WITH A BIRTHDAY imminent I’ve been dropping none too subtle hints about the perfect present. It’s German, its grille has four rings, its body has four doors and it delivers drive through four wheels.
It’s the formidable Audi RS3 sedan and it’s totally and utterly addictive: stratospherically fast, corners like it’s on rails, stops in a heartbeat and is lavishly appointed and ultra-refined.
To me it is the consumate driver’s car and no surprise to learn it’s the biggest seller in the Audi Sport range.
Every time my bum hit the leather-clad sport-seat my face lit up with a huge grin.
Push the start button and the 294kW/480Nm turbocharged 2.5-litre five-cylinder engine wakens with a roar. Its huge oval shape exhausts ensure quiet getaways aren’t possible.
When let loose, all that grunt feeds through a seven-speed dual clutch auto and the Quattro driveline to fire the RS3 sedan to 100km/h in 4.1 seconds. That’s less than a second slower than $390,000 V10 Audi R8 plus supercar. Top speed is 280/kmh.
BODY 4-door sedan
ENGINE 2.5-litre TFSI five-cylinder turbo
POWER & TORQUE 294kW / 480Nm
PERFORMANCE 0-100km/h – 4.1sec
TOP SPEED- 280 km/h
TRANSMISSION 7-speed dual-clutch auto
SUSPENSION Front- MacPherson strut with lower steel wishbones Rear- Four-link independent Brakes Front and rear discs
WHEELS 19 inch
PRICE $84,900 (+ORC)
What’s more, the pricetag of $84,900 makes the RS 3 sedan a bit of a bargain, considering what you get.
It’s sleek shape isn’t covered in bolt-on body bits and the only hints it’s the fastest one of the pack are a lower ride height (by 25mm) over a standard A3 on which it is based, a wider track, a single-frame grille, guard-filling 19-inch alloy wheels on low profile Pirelli’s, huge brakes with big red brake callipers, drainpipe exhausts, rear diffuser, small boot lip spoiler and a chin spoiler with ‘Quattro’ stamped on it.
Inside it’s typical Audi: well crafted and appointed. Nobody does interiors better. Leather covers the body hugging quilted sports seats and flat-bottom steering wheel that also wears a touch of Alcantara. At your fingertips are aluminium shift paddles and controls for the adaptive cruise, wipers and indicators. You also get dual zone aircon with rear vents, auto wipers and lights, an auto-dimming mirror, heated front pews and lashings of brushed aluminium and carbon garnish throughout.
The driving position is low slung and facing you is Audi’s enchanting customisable digital virtual cockpit that features various instrument and map layouts. Instruments can be shrunk to display a larger map and in Sport mode a tacho dominates the dash. There’s also Power, Torque and a G-meter and a lap timer for track days.
For a compact sedan, it’s quite spacious up front but a squeeze in the back, however the boot is big enough to swallow a couple of decent size cases.
Featured in the RS3 is Audi’s multi-drive system ranging from Comfort to Dynamic and most of the time I set it in Dynamic to revel in the most aggressive acceleration, lightning fast gear changes, razor-sharp steering, firmer ride and amplification of the emotive five-cylinder turbo beat. However on a long run from Melbourne to Warnambool, Comfort mode provided relaxed near silent motoring.
The RS3s astounding cornering talents made every drive enjoyable, but one fang on a coastal road was especially memorable and though the road was bumpy and washboard like at times, the RS 3 scythed through corners as if it was painted to the road. Its sheer speed and ability to carry that through turns along with its agility, change of direction and huge stopping performance is damn impressive.
To avoid overstepping the mark the RS3 has a full brace of driver assistance systems like active side assist and lane assist, autonomous emergency braking, hill-hold ABS, traction and stability controls.
It wouldn’t be an Audi without a number of option packs and if you tick enough boxes, you can easily get the RS3 pricetag north of one hundred grand and the one option I’d tick is the $5900 RS performance package, which gets you magnetic ride control with adaptive dampers, a 14-speaker Bang and Olufsen sound system, carbon fibre interior trimmings and rotor design 19-inch alloys.
Audi’s brash barnstormer is one enthralling drive. And an ideal birthday gift.
• The first Audi to feature the five-cylinder engine was the 1005E in 1977. Back then, the 2.1-litre engine produced 100kW.
• In 1980 the Quattro debuted and was powered by a five-cylinder turbocharged, intercooled engine with 147kW and packaged for both road use and motorsport. This was followed by the Sport Quattro that was the basis of the Group B rally car and its newly developed four-valve light-alloy engine delivered 225kW.
• After leaving the WRC Audi had a crack at the Pikes Peak hillcliimb which it won with Walter Röhrl at the wheel of the Sport Quattro S1 E2 that had 440kW on tap.
• Having tasted success stateside Audi lined up for the IMSA-GTO with its five-cylinder engine now smashing out a substantial 530kW.
• During the mid-1990s, the V6 replaced the five-cylinder engines until 2009 when it made a comeback in the turbocharged and direct-injected 2.5-litre powered TTRS that boasted 250kW, then 265kW in the model update of 2013.