Test Drive: Audi RS3: the 4-wheeled Christmas cracker !

The RS3 is some sort of an Audi institution. It’s the first stage of the RS rocket, the brand’s sporty range entry-level model. We just tested the saloon car’s latest version. It remains faithfull to the 5-cylinder engine that fans rate so much. This time, power is up to 407 HP while torque is 500 Nm. Of course, four-wheel drive is standard, just like the 7-speed S tronic gearbox.

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Our test car colour was quite loud but it is possible to order an RS3 in more restrained hues. It’s just down to ehtics : either you make a statement and show clearly that you love bad boys’ cars, or you play it cool, knowing that the RS’ unique details are there for a reason. The large grille and big bumper or the veting slots behind the front wheel wells leave no doubt about the car’s intensions, but here there are no oversized hips or spoiler, like on the RS4, 6 and 7. The RS3 is restrained and we quite like it to be that way. Inside, it was rather dark and restrainted too. As nicely designed and looking as they are, the front seats lack lateral support when you unleash the car’s full potential. The previous version used expensive specific buckets that were way much better. Only the stainless steel pedals and the steering wheel (with its thin alcantara hoop) set this RS apart from the rest of the range. The dashboard displays change according to the selected driving mode but they could be more visible for the driver.

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I like it

The RS3 really shines once on the road. This firecracker is just begging to jumped when you press the throttle. Sat behind the wheel, we immediately dived into the Drive Select menu. There’s an ‘Efficiency’ mode that is pretty at odds here and surely won’t tempt many people. The RS modes are much more attractive for enthusiasts. There’s even a shortcut button on the steering wheel, enough to get us quickly into the mood. The engine rumbles a bit more, the suspension gets harder and the throttle response is quicker. Pushing the car to its limits is safe as the Quattro system keeps an eye on it. You can feel the rear end slipping away a bit but this hardly lasts for long as some electronic devices ensure that you’d never get scared. The extremly powerfull and enduring brakes use carbon/ceramic discs. They just never fade away. Just warn your passengers about g-force!

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Quite clever

Usable rear seats and a 280-litre boot (albeit smaller than the 5-door hatch one) are enough to make this sports car appear as a plain family car in the eyes of your relatives. Then, your family will be delighted to join in and share the fun at high speed trains pace. Some young people who came along with us still remember the « rocket »…

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I don’t like it

Quite often, Audis – even RS models- are seen as being too quiet and soft. Understandably, safety comes first. The latest RS models are very powerful cars and they should be as neutral as possible. This RS3 gets an RS Torque Rear mode sending loads of power to the rear wheels. Just what’s needed to indulge in some wild drifting sessions, provided there’s enough space to do it safely. Our daily driver being a RWD car, this is something of a gimmick for us but it seems younger drivers enjoy it a lot.

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Why I buy it

The Audi RS3 is a quiet family saloon hiding a hardcore sports car that loves to endlessly gobble up bends and curves. We’d like the 5-cylinder engine to be louder but it will notheless delight tech fans. This is a real engine, not the sort of refrigerator lump that is now under most car bonnets !  The Audi RS3 is tech-laden like never before. It even allows the roundabout kings to drift happily. And it’s quite practical too : young adults can sit comfortably in the back and even though the boot is not that big, it will easily swallow the weekly shopping or suitcases. Over the years, Audi has become synonimous with hig grade materials and superb fit and finish. This RS3 is no exception.

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Why I don’t buy it

The RS3 starts from € 65,310. However, adding some extras like adaptive dampers, the RS Sport exhaust system, a more advanced navigation system or more supportive sport seats willsoon push the price up to €80,000. Our test car was € 88,850… Not forgetting registration and road taxes which are very expensive and to top it all off, fuel consumption can be hard-hitting as well. On average, we recorded 12 l/100 km and we didn’t even got over- enthusiastic. However, isn’t that the cost of sheer driving pleasure? (Pictures: Pierre Fontignies – Translation: Dimitri Urbain)

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