The Audi RS3 range which consists of the Sportback and Sedan have always been my pick in this highly competitive compact sports segment in which both BMW M and Mercedes-AMG play.
They simply offer a brilliant mix of hardcore performance and everyday useability that is hard to beat. Now they have moved the goalposts on even more.
The petrolheads will be thrilled to know that the iconic 2.5-litre five-cylinder engines remains basically as is with power coming in at an unchanged 294 kW and the torque up 20 Nm to 500 Nm.
What has changed though, and this will make for a faster car, is that the torque is spread over a wider band from 2 250 rpm right up to 5 600 rpm. In addition, the power now peaks and plateaus from 5 600 rpm all the way to 7 000 rpm.
More maximum power and torque over a longer rev range simply translates into a car that is running at the peak of its capability for a longer period.
RS3 makes history
The previous generation Audi RS3 Sedan became the first sub four-second compact car I had tested. It ran 3.9 seconds, while the Sportback nailed a time 4.0 seconds flat. I have no doubt that Audi’s claim of 0 to 100 km/h in 3.8 seconds for the new generation model is on the cards.
If top speed is your thing, then the standard 250 km/h electronic speed limit can be optionally increased to 290 km/h if the RS Dynamic Package Plus is selected.
And making sure the guy at the traffic lights next to you or your grumpy neighbour clearly understands you are not driving a garden variety A3, for the first time in an RS3, you get a fully variable flap control system within the RS performance exhaust system that is controlled by the Audi drive select system.
Another first for an Audi, is the fitment of a thing called the RS torque splitter. The irony, in my humble opinion, is that a large percentage of the owners of this generation Audi RS3 are never going to fully explore or appreciate this feature.
RS3 owners are known for going to the street or drag events and destroying the competition is a straight line, but we got to play at Zwartkops Raceway this week, and experience that hugely improved handling characteristics of these cars.
I am not even going to try and get all technical and explain in detail what is at work with the RS torque splitter setup. Instead of just front to back torque transfer, an electronically controlled multiple disc clutch is used on each of the drive shafts that distributes torque left and right between the rear wheels in a fully variable manner.
There is also a new RS Performance mode specific to the Audi RS 3. It has been designed specifically for the racetrack with its own engine and transmission setup. And it is specially calibrated to the Pirelli PZero “Trofeo R” semi-slick tyres, which are optionally available for the first time.
By ensuring the most neutral handling possible with little oversteering or understeering in different driving situations, and offering early acceleration when a corner, your laps time will be quicker than before.
All I can say is that if you get understeer on the new gen car, or put it in the wall … you are the problem and not the Audi RS3. But you do get a RS Torque Rear mode which makes drifting possible and to tempt you into doing just this.
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Audi RS 3 keeps you informed
It is a quirky add on and one I wouldn’t bother with too much in the real world, unless of course you want to be like your mates that stuck their Ford Focus RS’ into every bush they could find when those cars came out with a drift mode.
On the inside, the Audi virtual cockpit plus includes displays for g-forces, lap times, and acceleration from 0 to 100 km/h, 0 to 200 km/h, quarter mile and eighth of a mile.
In turn, the 10.1-inch touch display in the instrument panel displays the coolant, engine, and transmission oil temperatures, as well as the g-forces and, optionally, the pressure of the tyres.
A RS-specific shift light indicator (in manual mode) that changes the rpm display from green to yellow to red, blinking in a manner identical to that used in motorsports, indicating the ideal time to change gears also does duty, while this information is also integrated into the optional Heads-Up Display.
Is there a downside to any of this? Well, the basic list price starts at R1 215 000 for the Audi RS 3 Sportback and R1 245 000 for the RS3 Sedan.
It includes a five-year Audi Freeway Plan and that is all fair and well. But as is the case with any German premium brand, you must dig deep into the options bin to get yourself a nicely specced one. Oh, and this is the last of this generation of a full-blooded, loud, petrol-powered turbocharged Audi RS3 to be produced.
Our friend electric is coming to take over this mantle, and never more so than today do I feel like Clint Eastwood in the movie “Torino”. Youngsters, Google it, us old dinosaurs are making way for a new order to rule the world.
For more information on the new Audi RS 3 range, visit the manufacturer’s website.