Audi RS3

New super hatch gives the opposition a bunch of fi ves

by JEZ SPINKS

ENGINE 2480cc inline-5, DOHC, 20v, turbo / POWER 270kW@5550-6800rpm / TORQUE 465Nm@1625-5550rpm / WEIGHT 1520KG / 0-100KM/H 4.3sec (claimed) / PRICE $78,900 REMEMBER when Audi only produced one RS model at a time?

Those days are long gone, with seven different flavours now on offer and the latest is the cheapest: the $78,900 RS3. The original succumbed to some vague local design rule issues, but now Australians have a chance to sample what is the world's most powerful hot hatch.

Or was, until the pesky crew from AMG one-upped the 270kW/465Nm RS3 with the updated 280kW/475Nm A45. They're still impressive numbers, as is 0-100km/h in a claimed 4.3sec thanks to a new all-wheel-drive system, quick-shifting dual-clutch auto and 2.5-litre turbo five-cylinder thatís been doing the business in a number of RS models since 2009.

Whether you opt to hold gears and savour high revs or exploit the plump torque band, Audiís boosted five-pot delivers thrilling acceleration. Maximum torque kicks in at 1625rpm and offers stunning in-gear performance before handing the baton to peak power at 5550rpm to continue the Audiís relay sprint to a 6800rpm redline.

The engineís warble serenades the driver even at low revs, and the five-cylinderís rhythmic (off)beat is a constant presence, especially if you engage Dynamic mode to open the exhaust flaps. Lift off the throttle and it crackles on the overrun, and pops on flat-out upshifts.

The quattro system tuned by, well, Quattro can use its computercontrolled multi-plate clutch to send every single Newton metre to the rear axle. Jumping on the accelerator midhairpin, however, indicates the RS3ís rear end isnít one easily influenced by throttle application.

Instead, the newest member of the RS family defaults to a neutral balance, aided by torque vectoring and 19-inch rubber. Out of corners, it simply grips and rips. The eightpiston front brakes provide the confidence to fire the RS3 into tight corners, while the steering, though not hugely talkative, is quick from just off-centre and consistently precise, so the RS3 offers more than just extraordinary cross-country pace.

Our test car featured slightly wider front tyres and adaptive suspension as part of the $6490 RS Performance pack, yet even with the dampers at their stiffest the RS3 wonít leave you feeling drained over long distances.

Audi believes the RS3 could double RS sales here. Thatís a much bigger challenge than it would have once been, but the car deserves it. M

STAR RATING

4.5

Like

Ridiculously rapid; engine character; interior quality

Dislike

$80K-plus for a hatch? Looks a bit sedate