From £38,705
Fast and spacious hot hatch offers little subtlety or involvement for a considerable asking price

Our Verdict

Audi RS3
The Audi RS3 Sportback is Ingolstadt's hottest hatchback

The Audi RS3 Sportback is fast and practical, but a £40k performance car needs to offer more

  • First Drive

    Audi RS3 Sportback

    Fast and spacious hot hatch offers little subtlety or involvement for a considerable asking price
  • First Drive

    2011 Audi RS3 Sportback

    Effortlessly combines speed and practicality - it just lacks dynamic flair

What is it?

Audi’s latest RS model, the Audi RS3 Sportback, deliveries of which have just begun in the UK, and in which we’re taking our first UK drive.

Read our first drive review of the new 2015 Audi R3 Sportback here.

Although there have been some memorable high points, the recent form of Audi’s performance tuning department Quattro GmbH has been a touch inconsistent. After the deeply impressive R8 sports car and the ‘B7’ RS4 of 2006, it gave us the mighty but less brilliant RS6 in 2008, and the even less brilliant TT-RS in 2009. It showed considerable improvement with the RS5 last year, of course. So is Audi’s go-faster department still on an upwards curve?

What’s it like?

Based exclusively on the A3 five-door’s ‘Sportback’ bodystyle, the Audi RS3 is powered by the TT-RS’ 2.5-litre five-pot engine, which produces a Focus RS-bashing 335bhp. That power is transmitted to the tarmac via a standard seven-speed S-tronic twin clutch gearbox and a Haldex electronically controlled, wet clutch driven four-wheel drive system.

The RS3 rides 25mm lower than a standard A3, and gets stiffer springs, dampers and anti-roll bars, as well as sizable-looking 370mm front disc brakes. Alloys are 19-inch, shod with 235-profile Continental ContiSport tyres. Elsewhere, as a gesture towards weight-saving, Quattro GmbH have replaced the standard A3 Sportback’s steel front wings with equivalents made out of carbonfibre-reinforced plastic. They certainly needed to do something: even after the lightweight panels, this car weighs 120kg more than a similarly equipped 2.0-litre turbo A3 Sportback.

After the qualified praise of our early test drives in Europe and the US, it’s disappointing to report that the RS3 doesn’t ride or handle at all well on UK roads. Its sky-high chassis rates and short-feeling chassis make for an abrupt-riding car with very little compliance, whose composure is upset all too often by the kind of lumps and compressions that are common on British B-roads.

Tackle your favourite backroad in this car and you won’t have to go very fast to feel the suspension crashing over sharp edges, and throwing the car’s body around over larger bumps instead of simply absorbing them. The car handles corners with plenty of grip, but its limit handling balance is dominated by understeer, and is largely unresponsive to attempts at throttle steering.

Should I buy one?

Factoring in all of the above, plus the RS3’s high and somewhat precarious-feeling driving position and dull steering, we can’t help but conclude that this is one of the very last ways we’d spend £40,000 this summer in pursuit of a great driver’s car.

A fuller road test assessment is in the pipeline. For the time being, however, we’d advise any UK deposit-holder who’s been offered a premium for their place in the queue for an RS3 – a car which has apparently been sold out since the winter – to take the money and run.

Audi RS3 Sportback

Price: £39,930; Top speed: 155mph; 0-62mph: 4.6sec; Economy: 31.0mpg; Co2: 212g/km; Kerbweight: 1575kg; Engine type, cc: 5 cyls in line, 2480cc, turbocharged petrol; Power: 335bhp at 5400-6500rpml; Torque: 332lb ft at 1600-5300rpm; Gearbox: 7-spd dual clutch

Join the debate

Comments
42

22 June 2011

....ouch...

22 June 2011

"Sky-high chassis rates" - have you any idea what utter nonsense you are writing? Fair enough if you don't like it, but don't make up technical-sounding jargon to support a subjective opinion as if it makes it factual.

22 June 2011

... just read 'we hate Audis', we think they are a load of crap no matter how good they are even though Audis are currently selling like hotcakes.

22 June 2011

In the 80's Ford and Vauxhall sold crap by the bucket load - I can't see the difference here.

But I have to confess that having had an A3 3.2 DSG and an RS4, I utterly utterly hate Audi's too! Even though the RS4 was reasonably nice.

22 June 2011

"...just read 'we hate Audis', we think they are a load of crap no matter how good they are even though Audis are currently selling like hotcakes"

Utter nonsense. This was a predictable review, not because Autocar hate Audi's (they've heaped praise on them quite a bit in recent years) but because Audi build cars that go fast but offer no sense of enjoyment in doing so. They look dull (R8 excluded), they drive dull.

22 June 2011

[quote LongLiveTazio]"Sky-high chassis rates" - have you any idea what utter nonsense you are writing? Fair enough if you don't like it, but don't make up technical-sounding jargon to support a subjective opinion as if it makes it factual[/quote]

I was a little confused when I read that remark. Didn't really have a clue what it meant but assumed "well if he wrote it, it must makes sense to someone"

I have never quite got on with the five door body shell for the A3. It just seems too small to be a convincing estate. even though they call it a sportback. I think it makes more sense as a 3 door, especially in RS3 guise

22 June 2011

[quote tim1781]just read 'we hate Audis', we think they are a load of crap no matter how good they are even though Audis are currently selling like hotcakes[/quote]

I think Audi's sales speak more about their image than the ability of their cars.

22 June 2011

[quote tim1781]

... just read 'we hate Audis', we think they are a load of crap no matter how good they are even though Audis are currently selling like hotcakes.

[/quote]

Far from it, Autocar have always had quite a balance opinion of Audi's - read the recent reviews on the A6 and A7 for that. They may be selling like hotcakes but it doesn't necessarily mean it's the best on the market for the money - and that is what the report has said.

 

 

It's all about the twisties........

22 June 2011

[quote LongLiveTazio]"Sky-high chassis rates" - have you any idea what utter nonsense you are writing? Fair enough if you don't like it, but don't make up technical-sounding jargon to support a subjective opinion as if it makes it factual[/quote]

I think you'll find he is talking about spring rates and damping rates which by the sound of it are both very high which equates to "rock hard" with little compliance to absorb the bumps.

22 June 2011

Most performance cars have high spring rates though, it doesn't necessarily equate to a poor ride. Any decent Impreza/Evo on coilovers is very firm but will cover a b-road faster than just about anything with complete confidence. Dampers are fantastically variable and you couldn't describe one as having 'high rates' - are the non-Delphi cars equipped with adjustable dampers anyhow?

However, if that's what he's talking about, say it, don't say 'chassis rates' - it's a meaningless pejorative term. Mind you, saying spring/damper rates is almost as meaningless as they are but two components in myriad different ways in which a car is set up to ride - what would happen if you changed the OEM tyres, for example? What about camber, caster, toe? The afore-mentioned dampers? Unless the author is an experienced automotive engineer involved in setting up cars I would stick to commenting on how it drives rather than positing why it does so in pseudo-technical language in order to give his opinion more authority. A 'short-feeling chassis' indeed.

What's wrong with following Orwell's advice on writing and just say that you found the ride too hard?

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