Review: Audi RS3 saloon

Review: Audi RS3 saloon
Review: Audi RS3 saloon

The hottest A3 returns in facelifted guise – this time as a high-performance saloon

Audi RS3 saloon

Audi RS3 saloon

Price: £45,250
Engine: 2.5-litre, five-cylinder, turbocharged, petrol
Power: 395bhp
Torque: 354lb ft
Gearbox: Seven-speed dual-clutch
Kerb weight: 1515kg
Top speed: 155mph
0-62mph: 4.1sec
Economy: 34.0mpg
CO2/BIK tax band: 188g/km, 36%

Remember the advert for the last Audi RS3 in 2015? The one where an R8 gives birth to it? Its slightly unnerving graphical detail perhaps rightly roused a bit of controversy, but was also a triumph of marketing frippery because conceptually, the RS3 actually has nothing to do with the R8. It was simply a great car in its own right.

Crossing its fingers that everyone has now forgotten that sinister advert, Audi’s back with a facelifted RS3 – and to throw us off the scent yet further, it’s now offering it in a new variant, a four-door saloon. One that, because it’s been widened and wears massive 19 inch alloys, is a well-proportioned one at that. This isn’t some sort of contemporary 1980s Vauxhall Belmont three-box blunder.

The 2.5-litre five-cylinder turbo engine has been tuned up to 395bhp, and put on a diet so the unit itself weighs less. And has even more bewilderingly fast potency. Stats say 0-62mph in 4.1 seconds but we clocked 0-60mph in a time beginning with a ‘3’ with the old one – and this one feels quicker even than that.

It can handle the extra 30bhp with aplomb, courtesy of an enhanced quattro all-wheel drive system, which more smartly distributes power front-to-rear in corners. It’s even more sophisticated, and much less likely to push its nose wide in bends. The fact Audi’s even improved the ride makes it a double win: it’s still undeniably firm, but rarely becomes horrendously crashy.

Audi RS3 saloon

Indeed, we prefer the regular system to the optional active Sport setup: although ‘Comfort’ mode is plusher still, the sportiest setting is way too stiff for UK roads, so can rarely be used. It’s a shame Audi hasn’t given the steering any more clarity of feel either, and the seven-speed S tronic automatic gearbox still has its scatterbrain moments.

The new RS3 is better equipped than before, befitting its junior performance express status. Audi even throws in the brilliant Virtual Cockpit as standard, for a fully-electronic instrument display that lets you have full-screen colour mapping where ordinary cars have boring old dials. It makes up for the aged screen in the centre of the dash (and the fact you have to pay £1000 extra for the RS Sports exhaust).

Audi RS3 saloon

Overall, the latest RS3 is better than ever. In all weathers, its ability to serve up ferocious yet controlled speed is unsurpassed amongst its direct rivals, and the fact it’s now faster and more exciting still simply swells this yet further. The noise, if you have the RS exhaust, is also magnificent.

It’s not perfect, and not cheap, but oozes character and is a yet more formidable alternative to a Mercedes-AMG A45 and a BMW M2. Compact performance car buyers, you’ve never had it so good.

Audi RS3 saloon

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