Where competitors opt for four-pot engines, Audi maintains its emotional attachment to the five-cylinder that dates back to 1983 for its Sport quattro model. Audi engineers tell us the torque characteristics especially of a five-cylinder engine make it hard to ignore.
The RS3’s ballistic turbocharged five-cylinder engine pumps out 270kW and 465Nm with a 0-100km/h sprint taking only 4.3 seconds.
There’s plenty of snorting, cracking, explosions on the overrun and braps from the twin tailpipes, and there’s no doubt the engine and gearbox are bordering on perfectly matched.
The seven-speed dual-clutch S tronic gearbox is capable of being coaxed through the ratios at city speed or punched through the same ratios at warp speed.
Shift speeds have been sharpened over the old model and Audi is adamant that it needed to be an efficient gearbox that is also sporty.
While the Audi hot-hatch’s most obvious rival – the Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG – is all fire and brimstone, with requisite raucous exhaust theatrics, the RS3 is a precision instrument. This is a purist’s car – although a comparison with the A45 is a must for another day.
The RS3 is designed for drivers who enjoy grip, balance, blistering speed and all-round ability. The first three laps as I get to understand the track barely elicit even a squawk from the tyres, such is the RS3’s composure. Track work is almost too easy. The vehicles we’ve sampled at launch don’t even have Audi’s Magnetic Ride Control – a feature that should be part of an option package in Australia.
Originally promised to start under $100,000, the RS3 now looks to land closer to $80,000 according to Audi Australia, making it the most affordable RS model sold here.