Still, it's a nice problem to have, and it means that Audi has taken a bit of a new approach to the RS models. No more last hurrahs for an outgoing range, from now on the RS models will be quicker to the showrooms. Quicker everywhere actually, as this RS 3 Sportback's 367hp turbocharged five-cylinder engine gives it 911-beating pace with a 4.3-second 0-62mph time. Like its predecessor it's a five-door only, there being no plans for a three-door RS, though a 'sedan' may follow for the country where a saloon's a bar rather than a car.

How does it drive?

Fast. Ludicrously so. The RS 3 doesn't even break a sweat on the roads North of Rome. A locally driven Punto is trying devilishly hard, ambitiously using whole other lane lines into the bends, wheel-cocking, lift-off over-steering and the RS 3 is on its back bumper. A respectful distance mind. It looks like he's having a hoot, but the RS 3 doesn't need the extra road, its huge grip and absence of body roll all allied to the mighty grunt from that blown five-cylinder means no such silliness is required. It's not trying at all. Corners are taken flat and at these speeds it's not even working hard enough to have the exhaust popping and crackling like a municipal fireworks display.

Wind on more speed, something that's easy enough thanks to the engine's expansive spread of torque and the seven gears of the S Tronic paddle-shift auto, and there's more of the same. Point the RS 3 into a corner and it goes. And goes. There's some information at the steering wheel (mostly that Italy needs to spend money on some new tarmac) and the ride is commendably acceptable on chronically under-invested roads. Sure, it's busy, but rarely harsh, which, given the surfaces, is a genuine surprise. That's on the standard suspension, not Audi's optional magnetic dampers, which in the UK come combined in a 1,500 Dynamic Package option that also adds a crossover sports pipe that's got a couple of naughty bypass valves.

You could be seduced into buying the RS 3 on sound alone and that sports exhaust is worth the extra. On track the RS 3 Sportback demonstrates that well above legal speeds it keeps on hanging on, though Audi's corporate cautiousness disallows any exploration of what the chassis will do with all the electronic controls off. That's hugely frustrating, as those electronic nannies hamper any adjustability that the RS 3's chassis might otherwise be able to demonstrate. There's talk of the quattro drivetrain being able to shift as much as 100 per cent of drive to the rear when it's needed, but Vallelunga, a track with lots of space, is apparently not the best place to explore that. Push-on understeer is too easy to elicit here, followed by a fight with those electronics, all of which doesn't really show the RS 3 off in the best light.

That's just not apparent on the road, where you'd need to be a lunatic to be troubling the ESP system. Indeed, the RS 3's competence is so exemplary at sensible and approaching silly pace it's genuinely incredible. Thing is, it's just not a huge amount of fun. There are grins to be had orchestrating that optional exhaust with the paddle shifters - that's assuming of course you've fiddled about with the Drive Select system and put it in Dynamic mode - but the RS 3's brilliance is ultimately its undoing.

Verdict

Undeniably mighty, the Audi RS 3 is so crushingly competent that it's difficult to imagine something, anything, matching its real-world pace. It looks great, sounds fabulous (why no simple sports exhaust button though Audi?) and is beautiful inside, but it's perhaps a bit too polished for its own good. It's faster than its AMG A 45 and BMW M135i competition, but the reality is it's difficult to see the real benefit over its own S3 little brother, or the Golf R for that matter. Still, Audi won't be able to build them quickly enough, if the last one is anything to go by.

4 4 4 4 4 Exterior Design

5 5 5 5 5 Interior Ambience

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Passenger Space

4 4 4 4 4 Luggage Space

4 4 4 4 4 Safety

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Comfort

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Driving Dynamics

4 4 4 4 4 Powertrain


Kyle Fortune - 17 Apr 2015



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2015 Audi RS 3 Sportback. Image by Audi.2015 Audi RS 3 Sportback. Image by Audi.2015 Audi RS 3 Sportback. Image by Audi.2015 Audi RS 3 Sportback. Image by Audi.2015 Audi RS 3 Sportback. Image by Audi.

2015 Audi RS 3 Sportback. Image by Audi.2015 Audi RS 3 Sportback. Image by Audi.2015 Audi RS 3 Sportback. Image by Audi.2015 Audi RS 3 Sportback. Image by Audi.2015 Audi RS 3 Sportback. Image by Audi.



2015 Audi RS 3 Sportback. Image by Audi.
 

2015 Audi RS 3 Sportback. Image by Audi.
 

2015 Audi RS 3 Sportback. Image by Audi.
 

2015 Audi RS 3 Sportback. Image by Audi.
 

2015 Audi RS 3 Sportback. Image by Audi.
 

2015 Audi RS 3 Sportback. Image by Audi.
 

2015 Audi RS 3 Sportback. Image by Audi.
 

2015 Audi RS 3 Sportback. Image by Audi.
 

2015 Audi RS 3 Sportback. Image by Audi.
 






 

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