RS 3

Does Audi’s über RS 3 reset Auto’s road test records?

Dunlop Sort Maxx

Some say this will be the last real RS 3. Before Audi Sport jumps headlong into that electric fire. A pity, because no matter what those demented lawmakers think or promulgate, cars like this should still have a place.

Let’s hope there’s still a reprieve. That Audi changes tack a little to offer a more hybrid, or God forbid, even purely combustion future alternatives. Not all of us want or need EVs. Yet.


The last of the smallest Audis with an RS badge?

All the more the pity is that this smallest Audi to don RennSport nomenclature continues in its tussle to be the quickest, most powerful hot ‘hatch’ money can buy. Yes, this one is a sedan. But its identical to the Sportback, so bear with us. And yes, it is now the quickest car that Auto has ever tested in that crucial motoring realm.

Less powerful, but equally torquey to the Mercedes-AMG A 45 S, the 294 kW 500 Nm turbo petrol 2.5-litre straight-five Audi is now faster. It shoves its grunt through a seven-speed double-clutch ‘box down to RS’ latest rear-biased quattro all-wheel drive. There’s no mercy on your neck muscles.

RS 3 blasted to 100 km/h in 3.68 seconds in our test. It topples that mighty Merc from its perch. By two whole tenths of a seconds. The Benz bounces back to all but match the Audi as they pass 400 metres. The RS 3 does it in  11.9 seconds at 191 km/h. Alas, it’s beset by a spoilsport 250 km/h limited top speed. The old one was good for 280.


It is not what RS 3 does, it’s how it does it

It’s how the RS 3 does it, that matters most though. That rare and seminal five-pot cuts straight down to the brand’s very soul. A salute to Audi’s heady Group B rally legend, it evokes memories of Sarel’s S2, growling between chants of the wastegate echoing in the late night Swazi special stage forest. Stands the hair on the back of the necks dead straight!

Its versatile. The docile RS 3 barely skims the surface of its mighty talents while tootling about town. Even barely tickling the rev range at the gentlest of throttle applications through to seventh gear, is quick.  

Flick it up a mode or two, add urgency and this thing comes alive. Composed, stable and poised, even with all the nannies expunged, quattro drive and limited slip differentials ensure mighty and surefooted progress. And perfectly calibrated launch control delivers metronomic consistency of acceleration.

RS 3

RS 3 wails. With a spine tingling crackle too

The gruff five-cylinder idle grows into grunt low down. And on to a high rev wail, complete with that spine tingling crackle. Yes, the Audi RS 3 is alive and angry in a dreary four cylinder world. Pushing on, it doesn’t twitch at all. There’s need to intervene, even under hardest acceleration or pushing in the bends. This car just does it.

Ride is hard. As you’d expect. There’s a fair bit of tyre and road noise, suspension groan and knock too through that MacPherson strut front and Multi link rear set-up with performance coils, dampers, and aggressive set-up. Or should we call it feeling, just like a race car?

That’s a good thing. What is the RS 3 but a (beautifully) dressed up race car anyway? There are softer Audi A3s if you don’t like that. This one is an acquired taste. Sad if you don’t get it. But we do!


So, what about the rest of it?

Ah, yes, the rest of it!  We won’t dwell too much on efficiency. Or fuel economy. This one’s all about how quick it goes, how well it handles, how it turns and stops. Not how many litres it uses to go so far. But it is a bit worse than the old one. Not that it really matters.

Like its aggressive green outer face, the Audi RS 3’s cabin is sensibly laid out, roomy. Green accents on the squared air vents, a green centre marker on the grippy Alcantara multifunction steering and a little more body colour green here there and everywhere, set the  dark, spartan but sexy cabin apart.

Green touches also further accentuate the superb pattern on those fine active bucket seats. Seats that even prod you in the back to further enhance that feeling of acceleration. Not that it needs it!

RS 3

It’s all very Audi user friendly inside RS 3

It’s all very Audi user friendly too. The haptic touch MMI centre screen, steering buttons, a neat little controller button, for want of a better word, voice and more, all set the car, the audio, the media, and the rest. The logic of it all is becoming easier to live with too.

Don’t ask about the price. If you do, maybe this is not for you after all. Just remember that its closest rival Mercedes-AMG CLA 45 S sedan will set you back an extra two hundred grand. And that anything else that looks or goes like this will come in around a million rand more expensive too. Got it yet?

The Audi RS 3 does everything you’d expect it to and a whole lot more too. Sure, its loud and hard to look at and to ride in, but then it’s still basically a race car all dressed up sexy to do what it does best. Drive. Hard. And on that, it’s impossible to fault.

Except that this may very well be the end, my friend. And that is indeed a tragedy. Which makes this car a special asset, all on its own. – Michele Lupini

Images, road testing & data: Giordano Lupini

ROAD TESTED: Audi RS 3 sedan quattro
Engine: 294 kW 500 Nm I5 turbo petrol
Drive: 7 double-clutch automatic AWD
0-60 km/h:         1.81 sec          
0-100 km/h:        3.68 sec                      
0-120 km/h:        5.02 sec          
0-160 km/h:        8.40 sec
400m               11.9 sec @ 191 km/h
80-120 km/h:       2.34 sec                      
120-160km/h        3.38 sec          
VMax:              250km/h
Fuel               9 l/100 km       
CO2:               205 g/km               
Range:             611 km
Warranty/Service:  1y/Unlimited   5y/100K km   
LIST PRICE:        R1.245M                    
RATED:             9
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