I get the sense that these two can’t quite leave each other alone, like two playground rivals who bitch and scrap but secretly rather love each other, only dare not admit it.
Mercedes-AMG’s first foray into transverse-engined, front-biased drivery gave us the A45 AMG. It squeezed 2.0 litres and 355bhp, via only four cylinders, into a package that still felt decisively AMG-ish and special. And it arrived being quite fast, a bit front-wheel drive and very German in a segment where someone else was already making a good living out of being quite fast, a bit four-wheel drive and very German. So when Audi brought out the RS3, pulling the hair of the AMG as it went by, obviously it had seven horsepower more than the Mercedes from its five cylinders. Naturally, then, AMG tied Audi’s shoelaces together, revised the A45 and gave it 376bhp.
And now, one of the reasons we’ve assembled this test in the first place, is because Audi has revised the RS3 yet again, been rude about AMG’s mum, daubed its phone number on the toilet wall (you won’t get what it promises if you call it) and gifted its own offering 394bhp.
Yes, dear reader, the world has now given us the 400-metric-horsepower hot hatchback, because simply having a little more power than a Lamborghini Countach LP400 is never enough for a five-door hatch. It needs to have a lot more. Don’t you agree?
Well, even if you don’t, here we are, in an Audi RS3. It has a nice interior, does the Audi. Which isâ€¨ no surprise; they always do, don’t they? Solid, austere, functional, with highlights pulled from the big book of hot hatchback clicheÃs: aluminium bits here and there, some Alcantara on the flat-bottomed steering wheel, figure-hugging seats, you know the score. Of course you know the score. It’s an exercise in corporate box- ticking. There’s probably a checklist. Mercedes-AMG uses a similar one, only with a more upright seating and driving position, more Alcantaraâ€¨on the wheel and more metalised plastics on the diddy gearlever (you’ll end up using the gearbox paddlesâ€¨in both quite naturally). There’s an interesting material on the dash – a ‘technical grain’, I suspect they’d call it, but it’s like carbonfibre-meets-sail makers’ fabric. Elsewhere, things are notable for their predictability.