Audi has shown its new 335bhp Audi RS3 at the Geneva motor show, which will lay claim to the title of Britain’s most powerful production hot-hatch when sales start next month.
Out-muscling rivals from Ford, Renault, Subaru and Vauxhall, the new RS3 will boast a powertrain borrowed from the TT RS, a turbocharged 2.5-litre five-cylinder engine pumping 332lb ft and mated to a seven-speed S-tronic dual-clutch transmission.
As we write today, the RS3 looks to have the title in its grasp. The hot Audi is just a handful of horsepower and lb ft of torque behind the 345bhp Ford Focus RS500, but the limited-run of 500 cars is sold out. The same goes for the 395bhp Cosworth Impreza, which is restricted to 75 examples.
The hottest-ever Renaultsport Megane is coming next year, but with ‘only’ 300bhp. Another potential rival is the 354bhp Mitsubishi Evo FQ-360, but that’s a four-door saloon.
The closest competitor in terms of image and performance will be the 350bhp 1-series M Coupé, due on sale next month, although that’s not a hatch, either. On price the £39,900 Audi RS3 is likely to match the M Coupé closely, too. BMW is suggesting £40k for the M Coupé.
The RS3 will also mark itself out unique territory, only being available as a five-door at launch. Audi refuses to be drawn on whether a three-door is coming, although its positioning as a five-door will keep it clear of the three-door Golf R and Scirocco R.
Its styling is also restrained. While the front-end is aggressive with gaping brake vents picked out with brightwork and a main grille with wide honeycomb mesh, the rest of the RS3 is quite subtle.
Bulging wheelarches cover widened front and rear tracks, but the practical outline of the five-door Sportback A3 is unmistakable and no attempt has been made to spice up the rear end with a diffuser or wing.
To deliver on the promise of its sledgehammer powertrain, the RS3 will employ all-wheel drive, delivered by a Haldex viscous-coupling capable of shunting drive between the front and rear axles to maximise grip.