Engine options, top speed, acceleration and refinement

Single out the power upgrade, the software revisions or the lighter body and they seem modest enough in the grand scheme of things. But to drive in the real world, the Audi RS3 is anything but.

The previous model, which could be described as rapid even now, posted several near-5.0sec 0-60mph times in its two-way runs at MIRA before the Audi finally recorded a 4.5sec two-way average. Not so the new car.

The previous RS3 never made it to 150mph within a standing mile, but this one hits 
it nearly 2.5sec quicker than the 
A45 managed last year

Our V-Box recorded one run at 4.0sec dead. When you consider that was achieved with the ballast of a second 100kg road tester on board and a full tank of fuel, the possibility of a one-up, launch-controlled 0-60mph time starting with a ‘3’ isn’t remote at all. All this makes Audi Sport's desire to further eek out an additional 32bhp from the same unit is astonishing, as will the figures the RS3 Saloon will no doubt post.

And that’s just the RS3 getting started. If the difference between it and the Mercedes-AMG A45 looks negligible up to 60mph, by 100mph the Audi is a full second ahead.

The previous RS3 never made it to 150mph within a standing mile, but this one hits 
it nearly 2.5sec quicker than the original 
A45 managed. From 30-70mph, the car on test took nearly a second out of its rival. And this, remember, is against a car that sports the most powerful 2.0-litre production engine yet built.

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The difference the RS3’s extra cylinder makes is not merely physical. It’s textural, too. Where the A45 is flatly uninspiring and the VW Golf R boomy, the Audi’s 1-2-4-5-3 firing sequence – ably supported by two exhaust flaps – filters a proper mechanical rhythm section into the experience.

Best of all, the engine never leaves you with the impression that its mid-range is doing all the heavy lifting. Following some barely noticeable lag before the turbo boost kicks in at around 1600rpm, there’s nothing but forceful response in the lower reaches of the rev band and another perceptible surge beyond 4000rpm as some extra rasp arrives.

But it’s in a final lunge beyond 5550rpm where the made-over engine really shows its mettle. There is a rev limiter at 7000rpm. Expect to gleefully hit it a few times.