What is it?
Is this Audi RS3 the new sweet spot for performance cars? With the cars from the class above, like the BMW M3 and Mercedes-AMG C63, approaching £80k, and also getting ever larger and more powerful with each generation, I’d argue something the size and oomph of the RS3 makes more sense on our crowded isle. Even if it, itself, is well north of £50k for a well-specced version.
In saloon form, it feels extra special. Although the RS3 hatch doesn’t dominate the sales ratios as much as you might imagine - 800 versus 400, hatch to saloon - somehow the saloon always feels more distinctive, that by opting for it you’re defiantly not trying to keep up with the Joneses.
Thankfully, Audi has persisted with the five-cylinder layout. You’d think the bean-counters would argue hard for a four-cylinder - after all, the RS3’s five-cylinder lump only appears in the Audi RS Q3 and TT RS - but the Audi engineers are seemingly made of sterner stuff and won that battle.
Here, it produces 394bhp and 369lb ft, exactly the same figures as the new RS3 hatch and 15lb ft up on the last version. Differences between the two bodystyles are hard to find: both crack 62mph in just 3.8sec (0.3sec up on the previous gen) and both feature Audi’s new RS Torque Splitter. This torque vectoring system can send 100% of the twist that reaches the rear axle to either rear wheel - otherwise known as a Drift mode.
Both cars also feature revised suspension set-ups compared with the last RS3's. The front track has been widened by 33mm, there’s increased negative wheel camber and the dampers and valves have been overhauled. Adaptive dampers are now a £5000-plus option, the exact cost depending on which trim you’ve opted for. For this hefty lump, you do also get ceramic brakes, an RS Sports exhaust and a top speed increased to 180mph.
Where the two cars obviously do differ is in bodystyle. The saloon is slightly longer and lower, by 153mm and 24mm respectively, but the flip side is that the saloon’s rear head room is slightly more pinched. Certainly, anyone over six-foot would struggle in the back seats. The wheelbase between the two is identical, so leg room doesn’t differ at all.
The saloon’s boot is still a decent size, at 321 litres. In fact, it’s bigger than the hatch’s boot under the parcel shelf, so if you’re not looking to regularly fold the rear seats, the saloon is arguably more practical. And certainly more secure.
Four trim levels are available: ‘standard’ RS, Vorsprung, Carbon Black and the sold-out Launch Edition.