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  • Devastatingly quick in the twisty stuff, seriously rapid acceleration and mind-blowing grip
  • Too clinical, not enough feel like an \'M\' Series BMW, dated interior

OUR RATING
8 / 10



Audi RS 3 Review
Audi RS 3 Review
Audi RS 3 Review

Model Tested:
2011 Audi RS3 Sportback, Turbocharged five-cylinder, petrol, seven-speed dual-clutch sequential manual transmission, four-wheel drive

It is said that familiarity breeds contempt and any manufacturer that relentlessly assaults the marketplace like Audi does, with a constant barrage of new versions of ageing models, is in serious danger of boring the pants off the very people it is trying so very hard to appeal to. In the past couple of years I have become one of those people. I just can’t seem to get excited by them anymore, no matter how decent these cars are in their own right.

Perhaps it’s something to do with predictability. Everybody knows damn well that, whenever an “all new” Audi comes along, the hot version will be the last to be launched. It’s a long and drawn out process and by the time the RS whatever finally see light of day, we’re already waiting for the facelift model. Many of us like to save the best till last, but when it comes to cars it’s too easy to feel ambivalent when that halo model eventually roars into view. BMW, at least, gets its M models out a lot sooner. Having Alpina on their backs no doubt keeps them focussed – maybe Audi could do with its very own Alpina…

So, when it comes to the Audi RS3 Sportback (another thing that’s getting on my wick is this insistence on trying to sex up the word ‘hatchback’), we don’t get off on the right foot. But hey, I’m a journalist, so I need to be impartial, to forget the billion other Audi models that exist and concentrate on the merits, or otherwise, of a small hatchback that costs the same in Europe as an immaculate pre-owned 997 Carrera 4S. It had better be bloody good, then.

Audi RS 3 Review
Audi RS 3 Review
Audi RS 3 Review
Audi RS 3 Review

Weird, isn’t it, how a car’s physical dimensions affect the perceived value it offers. If the RS 3’s engineering was clothed in a body the size of an A5 then we wouldn’t think twice about the sticker price. So the fact that it’s more diminutive shouldn’t matter – it’s how it’s built and how it drives that counts; let’s forget about luggage space and rear legroom for now.

First, a few numbers. The RS 3 Sportback has five doors. It weighs a portly 1575kg. Its engine has five cylinders, one turbocharger, displaces 2.5 litres and generates 450Nm of twist between 1600 and 5300rpm. It also produces its peak 253kW power between 5400 and 6500rpm. It will hit 100km/h in a rather rapid 4.6 seconds and is limited to a top speed of 250km/h (would you really want to go any quicker in a car this small?) while it can (officially) return fuel economy to the tune of 9.1L/100km and emissions of 212g/km. It has four driven wheels, its gearbox has two clutches, its front brake discs are 370mm in diameter, its suspension is 25mm lower than a normal Audi A3 and 25 percent stiffer than even the Audi S3.

One thing it does not have, though, is Audi’s Sport diff, which gives other fast Audis like the RS5, despite their quattro drivetrains, a feeling that the power is being sent to the rear, rather than to all four corners. Neither does it have the option for a traditional manual transmission – Audi says there’s simply no demand but then they said the same about the Audi TT RS when that was launched and a few months later there it was.

Audi RS 3 Review
Audi RS 3 Review
Audi RS 3 Review
Audi RS 3 Review

Visually, unless you opt for the stupid black painted 19-inch alloys with their boy racer red edges (seriously, Audi, they are so five years ago…), the RS 3 is pretty subtle. Which is a good thing because its acceleration is more savage than even the aforementioned Carrera 4S, which should mean a race at the lights won’t end up with you being pulled over first. There’s a deep front bumper replete with dual air intakes, those ridiculous wheels, a rear roof spoiler and a black diffuser as well as extended sills. The flared front wings are new, too, and Audi would like you to know that they’re fashioned from carbon-fibre reinforced polymer, between them shaving a completely inconsequential 1.6kg from the RS 3’s weight. Big deal.

Inside the RS 3 is starting to look a bit old. And this simply highlights the problem with leaving the halo models until the end of a car’s natural lifespan. There’ll be a brand new A3 with us in less than a year; surely customers spending so much on the RS deserve an interior that mirrors that fact. Despite this, everything is screwed together in typical Audi fashion. Which means it’s as good as it gets, to be honest. Materials feel nice and expensive, it’s all very well laid out and you just get the impression that this car will still look pristine in ten years’ time.

The engine thrums away nicely with a meaty, masculine bassline and there’s a Sport button that, when pressed, opens up what Audi hilariously calls a ‘sonic flap’. As you might imagine, this makes it louder and it sharpens up the throttle response. So, with the button pressed it’s time to see what this expensive hot hatch is capable of.

Audi RS 3 Review
Audi RS 3 Review
Audi RS 3 Review
Audi RS 3 Review

It’s not long at all before you realise this is an extremely serious performance car. The acceleration is savage and levels of grip are predictably enormous. In fact there’s not much that could keep up with an RS 3 on a twisting back road – it’s so poised, precise and devastatingly quick. The suspension, despite being significantly more stiff, is still forgiving, with none of the harsh bump-thump I was expecting. And the brakes offer eyeball-popping retardation. It’s exhaust note is mildly disappointing, however, because the engine’s soundtrack is too smothered and, despite being essentially the same unit as fitted to the TT RS, it doesn’t give you the same aural stimuli.

It’s not a car that will tempt potential BMW 1 Series M owners, either, because its performance, while stunning in its delivery, is too measured, too precise to have any old-school fun. Hit a corner carrying too much speed, lift off the throttle and the RS 3 simply goes around it as though it wasn’t there. No hint of drama, no danger and, ultimately, little in the way of excitement.

The steering is nicely weighted and is more communicative than the S3 but the overall feel of the car, despite its more than impressive performance credentials, is that of safe, sterile and ruthlessly efficiency. It crosses ground at a remarkable rate of knots, it’s practical and, with normal wheels fitted, looks subtle. But it doesn’t get under the skin and make you want one. A Ford Focus RS was not far off half the price of this thing and, while it may not have felt as well built as the Audi, it did at least generate excitement. It got the pulse racing, it got the adrenaline flowing and it felt like a caged tiger straining to get out and devour whatever was in its path. The RS 3, in comparison, while still an excellent car when judged by its own merits, feels like a video game. Believe it or not Audi, but there’s more to life than speed so if it’s my money on the table I’ll take that secondhand C4S, thanks.


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Audi RS 3 Review
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  • zahmad

    Fast Audi’s have never been about sliding the tail out for some fun like BMW’s M cars, and that’s what appeals to its owners.

  • sm

    seems like Mr Hackett has a very big axe to grind! If he knew anything about the RS badge he would know that it has traditionally always come at the end of the model cycle. Is he for a moment suggesting that the B7 RS4 (again launched at the end of the B7 model cycle) is still to this day not regarded as a high water mark for any performance saloon.

    all other european write ups that i have read seem to ‘get’ what the RS3 is meant to offer, shame it has passed Mr Hackett by.

    • Jimmy

      Hmmm. Yeah I’m not sure I understand the reporter’s grudge either? The BMW 1 M came at the end of the model cycle too (and is arguably the RS3′s biggest competitor…) but he lauds BMW for it’s early performance model releases? Sure, I’d prefer to see these models come out earlier too, but I don’t think it detracts from the perception of the car as much as he suggests. It’s still the fastest hot hatch around money can buy.

    • http://Skat ScottyC

      True. Seems like a harsh review. Obviously Mr Hackett is not an Audi fan. The RS3 coming late in the model cycle is exactly what Ford did with the Focus RS and everyone has raved about it ever since.

      Me?…I’m impressed.

    • F1MotoGP

      I search on the net and and Auto India website got the same review same pictures with same text.

      • Marc

        That’s because it’s a copy and paste from this article.

        It even says so down the bottom – if you even cared to look.

  • Why?

    What is the point of reviewing a car that won’t be sold here?

    • Krish

      Why not? Its one of the best hot hatches in the world today, and people want to read about it.

    • http://www.caradvice.com.au Anthony Crawford

      I was going to go into a long-winded answer but to be honest, we’re too busy working on the next reviews here at CarAdvice and I think Krish makes a good case anyhow.

    • james

      What was the point of reading the review and commenting on it if you had no interest in the review?

  • PeterG

    The reviewer thinks its boring ,looks and drive.
    As far as looks go agree a bit anonymous.
    As far as drive goes I am not a huge fan of AWD in sports cars.However that engine is brilliant but overall not enough to get me over the line.

  • eskylid

    the reason its boring is because the only ones driving it are suits with leases.

  • Dan

    “but then they said the same about the TT RS when that was launched and a few months later there it was”

    Actually, the TTRS was launched with a manual transmission only, with the s-tronic launched several months later (and is still yet to reach Aus) – not the other way around.

    • Michael

      Correct, and I believe it was because at the time, the s-tronic gearbox couldnt handle the amount of torque the engine made.

  • sm

    if “too clinical” means that in most if not all conditions driven by an average driver (ie not Jason Plato or Tiff Needell)an M-spec won’t see which way the RS went, then give me clinical every day of the week.

    • Pete

      +1
      I totally agree with you. What is wrong with a car which can accelerate well and handle corners well with “No hint of drama, no danger and, ultimately, little in the way of excitement.”

      Honestly i don’t want to drive a car which I will be worried about being killed every minute and I don’t want to worry about oversteer or wheelspin everytime I put my foot down.

      most ppl don’t drive 10/10 or 9/10 on a $100k+ car once every 6 months or every yr.

      and why can’t I get excitement without hint of drama or danger?

      • Shiner

        Pete
        You ask what is wrong with a car which can accelerate well and handle corners well with “No hint of drama, no danger and, ultimately, little in the way of excitement.”

        The answer is easy, it is boring. And boring is the opposite of what a drivers car should be.

        A great driver’s car really makes you feel like you are driving it. The best M bmws can oversteer wildly if you so wish, but that is not the (only) characteristic that makes them fun to drive. It’s not the huge grip either, any manufacturer can do that trick. It is simply the exciting feeling of balance and adjustability, which is exciting /rewarding even way under the limit. This is something you can feel while tootling down to the shops.

        Hey but what do I know, keep buying cars with more and more grip masking dull balance if that’s what makes you happy.

        Now where did I leave my keys to my Falcon?

      • Blake

        It depends on how you perceive a cars characteristics, based on your personal taste, experience, and the cars actual abilities/personality. . Wine is a good analogy here. Two people drink the same bottle of wine, and both have very different descriptions of the flavour, based on taste buds, prior wine tasting experience, perception of label, brand, price, the environment in which it is consumed and so on.

        Based on your needs this Audi would probably be ideal. Best solution? Take a range of cars for an extended test drive (if possible – or at least a comprehensive 45 minute drive) before you commit to purchase.

        • Blake

          That was in response to Petes message

  • Tronic

    The back of the RS 3 looks about circa 1980′s. Part of the appeal of owning a performance car is it’s looks, be they muscular or just very contemporary. The RS 3 has neither, it certainly has the performance but there is no oomph in it’s looks and for me I would not entertain buying one.

  • qikturbo

    It looks a little dated and the colour doesn’t help however I would take this over the BMW 1.
    The BMW 1 has apparently a very hard ride that can unsettle the car when driven at speed on B roads.

  • PeterG

    For the BMW 1 the ride is not that hard and yes if the B road is a rally track it could get unsettled but otherwise RWD always beats AWD in the fun department.So the 1 is better as an everday proposition .If you want to race on ice roads or dirt tracks go the S3.

  • Captain Nemo

    Awesome review Kevin glad to see you didn’t sugarcoat it and told it how you see it. If an Audi isn’t as good as a Beemer people need to know.

    • bangel

      Better than any crummer or faloon .

      • Roger Ramjet

        Or Golf!

  • Blake

    Like most Audis then. Devoid of feel and not a proper drivers car. It’s a fine art in balancing the right exhaust /engine note, the right steering feel, a balanced chasis, the cabin abience, every little detail that makes the driving experience more than the sum of the cars parts. These days, that’s becoming harder to find. Many BMW models do a damn good job in my opinion, while adimitidly sacrificing ride quality.. And if you live in Sydney… Meh

  • Golfschwein

    The red wheels probably work with white bodywork, or silver. I long for the day when red pinstripes make a return to tyre sidewalls, just like the old HK Monaros and Falcon GTs.

  • Oliver

    Brilliant review. I love the fact that the reviewer put a bit of drama into what usually is a straightforward review of a (reasonably) straightforward car.

    From what many of the other reviews and comments on this car suggest, it seems like a very fast and capable, yet quite tame, car.

    Yes, Audi do have too many bombarding S and RS models that are all very, very similar. All get to 100 between 4 and 5 seconds, all are quattro, all are fast and a little bit vanilla….plain.

    I love the noise of this engine, and really wish this was also donated to the Golf R to give it some noise and theatre. In an Audi, fine. But for over 100k, no thanks.

    Please keep reviewing cars Mr Hackett, I thoroughly enjoyed that article!

    • slim

      you must be his good friend, even family?..or maybe Mr Hackett himself.

      • Oliver

        Or maybe you’re just a bit retarded?

  • Jono171

    No drama or danger? Because that’s what potential owners want in a car they will probably be commuting in 5 days a week…..

    And can you mention again that you didn’t like the wheels? They’re optional you know.

    • Robert

      He states how much grip and acceleration the car has (which seems to be everything in a sports car) and then states the car doesn’t have feel like a BMW M car. i’d rather have grip at high speeds then my back end kicking out straight into a stoby pole

  • huh

    so it sounds like the BMW M1 is the crazy b17ch that gets one all excited for 1 night and the RS3 is like a dependable and predictable, but hot wife.

    Yeah, give me the RS3 anyday

  • Shiner

    If your idea of fun is pure speed, then RS audis are great. If your idea of fun is a feeling of handling balance near the limit then a Falcon XT is more fun.

    • bangel

      SHINER i think you have that reversed , try again

      • Reggy

        Shiner might have a point! At some point adding grip/poise/precision to what is already too fast for our road laws might not be smart. Surely the fun in a sporty car is feeling the limit rather than using just 30% of the capability. A car with nice natural balance and lower grip limits might be more engaging.

    • Phil

      Untill the brake pedal goes to the floor after just 3 or 4 corners.

  • PeterG

    huh you not very smart are you huh? Nevermind Shiner can always give you the keys to the Falco when on day release

  • Flying High

    You know CA, it would be interesting if you added a like / dislike counter to the articles themselves, rather than only the comments.

    You would probably find articles like this bigoted write up, gets a well deserved thumbs down rating.

  • Kevin Hackett

    With the exception of one or two commentators here, you obviously don’t understand that motoring journalism is just opinion. We get to drive dozens and dozens of new cars year in, year out. And in the process we form opinions, which we are then asked for. The way some of you guys react to these reviews it’s as if we’ve seriously insulted your mothers. Time to get a grip.

    No slim, I don’t big myself up under a pseudonym, thanks. And I am not a bigot in any aspect of life. I do not dislike Audi as a brand – in fact they make two of my very favourite cars. I just didn’t click with this one – I’m so sorry if that offends. Blimey, it is just my O P I N I O N.

    You don’t have to agree with it but you can’t state that I don’t know what I’m talking about and the same goes for anyone testing cars for CA. At the end of the day you’re getting all this for free so zip it and enjoy.

    If you want to read how perfect every new car is then go read a press release. That’s what some so-called journalists regurgitate so they make sure they’re invited on the next launch. And some of us tell it how we, without a press officer’s hand operating our mouths like some ventriloquist’s dummy, see it. Rant over.

    • Flying High

      …so i guess we are not going to get the article voting rater huh…?

  • Al Juraj

    Buying the Audi is like being married to a Stepford wife. You go home from work with delicious food waiting for you, along with a nice, clean, orderly house. She’s beautiful and does everything well, indeed someone you can brag about with your mates, but the passion that spices up the marriage isn’t there. You’d also want some humour, a bit of sass.

    Going back to the RS3, you may do quick, consistent laps with it around the track, but there’s no challenge. Any error you make will just be negated by electronics. You’d want something that bites, where you fight back. You lose, try again. You win, it’s a great sense of achievement. In the end, it’s all about fun. BMW is just able to extract excitement even in the slowest cars, which makes their much faster rivals unrewarding.

    • Blake

      Correct

    • Rd30s

      When was your latest track day?

  • andronicus

    Thanks you CA! Finally someone who agrees with me that Audi interiors are dated looking.

  • http://mymaties.com VDub Fan

    Mr Hackett must be a BMW fan and a very bad loser. Lets put a stopwatch down and see who comes out on top. A typical result when an RS and M car is released months from eachother.

  • JSTTRS

    There are so many things wrong with this article..

    FYI – I have a 2012 TTRS so I’ll be speaking from experience, not because I adore my car.

    Lets start with the noise – what isn’t to love? It’s loud when you want it to be, quiet when it needs to be and always has a nice thrum in the background.

    “no excitement” – So you don’t go completely sideways like the 4 1M BMW’s that have been written off already, instead it excites you because there is utter grip and you can’t believe the level of handling and the level of precision – so you don’t need to fight the car every step of the way, I don’t see that as a bad thing. In fact I love that no matter wet or dry, I never need to change the way I drive.

    As for releasing at the end of the product cycle – errrr BMW 1M?? Audi has always traditionally made the RS come out at the end of the cycle, and it’s to make sure the car is as good as it could be so that all bumps are ironed out and you’re left with a near perfect car.

    Styling – the car is menacing and awesome! I don’t like the red/black rims, but this would be an awesome looking car with normal TTRS rims and with a black paint job on the body.

    And FYI – TTRS was released as manual ONLY (which is my 1 complaint about the RS3). It’s only NOW been released with a DSG option – of which only 45 limited edition’s are arriving here, although you should know this – shouldn’t you??

    You clearly have a big grudge with Audi – shame a proper review couldn’t have been done to highlight the cars finer points..

    I get it’s an opinion – but you come across as though you seriously dislike Audi’s and a lot of the things you say are not facts…

  • Jerry

    I find it a complete retarded joke to say that if a car cannot drift like a rear wheel it is a negative point of it.
    Absolutely pathetic. If there are no bad points of a car then say there are no bad points about it.

  • tsport100

    I’m curious about the gearing?? At 1575kg and 253kw/450nm it has the same power to weight ratio as a garden variety V8 Commodore, yet it does 0-100 km/h in 4.6 sec (significantly faster than a Commodore) yet the RS3 still retains a top speed of 250 km/h??

    I would normally suspect lower final drive ratios for the impressive 0-100 time yet the top speed does not seem to indicate this…. about the only way I can imagine they might be getting away with low diffs is if these 7 speed gearboxes have multiple (3x) over drives.

    • IWANTONE

      Top speed is electronically governed. RS3 top speed is greater than 270kmh if you remove the electronic limit.

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