From £38,705
Effortlessly combines speed and practicality - it just lacks dynamic flair

What is it?

Audi’s fire-breathing hot hatch, although its mega performance comes with a very serious price-tag attached. Audi’s RS models tend to appear late in the model cycle, and the RS3 is definitely a last hurrah for the current-shape A3, which is being replaced next year.

Looking for a review of the 2015 Audi RS3? Click here to read it.

British buyers will have to fork out almost exactly 40 grand to get one – but despite that, Audi claims the UK allocation of 500 cars has already sold out.

What’s it like?

In a word, fast. In two words, seriously fast. You don’t have to rewind too far to find a time when this sort of power output was reserved for no-question supercars, and the five-pot engine – which is happy to be revved hard despite its forced induction – delivers big.

Audi claims a 4.6 second 0-62mph time and an electronically limited 155mph top speed. But perhaps more telling is the company’s claim it takes the RS3 just 17.5-seconds to get from rest to 125mph – most rivals would struggle to get to 100mph in the same timeframe. And on the road those claims, backed by the seamless power delivery of the DSG gearbox, feel entirely plausible.

Of course, a good hot hatch has always been about more than raw performance, and Audi’s Quattro GMBH Skunkworks – which engineers all the company’s RS models - has attempted to tame the prodigious power output with an appropriately comprehensive underbody makeover.

The RS3 sits 25mm lower than the standard A3, has a wider track and is sprung on springs and dampers around 25 per cent firmer than those of the four-cylinder S3. Bodywork changes include a very aggressive bodykit and front wings made from carbonfibre reinforced polymer. Braking is handled by vast 370mm discs.

Dynamically the net result is a car that always delivers empirically, but only sometimes emotionally. Let’s start by saying that – out of the box – the RS3 is going to be one of the quickest cars you’ll fire at any chosen backroad.

Grip levels are enormous; it takes extreme provocation on low-speed corners to get the front tyres to admit that they even have a limit as they hold on until credibility-threatening speeds before progressively surrendering their grip. The ultra-firm suspension delivered rock-solid body control on the super-smooth tarmac of our French test route, although we’ll reserve full judgment until we see how well it copes with the considerably tougher challenge of a British B-road.

But yes, there’s a but – the steering still lacks much in the way of ultimate communication, faithfully conveying inputs, but under hard loadings offering a strangely synthesized feedback in return. On the plus side, it feels both lighter on its feet and more agile than its TT-RS cousin – and it’s also seven grand cheaper.

Audi will only be producing a five-door Sportback version of the RS3, with the official line being that the company reckons a three-door version would offer limited practicality gains over the (supposedly) dynamically sharper TT-RS.

Should I buy one?

Audi UK’s pre-launch sales success makes this question pretty much redundant – if your name’s not down already, you're not coming in. If you have got a deposit lodged then take heart from the fact that – like Audi’s other recent RS-badged models – this is a genuinely impressive piece of engineering.

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It’s impossible to drive the RS3 hard without a serious amount of respect for the effortless way it combines speed with practicality. If it offered a bit more driver involvement, it would be perfect.

Mike Duff

Audi RS3 Sportback

Price: £39,900; Top speed: 155mph (limited); 0-62mph: 4.6sec; Economy: 31.0mpg; CO2: 212g/km; Kerb weight: 1575kg; Engine: 5 cyls in line, 2480cc, turbo, petrol; Installation : Front, transverse, 4WD; Power: 335bhp at 5400-6500rpm; Torque: 332lb ft at 1600-5300rpm; Gearbox: 7-spd dual-clutch auto

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Add a comment…
originalguv 14 March 2011

Re: Audi RS3 Sportback

If the comment had said "in wet and icy conditions the RS3 has the potential to embarrass a C63" I wouldn't have picked you up on it. But it didn't...

A true test of a cars power is the 30-70 time which in the C63 is 3.6 seconds and in the TTRS (which is circa 100kg lighter than the RS with identical BHP) it is 4.4.

I don't doubt that the RS3 will be incredibly quick (especially in the in-gear acceleration) but it's hardly a bargain in comparison to the C63. In the December edition of Autocar I'm reading from, the Merc was £53k vs £40k in the RS3. To say the Merc has 116 more BHP, 100-odd more torques and more room it's not bad is it ? I don't own a C63 as one of my earlier posts stated.

Oh and one last thing, when you talk to Audi owners they frequently tell you how they've got lovely interiors and four-wheel drive. They very rarely tell you what a hoot they are to drive or how precise the steering and handling are. As I said earlier, cars for automatons.

Eric Stein 14 March 2011

Re: Audi RS3 Sportback

originalguv wrote:

To the guy above who thinks his soon-to-arrive RS3 will embarrass a C63 Merc....

The only red-faced one will be you my friend....

451BHP supercharged vs 335BHP turbocharged

Although I'd love to see a video of you trying to embarrass it.

As someone has just said, a trafficlight shootout on a wet day with a bendy bumpy road. I think the RS3 would walk away while the merc struggles to keep itself going straight.

brakedust 14 March 2011

Re: Audi RS3 Sportback

@orignalguv On dry track, your C63 might embarrass an RS3. Even so, the 0-60 time for both cars are comparable. In the real world, my friend, and by that I mean you in your C63 and me in my RS3 on any damp UK B-road, especially between November and March, and you'll struggle to put your power down. When it's icy or snows, even with winter tyres, you'll think twice before you even venture out of your garage. It's the same story with an Aston Martin Vantage or indeed any rear wheel drive car that has more power than traction, with the exception of a Porsche 911 Carrera S. When I previously owned a BMW E46 BMW M3, I compared it to a friend's Golf R32, (though not quite directly comparable to a C63 and RS3, the Golf has the same Haldex AWD system as the Audi so is more or less the same), the R32 had a distinct traction advantage. The M3's traction control was cutting in the whole time. Ultimately, winter traction is what made me abandon BMWs for the land of Quattro.