The updated Audi RS3, the mega-hatch with a once-unfathomable 394bhp, is now on sale, priced from £44,300.
First revealed at the Geneva motor show in March, its all-wheel-drive rival is the £41,875 Mercedes-AMGA45 4Matic, while the BMW M140i, which costs from £33,150, is a slightly less potent, rear-wheel-drive alternative.
Following the step taken by the new RS3 Saloon, the new RS3 hatchback has a heavily re-engineered variant of Audi’s turbocharged five-cylinder direct-injection petrol engine, which is claimed to create even sharper acceleration without any detriment to fuel consumption.
Billed as the world’s most powerful series-production five-cylinder engine, the transversely mounted 2.5-litre unit features a series of new developments, including a lighter but stiffer aluminium crankcase (in place of its predecessor’s steel crankcase), a new dual-injection process, Audi’s patented valve lift system and a new freer-flowing exhaust, among other changes.
Power has increased by 33bhp over the previous RS3's engine, while torque is extended by 11lb ft to 354lb ft between 1700 and 5850rpm. This provides Audi's revised hyper-hatch with 59bhp more but 15lb ft less than the turbocharged 3.0-litre in-line-cylinder M140i and 18bhp and 4lb ft more than the turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder A45 4Matic.
The increased reserves are channelled through a revised version of Audi’s seven-speed double clutch S-tronic gearbox with new software mapping and an electrohydraulically actuated multi-plate-clutch quattro four-wheel drive system, providing the upgraded RS3 with a claimed 0-62mph time that is 0.2sec less than its predecessor at 4.1sec. As before, top speed is limited to 155mph, though it can be increased to 174mph at the request of the customer.
By comparison, the M140i xDrive and A45 4Matic run 0-62mph in a respective 4.6sec and 4.2sec, while both posses the same nominal limited 155mph top speed.
At 34.0mpg, the new Audi's claimed combined cycle fuel consumption remains the same as before, endowing it with average CO2 emissions of 189g/km.
The reworked RS3 hatchback receives a 20mm wider front track and sits 25mm lower than the standard A3 hatchback. It also receives standard 310mm diameter steel brake discs front and rear, those at the front allied to eight piston calipers. Though as before, customers can specify optional carbon-ceramic front discs. The standard wheel and tyre package, meanwhile, combines 19in cast alloys with 235/35 tyres all-round.
The dynamic properties of RS3 can be altered via a standard Audi Drive Select system, which allows the driver to choose between three different modes: Comfort, Auto and Dynamic. It varies the properties of the steering, gearbox, throttle mapping and exhaust flaps. A firmer RS Sport suspension, featuring adaptive damper control, is available as an option.
The new RS3 is visually distinguished from its predecessor by a redesigned front bumper. In incorporates a reworked six-corner grille featuring a restyled high gloss black honeycomb insert, a larger frame in brushed aluminium look – the lower second of which carries the large lettering of 'quattro', and a larger RS3 badge. There are also larger air ducts and a more prominent splitter element.
Further changes have been made to the headlights, which are altered in shape in line with the rest of the facelifted A3 line-up. They come with LED projectors as standard, with Audi’s matrix LED units offered as an option.
At the rear, the RS3 receives a reworked spoiler atop it tailgate at the rear together with altered tail lamp lenses and a restyled bumper featuring a new diffuser insert and large oval tailpipes.
In line with the rest of the facelifted A3 hatchback line-up, the interior of the 2017 RS3 can be enhanced with Audi’s Virtual Cockpit digital instrument display. It replaces the standard analogue instruments, featuring a model specific RS setting with a central tachometer along with torque, g-force and tyre pressure gauges. When the gearbox is switched to manual mode, the high-resolution display also prompts the driver to upshift with colour indicators.