From £38,705
Effortlessly combines speed and practicality - it just lacks dynamic flair

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
8 March 2011

What is it?

Audi’s fire-breathing hot hatch, although its mega performance comes with a very serious price-tag attached. Audi’s RS models tend to appear late in the model cycle, and the RS3 is definitely a last hurrah for the current-shape A3, which is being replaced next year.

Looking for a review of the 2015 Audi RS3? Click here to read it.

British buyers will have to fork out almost exactly 40 grand to get one – but despite that, Audi claims the UK allocation of 500 cars has already sold out.

What’s it like?

In a word, fast. In two words, seriously fast. You don’t have to rewind too far to find a time when this sort of power output was reserved for no-question supercars, and the five-pot engine – which is happy to be revved hard despite its forced induction – delivers big.

Audi claims a 4.6 second 0-62mph time and an electronically limited 155mph top speed. But perhaps more telling is the company’s claim it takes the RS3 just 17.5-seconds to get from rest to 125mph – most rivals would struggle to get to 100mph in the same timeframe. And on the road those claims, backed by the seamless power delivery of the DSG gearbox, feel entirely plausible.

Of course, a good hot hatch has always been about more than raw performance, and Audi’s Quattro GMBH Skunkworks – which engineers all the company’s RS models - has attempted to tame the prodigious power output with an appropriately comprehensive underbody makeover.

The RS3 sits 25mm lower than the standard A3, has a wider track and is sprung on springs and dampers around 25 per cent firmer than those of the four-cylinder S3. Bodywork changes include a very aggressive bodykit and front wings made from carbonfibre reinforced polymer. Braking is handled by vast 370mm discs.

Dynamically the net result is a car that always delivers empirically, but only sometimes emotionally. Let’s start by saying that – out of the box – the RS3 is going to be one of the quickest cars you’ll fire at any chosen backroad.

Grip levels are enormous; it takes extreme provocation on low-speed corners to get the front tyres to admit that they even have a limit as they hold on until credibility-threatening speeds before progressively surrendering their grip. The ultra-firm suspension delivered rock-solid body control on the super-smooth tarmac of our French test route, although we’ll reserve full judgment until we see how well it copes with the considerably tougher challenge of a British B-road.

But yes, there’s a but – the steering still lacks much in the way of ultimate communication, faithfully conveying inputs, but under hard loadings offering a strangely synthesized feedback in return. On the plus side, it feels both lighter on its feet and more agile than its TT-RS cousin – and it’s also seven grand cheaper.

Audi will only be producing a five-door Sportback version of the RS3, with the official line being that the company reckons a three-door version would offer limited practicality gains over the (supposedly) dynamically sharper TT-RS.

Should I buy one?

Audi UK’s pre-launch sales success makes this question pretty much redundant – if your name’s not down already, you're not coming in. If you have got a deposit lodged then take heart from the fact that – like Audi’s other recent RS-badged models – this is a genuinely impressive piece of engineering.

It’s impossible to drive the RS3 hard without a serious amount of respect for the effortless way it combines speed with practicality. If it offered a bit more driver involvement, it would be perfect.

Mike Duff

Audi RS3 Sportback

Price: £39,900; Top speed: 155mph (limited); 0-62mph: 4.6sec; Economy: 31.0mpg; CO2: 212g/km; Kerb weight: 1575kg; Engine: 5 cyls in line, 2480cc, turbo, petrol; Installation : Front, transverse, 4WD; Power: 335bhp at 5400-6500rpm; Torque: 332lb ft at 1600-5300rpm; Gearbox: 7-spd dual-clutch auto

Join the debate

Comments
41

9 March 2011

Sounds almost like a mini Nissan GT-R, awesome ground covering ability with little emotion. Fine, if that's what you like but personally I prefer my cars with a little more feel.

By the sounds of it though, it may come unstuck on the bumpy back roads of the UK. Unless you end up buying one second hand this is all a bit academic.

 

 

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

9 March 2011

Interesting that the RS3 sold out before launch but there are still plenty of TT RS models still available brand new.

Myk

9 March 2011

Hmmm, so a beautifully engineered Audi, which is seriously fast but lacks involvement. More to be admired than enjoyed. Please feel free to copy and paste to any other review of a fast Audi.

jer

9 March 2011

An Autocar readers one of the 500?

9 March 2011

Correct me if I'm wrong, but is this the only car around that'll do 0-60 in less than 4.8 seconds and doesn't cost £400+ per annum to tax?

Me thinks that's a real achievement.

9 March 2011

Come on Autocar, this car has 5 cylinders, not 4.

28bhp never felt so fast

 

9 March 2011

sold out .......so can any one tell me why,? inspite of some negative reviews of many audi's on autocar ....they are selling like hot cakes ...

9 March 2011

[quote pitfield]Come on Autocar, this car has 5 cylinders, not 4.[/quote]

Where do they say it does have 4 cylinders? They say the 4 cylinder S3 at one point but call it a 5 pot at the beginning.

Unless they have quickly changed something before I read it.

Dont know what your on about.

9 March 2011

[quote autounionDI]sold out .......so can any one tell me why,? inspite of some negative reviews of many audi's on autocar ....they are selling like hot cakes ... [/quote]

Limited hot cakes.

Takes all sorts to make the world go round.

 

 

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

9 March 2011

Yeah Teg, as usual it all comes down to money, personally, shape-wise , it's not shouting or should i say i wouldn't look twice if i passed by one, i think the guppy front grille is to much, no, there's better looking on the market, new and used!.

Peter Cavellini.

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