The RS3 is the entry model in Audi’s iconic RS performance range, based on the same platform as the German firm’s incredibly popular A3. The RS3 was facelifted in 2017 with improved driving dynamics, increased power and for the first time ever, it is available in saloon guise alongside the traditional hatchback version. With 400 horsepower and phenomenal straight-line acceleration, the RS3 is most powerful car in its class, but how does it compare to cars like the BMW M2, Ford Focus RS and Mercedes-Benz AMG A45? We spent a week with the new RS3 Saloon on Irish roads to find out.
What is it like?
The RS3 Saloon is somewhat unassuming from the outside, but features such as widened wheel arches, dual oval exhaust pipes and large front air intakes subtly hint at its performance. As the flagship model in Audi’s A3 range, it has numerous styling tweaks including a black honeycomb grille, 19-inch RS alloy wheels and striking LED headlights, and there is also a new Quattro graphic on the front splitter. This particular RS3 Saloon is finished in Nardo Grey, which is a distinctive colour choice and it looks striking from every angle.
Stepping inside, the RS3 is practical by performance car standards, and there are lots of sporting touches throughout the cabin. Although the RS3 saloon is slightly less spacious than the RS3 Sportback, it is nonetheless accommodating with plenty of room for four tall adults and 315 litres of boot space. Our test car has optional body-hugging Super Sports Seats which offer incredible support, while Audi’s Virtual Cockpit digital driver’s display and MMI Navigation Plus system are also featured. Everything is well-constructed and premium to the touch, and features such as brushed aluminium inlays, illuminated door sills and black cloth headlining lend the RS3 a touch of class over its rivals.
The RS3 uses the same 2.5-litre turbocharged five-cylinder petrol engine as the Audi TT-RS, and its power has been increased to 400bhp which means it is the most powerful car in its class. Matching this to a revised Quattro all-wheel-drive system and dual clutch automatic transmission makes the RS3 eye-wateringly fast off the line. The sprint from 0-100km/h takes just over four seconds and there is even a launch control system to ensure the lightening quick getaways. The noise from the engine is sublime and especially during down changes, when the RS3 barks and burbles with enthusiasm. In terms of running costs, we achieved 9 litres/100km in fuel economy, and annual motor tax is rated at €750.
Audi has tweaked the RS3’s chassis to make it more engaging to drive, with more power going to the rear wheels and better weight distribution than its predecessor. The RS3 corners more enthusiastically as a result, with astonishing levels of grip and reassurance in wet (and snowy in our case) driving conditions. Large RS brake callipers offer tremendous stopping power, and there’s even optional carbon ceramic brakes for track day fans. On the track, the rear-wheel-powered BMW M2 offers a more focused driving experience, but the RS3 is ultimately better-suited to daily driving. Despite its large wheels and sports suspension, we found the RS3 to be suitably comfortable on Ireland’s bumpy back roads too.
Prices for the new Audi RS3 Saloon start from €69,550, or €68,550 for the Sportback model, which is considerably lower than BMW M2 Coupe. The RS3 is lavishly equipped with 19-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, sports seats, aluminium interior details, Nappa leather upholstery and lots more featured as standard. Our test car leaves nothing to be desired with a host of desirable options including upgraded two-tone wheels, a Bang & Olufsen sound system, Virtual Cockpit, tinted windows, red brake callipers, heated seats and Audi’s MMI system, so it costs over €89k!
Carzone verdict: 4.5/5
The Audi RS3 is an immensely powerful and thrilling performance package that is practical enough for daily driving on Irish roads. Following a mid-life facelift in 2017, the RS3 is once again the most powerful car in its class, and it’s more engaging to drive too. We love how the the RS3 can match much more expensive performance cars in a straight line, and also the addition of the new saloon model too. It isn’t quite as engaging to drive as some of its rivals, and it is an expensive proposition when kitted out with options.