The new Audi RS3 Sportback will go on sale in the UK later this month, keeping the £39,950 price tag of its predecessor.
The performance hatch, which has made its global debut at the Geneva motor show, is powered by a reworked 2.5-litre five-cylinder petrol engine producing 362bhp, and offers a supercar-challenging 0-62mph time of 4.3sec. First deliveries of the new model are planned for this summer.
The four-wheel-drive Ingolstadt mega-hatch has been extensively re-engineered for 2015 in a bid to dethrone the rapid Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG as class champion.
Among the second-generation RS3 Sportback’s more noteworthy developments is a new MQB platform structure that makes extensive use of hot-formed high-strength steel and a body shell incorporating an aluminium bonnet – a combination which sees it shed some 55kg over the model it replaces.
The new car will initially be available in a five-door hatchback body style, although Audi sources hint that a saloon version of the new RS3 is being readied as a riposte to the CLA45 AMG.
The new go-faster Audi is distinguished from its lesser A3 siblings by its aggressive front-end styling. Included is a uniquely shaped grille featuring a matt aluminium-look frame and high-gloss honeycomb insert, as well as a prominent bumper with large air ducts and decorative matt aluminium-look blades. LED headlights, which will be a standard feature on UK cars, complete the look.
Further back, there are widened front fenders, matt aluminium-look door mirror housings and widened sills beneath the doors. The rear receives a uniquely shaped spoiler above the tailgate, a more pronounced bumper with integrated diffuser along with more matt aluminium decorative elements and a pair of large oval tailpipes.
Power for the new RS3 Sportback comes from a reworked version of its predecessor’s turbocharged 2.5-litre five-cylinder petrol engine – the EA855, as it is known internally.
Mounted transversely, the 490mm-long unit gains a number of detail changes to meet EU6 emission regulations while providing a generous 32bhp increase in peak power over the engine used in the first-generation RS3, including the adoption of a new turbocharger which develops up to 1.3bar of boost pressure.
Its 362bhp equates to a specific output of 146bhp per litre – some 3bhp shy of the turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine used in the latest S3, which delivers a peak output 296bhp. Torque is also increased by 11lb ft, taking it to 343lb ft delivered between 1625 and 5550rpm – a slightly wider band of revs than previously.
The engine returns a combined 34.8mpg, with CO2 emissions of 189g/km.
By comparison, the RS3 Sportback’s key rival, the Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG, produces 355bhp and 332lb ft from its turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine.
However, AMG officials have already promised an increased output when a facelifted version of the A45 AMG arrives towards the end of 2015, hinting that the Audi’s reign as the most powerful car in its class may be a short-lived one.
The RS3 Sportback’s heady reserves are channelled through a standard seven-speed S tronic dual-clutch automatic gearbox offering both manual and automatic shifting. Like the engine, it has been upgraded with what Audi describes as “new solutions for filling the clutches with oil and the interplay with the engine” for improved shift times.
With the driveline switched into dynamic mode, the downshifts are performed with an automatic double-clutching effect for added smoothness.