The long-awaited 2015 Audi RS3 Sportback quattro was revealed this morning ahead of its European launch in about six months time and Australian launch by the end of next year.
The Ingolstadt marque’s returning RS3 hero gives it a proper rival for the Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG and BMW M135i, and a bonafide A3 range-topper to supplant the incumbent S3. It is also quattro GmbH’s seventh RS model line.
In fact, its muscular 2.5-litre TFSI five-cylinder turbo shades the AMG and M car alike with outputs of 270kW and 465Nm of torque, the latter available between 1625-5550rpm.
This engine is a reworked version of the one used in the previous 250kW/450Nm RS3, plus the current TT RS and RS Q3 models, the latter of which has 228kW and 420Nm. Rumour had it that Audi was set to downsize to a four-cylinder RS3, but instead it has stuck to the tried and true.
Remaining is the signature 1-2-4-5-3 ignition sequence that gives the five-pot its distinctive burble. Audi is very deliberately harking back to its 1980s quattros here, as well as its modern staples.
The performance figures are impressive. The outputs beat both the 2.0-litre four-cylinder A45 AMG (265kW/450Nm) and the 3.0-litre six-pot BMW M135i (235kW/450Nm). Its claimed 0-100km/h time of 4.3 seconds — three-tenths faster than before — is also the class-best.
Given its MQB architecture, a weight loss of 55kg (to 1520kg unladen) is expected. The engine sends power to all four wheels via Audi’s variable quattro system that can send between 50 and 100 per cent of available torque to the rear axle.
Audi claims that when in Dynamic Mode (part of its Audi drive select system) drivers can perform “controlled drifts”. They can also completely switch off the ESC during track time. Audi is not messing about.
Controlling the power is a seven-speed S tronic dual-clutch auto with paddles. It has an electronically controlled but hydraulically activated multi-plate clutch that weighs 1.4kg less than its predecessor.
Compared with the A3 Sportback, the RS3 version sits 25mm lower, and the track of the MacPherson strut front suspension has been widened to 1559mm. There are also new high-strength aluminium pivot bearings. The rear axle has a track with of 1514mm and four-link suspension.
The electro-mechanical steering setup has a progressive design with a ratio that is variable between 15.3:1 to 10.9:1, meaning you can dial in smaller inputs at speed. Magnetic ride adaptive dampers are also fitted and adjustable by driving mode.
The ventilated front brake discs behind the 19-inch wheels measure 370mm in diameter, while at the rear they are 310mm. Fitted also are eight-piston fixed calipers. Upping the ante are the optional carbonfibre-ceramic 370mm front discs.
Inside the cabin are niceties such as Nappa leather bucket seats, a flat-bottomed RS multi-function wheel trimmed in leather and Alcantara, stainless steel pedals, Alcantara door inserts, and black-faced dials with red needles and white scales.
Audi will also offer special RS seats with a carbon seat shell with integrated side airbags, saving 7kg.
As we know, sales of RS models (as well as AMG and BMW M) are sky-rocketing this year. Considering the A45 AMG is a top-selling family member for Mercedes-Benz here, expect the RS3 to perform strongly here too.
Whether or not Audi will offer an RS3 sedan remains unclear, though it would make a formidable rival for the CLA45 AMG. Given Audi previewed the RS3 with this concept, you'd expect to see a production model.
Local RS3 pricing is unclear, and you’ll have to wait a while for the late 2015 launch here. But we can speculate. The Audi S3 costs $59,900 plus on-road costs, while the A45 AMG is $75,800. A price in that latter ballpark would seem reasonable.