The world’s fastest hot hatch sounds like a $500,000 supercar if you close your eyes to focus on the G-Force and its amazing soundtrack.
Of course, this kind of sensory experience is best conducted from the passenger seat of the Audi RS3.
There is a unique musical quality to the beloved five-cylinder engine under the bonnet that calls attention to the Audi R8 V10 or the Lamborghini Huracan. And this opening supports its bark with a relentlessly fast thrust.
What is the speed? Audi claims a 3.8sec to 100 km/h sprint (easily beating the latest Porsche 911 Carrera), but independent testing suggests it’s much faster.
Top speed is 290 km/h – a really impressive figure for something that shares its bones with the humble Volkswagen Golf.
It’s easy to see – and hear – why this resonant and sophisticated selection is a favorite of hot slot fans.
The latest generation of RS3s account for up to one in four A3 sales during an on-and-off relationship plagued by supply constraints.
But it has never matched the driver’s share of a traditional sports car available at a similar price. Audi aims to fix that with a suite of changes including a slightly more muscular engine, revised suspension, a wider stance and a new all-wheel drive system.
With a starting price of $91,391 plus driving costs on the road as a hatchback (a large-boot RS3 sedan costs $2,500 more), it’s one of the most expensive hatchbacks on sale – although it undercuts its arch-rival Mercedes-AMG A45 .
It’s loaded with equipment worthy of the crown jewel in the Audi range of small cars.
It has the best digital dashboard in any car of this size, along with a 10.1-inch central touchscreen with satellite navigation, wireless smartphone mirroring and charging, premium stereo, head-up display and more.
It looks purposeful inside and out, though Audi fans will miss the motorsport-inspired flat-top steering wheel from the old car, which was removed in favor of a regular round element compatible with the latest driver assistance technology.
Performance contents range from a wider chassis and oversized brakes to a 294 kW, 500 Nm turbo engine and active exhaust. Customers can go even further with optional ceramic brakes, carbon fiber and semi-slick Pirelli P-Zero Trofeo R rubber.
Perhaps the biggest selling point for owners looking to trade in a last-generation car is the torque-vectored rear differential that changes the driving experience.
The new differential pushes power to the outer rear wheel when cornering, helping to turn the car when cornering is applied.
Front bite is improved by the wider stance and 19-inch front wheels that are a full inch wider than the rear.
The narrower rear tires encourage the tail to let go of grip before the front, reducing the bottom line to provide agility when sticking to a corner.
There’s even a drift mode for tail bluffing that wasn’t possible in the old model. We tested the feature on a sliding sump at the racetrack and it certainly could slip, although it does feel a little confusing. It’s not as natural or predictable as a rear-wheel drive BMW or a Mustang.
You need a committed right foot and plenty of room to swing the tail – it really is something best left to the skateboard.
There is no doubt that this is the best RS3 to date, especially in terms of driver engagement.
It is much more practical than two-door sports cars, and it is easy to live with it every day.
It’s as easy to drive as any other city hatchback, with silky power delivery and multi-mode shock absorbers that do a decent job of keeping your composure over the bumps.
Great ergonomics and great infotainment features add to its everyday appeal. Factor in a really special engine and the result is something worth savoring.
RuleEngaging in driving, uncompromising speed and cheaper than the competition, the Audi RS3 is a winning combination.
price About $100,000 by car
engine 2.5 liters 5-cylinder turbo, 294 kW and 500 Nm
Warranty Service 5 years/km, $3,589 for 5 years
safety 6 Airbags, Automatic Emergency Braking, Active Cruise Control, Blind Spot Monitoring, Rear Cross Traffic Alert.
long shoes 282 liters
additional repair kit
Originally published as the Audi RS3 marks the end of an era