There’s more than a hint of underground flavour about the new Audi RS3. Well, there is to me.
I’ve never played a Need for Speed video game nor watched more than 10 puzzling minutes of any Fast and Furious film, so I’m at risk of exposing my ignorance here, as well as my age. But this is a car that looks very much like an invitation for some neon strip lights and an extra-flatulent exhaust to warble fruitily around a cinema car park on a Friday night.
This Audi has got dark, angry features that look a little, well, ‘aftermarket’. Flashy, animated LED headlights, too, that light up with ‘R… S… 3…’ when you unlock it. It has a drift mode, of a sort. All it’s missing is the ability to take video selfies of its occupants when you activate the launch control and then to automatically cut the footage into drag-race sequences for TikTok that alternatively also star Paul Walker or Vin Diesel (who will doubtless be upshifting in their rival ‘whips’ at wholly inappropriate times).
The funny thing is I don’t mean to be dismissive. This car is picking up on a cultural phenomenon far more influential than any car magazine or road tester. This is a new-era supersaloon for a new generation. Twentysomething kids just don’t crave the cars their dad once owned, do they? They go their own way; they want new things of which they can claim full ownership. It’s understandable. I didn’t much fancy the Austin-Healeys and MGBs my old fella used to drone on about when I was in my late teens, either.
The RS3 feels naughty, boosty and subversive. It’s very ‘now’. In a scene in which ‘built not bought’ custom cars are the celebrated ones; relatively ordinary saloons and hatchbacks are made crazy with power and boost; and noise and lack of ground clearance are the objects of communal desire… Well, here’s one ready-made from the factory to fit that bill exactly.
I’m not sure how many cruises we will find in Edale in the Peak District on a wintry December morning but, thankfully, we’re ready to make a very small one of our own. There’s snow on the hills, but the peaks themselves are shrouded in cloud. The cold will tickle your toes if you stand around outside in it for too long. This is definitely four-wheel drive weather. Now is the time to find out if this newly pumped-up Audi can mix it with a properly grown-up performance saloon: the new BMW M3 Competition xDrive.