The upcoming performance hero of the new Audi A3 range has been spotted at the 'Ring, ahead of a reveal sometime in 2020.
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The next-generation Audi RS3 has been snapped for the first time during performance testing at the Nurburgring Nordschleife in Germany – and good news, it still has five-cylinder power.

Photographers noted hearing the distinctive engine note of Audi's five-cylinder turbo petrol engine, indicating the new model will get a revised version of the current 2.5-litre motor.

We can see some of the Audi Sport add-ons that will be fitted to the RS3, namely the more aggressive bumpers and beefed-up wheel/tyre package, and the two large oval exhaust pipes sticking out the rear.

It's expected the RS3's 2.5-litre five-cylinder turbo will get a small power bump over the current model's 294kW and 480Nm outputs, along with a reworked exhaust system and a petrol particulate filter in line with Europe's latest emissions regulations.

Given the Mercedes-AMG A45 S outputs a beefy 310kW and 500Nm from a 2.0-litre displacement, you have a rough idea of the figures Audi could be gunning for.

Drive will be sent to a quattro all-wheel drive system via a seven-speed S tronic dual-clutch transmission. Expect a 0-100 claim of around 4.0 seconds.

Beyond the cosmetic and drivetrain changes, the rest of the RS3 will be pretty much the same as the standard new-generation A3 – which is due to be revealed before the end of the year.

Expect the latest Audi MMI touch infotainment interface, a new Virtual Cockpit display, the latest in semi-autonomous driver assists, along with model-specific trimmings like carbon-fibre trim inlays and sports seats in leather/Alcantara combination.

It's believed the new RS3 will be revealed sometime next year ahead of a late 2020 European sales launch – possibly debuting as early as the Geneva motor show in March.

Australia

The current RS3 Sportback and Sedan have been on a sales stop for the past few months as Audi had to redo the certification process to comply with WLTP economy and emissions testing.

Originally scheduled to return to Australian showrooms before the end of this year, Audi Australia recently confirmed production for our market had been pushed back until November/December, meaning the new cars won't be hitting our shores until January/February in 2020.

"We’ve certainly had interest and demand and enquiry about the vehicle over the past 12 months so we’re very much looking forward to its return," Shaun Cleary, Audi Australia's corporate communications manager, told CarAdvice last month.

"Our production has been confirmed for later in the year, so at this stage we hope to see the RS3 return in early 2020."

It is unclear if prices will rise but when it was last on sale in Australia the RS3 cost from $80,240 plus on-road costs for the hatch and $84,240 plus on-road costs for the sedan.

No technical changes planned for the vehicle, either. The power output from the turbocharged 2.5-litre five-cylinder engine (294kW/480Nm), seven-speed twin-clutch auto and all-wheel-drive system remain unchanged.

Stay tuned to CarAdvice for all the latest, and click on the images for the full gallery.