Audi RS3 sedan

Junior RennSport offering, now rebooted

DAVID BONNICI

FIRST AUSSIE DRIVE ITíS A strange feeling when you give way to an Audi A4 and the driver stops in the middle of an intersection and stares. Iím driving the box-fresh Audi RS3 sedan and the chap obviously has enough Ingolstadt -flavoured octane coursing through his veins to know the significance of the first compact sedan to wear a RennSport badge.

The four-door body style stands out from its mainstream A3 and S3 sedan siblings thanks to a bolder stance with wider tracks (20mm front/14mm rear), a 25mm lower ride height, and RS styling headlined by flared wheel arches, and gloss-black honeycomb grille.

As well as bringing a conventional boot (which is actually 65 litres smaller than the cargo bay of the RS3 hatch) the sedan boasts an all-new heart in the form of an aluminium-cased 2.5-litre in-line five-cylinder turbo engine. The new donk is 26kg lighter than the old cast-iron unit and 24kW more powerful too, producing 294kW/480Nm and a magnificent soundtrack highlighted by a warble that really kicks in around 4000rpm.

Audi claims the RS3 sedan will do 0-100km/h in a launch-assisted 4.1sec (0.2 quicker than the old hatch), though this is a car bred for bends as much as straight-line performance, with its quattro drivetrain providing a torque split that can favour the rear axle with around 70 percent in hard driving.

The availability of optional tyres wider at the front than the rear suggests that the RS3 prefers directing drive forwards though.

With plenty of grip and traction, it lets you attack bends with real vigour while providing a degree of mid-corner adjustability.

The steering rack is the variable-ratio type designed to quicken as more lock is wound on, which is an advantage in the tight hairpins. In general driving, the weighting is agreeably firm and sweetly responsive to both driver input and road feedback.

On the twisty B-roads of Tasmaniaís Huon Valley the standard four-link rear suspension feels firm but manages to absorb bumps well.

Itís the same set-up as before, but with damping retuned to take advantage of the lighter engine.

Interior trim is to Audiís usual high standard with RS-branded diamond-quilted Nappa leather seats and Audiís excellent 12.3-inch virtual cockpit digital instrument cluster with specific RS functions such as a large rev counter and G-force meter.

The sedan will be joined by the updated RS3 hatch later this year with Audi expecting a 50:50 sales split between the two body styles.

That sounds about right as the sedan brings enough of its own desirability to be more than just a niche variant. ponsive d

Pay up to speed up

Just because youíre buying a premium performance not going to be tempted by the options list. RS3 enhancements include a unique staggered wheel fitment that complements the original 235/35 rear tyres with wider 255/30 rubber up front for $1500. An optional $5900 RS ĎPerformance Packageí adds the staggered tyres, magnetic adaptive RS sport suspension, and a 14-speaker sound system.

Fork out another $9500 and you can get ceramic brakes fitted, though AEB is neither standard nor an option here. variant, doesnít mean youíre d

PLUS & MINUS

Muscular engine with great note; rockstar interior; forgiving dynamics Key equipment remains on the options list; no AEB; less practical than hatch