The essentials first. With the optional adaptive dampers fitted, and restricted to their Comfort setting, the RS3 rides UK roads adeptly. In fact, considering the 19in wheels on which it rides and the car’s necessarily high grip levels, it does so rather well.
There is still an element of distant thumping (à la RS4) as the suspension goes about its business, and bigger deflections are managed as whole body movements rather than single-wheel events, but the gap from here to the jowl-jerking ricochet of its predecessor is pleasingly wide.
The fact that the car now settles into a reasonably tame motorway journey is doubly marvellous, because what it will do elsewhere is remarkable. There are familiar problems with the RS3 at its limit – which we’ll come to – but don’t expect to approach these much on the road. Expect instead, in all weathers and opportunities, an intoxicating rush of blood to the head.
On an empty B-road, the car is more Quattro GmbH mission statement than hatchback: indelicate, immodest and catapult quick. From an emphatically dependable front end, to the squat, flat-bodied cling mid-corner, to the kind of decisive traction and stability that makes four-wheel drive seem not just necessary but enormously desirable, the RS3 is a fully paid-up A-to-B monster.
Its capabilities are so cornfield wide, in fact, that your own aptitude at the wheel feels like a less crucial commodity. The RS3 gives more reward for being brave than for being smooth and precise.
Therein, of course, lies the familiar rub: the RS3 is a driver’s car that has little time for the delicacy and nuance on which a keen driver thrives. This is revealed quickly enough on a track, where, despite Audi’s protestations, the latest version of the quattro system fails to deliver on the dynamic promise of a fully empowered rear axle.
Efforts to involve it at an apex or even unseat it completely are largely for nought. Instead, via the usual over-assisted steering wheel murk, you mostly just wait for the front tyres to find their purchase and haul the car through the meat of any given corner before feeding the power back in. It’s route-one stuff.