Drive Review: Audi RS3 5-cylinder Turbo

Currently the smallest Audi to wear the RennSport nomenclature, the new 2016 Audi RS3 was momentarily the most powerful hatchback you could buy, until Mercedes raised the bar again by bestowing the A 45 AMG with another handful of kilowatts. Truthfully very little separates their on-road performance – this is a game of one upmanship for pub ammo.

Audi RS 3 Sportback

But I’d rather have the Audi RS3. Not just because the cabin is more sensibly laid out which in turn creates a sense of being roomier but because the Audi RS3 employs that seminal 2.5-litre 5-cylinder horizontally mounted motor. Fitted only to this and the Audi Q3 RS, this engine configuration is rare indeed and Audi anoraks will fondly remember its Group B rallying origins with that unique firing sequence echoing off the forest tress.  In fact 5-cylinder engines and Quattro is a formidable pairing that cuts right down to the brand’s very soul. Call us sentimental but it oozes pedigree.

In a German tug-of-war for the fastest hatch, Audi RS3 is brutally effective. Power outputs of 275kW and 465Nm shoved through a seven-speed S tronic gearbox and down to yet another iteration of rear-bias Quattro are merciless on neck joints.  Launch control rockets it to 100km/h in 4.3 seconds and Audi RS3 has a top speed of 280km/h. Yes…in a hatch. These figures allow you to tackle much larger prey all the while combining 5-door practicality, some necessary ground clearance and a reasonable boot.

Audi RS 3 Sportback

With the optional sports exhaust system (R11 000) Audi RS3 is the best sounding hatch currently on sale. That 5-cylinder engine absolutely wails at high rpm and even at idle there is a deep hub-bub. Twist the key (no start stop) and a purposefully long swing of the crank follows with crackles on the exhaust creating a spine tingling moment. In a world with horribly clichéd DSG snorts, Audi RS3 sounds alive and angry.

Red accents in the circular airvents and a grippy Alcantara wheel follow Audi’s standard RS upgrade procedure and the optional diamond-patterned bucket seats of our test car only missed electronic seat adjustment. For the rest it’s a user friendly cabin with MMI and a centre screen to change car settings, telephone functions and media.

Audi RS 3 Sportback

There are issues with the ride quality – an experience almost entirely unheard of in Audi models, especially the new-fangled MQB bunch. Those bigger 19-inch alloys throw up a lot of road noise but more worryingly the suspension groaned and knocked and there seemed to be a fair amount of friction and rubbing going on underneath.

“What, R800 000 for a hatch?” Admittedly ours was fitted with around R90 000 worth of extras (realistically you could ditch the sunroof and the black wing mirrors and get away with less) but it’s no more expensive than the A45 AMG Mercedes. On the other hand a BMW M135i costs significantly less (R572 000) which is quite possibly the only reasonable alternative if you can live with those looks. Apart from a slightly spoiled ride, Audi RS3 does everything required and does so with an underlying motorsport passion.

Base Price R710 000
Engine Capacity 2 480 cm³
No. Of Cylinders 5-cylinders
Aspiration Turbo
Power 270kW at 5 550 r/min
Torque 465Nm at 1 625 r/min
Transmission 7-speed Auto
Drive type Quattro drive
Acceleration 0-100 km/h in 4.3 seconds (claimed)
Top Speed 280km/h
Fuel Consumption 8.1l/100km (claimed combined)
CO2 Emissions 189g/km


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