“It was born on the track, built for the road,” explains new Audi quattro boss Stephan Winkelmann. What he’s talking about is the brand new 395bhp Audi RS3 saloon. Sorry, sedan. Because it’s built - as TG.com told you a while back - for the United States. And China.
In fact, Audi reckons it’ll sell more of these RS3 saloons in the USA and the Asia Pacific region than in Europe, though we’ll still be able to buy it here. Good.
The RS3 saloon packs the lovely 2.5-litre turbocharged five-cylinder engine up front. It’s the lighter, tuned-up unit we’ve seen in the new TT RS, with a whopping 395bhp and 354lb ft of torque. It’s not just more powerful than the outgoing RS3 hot hatch, it’s the most powerful five-pot engine in production today. A five-door RS3 Sportback will follow with the same drivetrain, but further down the line.
Allied to a seven-speed dual clutch gearbox and permanent four-wheel-drive (naturally), the RS3 saloon is capable of accelerating from 0-62mph in just 4.1secs, and derestricted, will run onto 174mph. Our experience of the TT RS is that it accelerates even quicker than Audi claims. This should be sub-four-second saloon, then.
There’s lots of dynamic handling adjustment here too, along with new software for the ESC that brakes the inside wheel during fast cornering. We’re even promised “controlled drifting” in Sport mode, though the TT RS didn’t quite live up to similar claims when we drove it, with only half of available power able to go to the rear axle. But it was still a heck of a lot more engaging than the car that went before it, so we’d hope this is the most interesting RS3 to drive, too.
It’s 25mm lower than the basic A3, gets monster 370mm discs and eight-piston calipers up front, and 310mm discs at the back. 19ins are standard, though you can spec wider tyres at the front.
The track is wider than standard of course, with those flared arches present, and it sports a singleframe Audi grille with the all-important quattro badge, along with massive exhausts at the back. The Paris show car blipped the engine to give the audience a taste, and it sounded rather fruity. Good fruity.
Inside you get the usual Audi RS treatment – which is a good thing – including a 12.3in high res monitor, and the option of the virtual Audi cockpit as seen in the R8. There are many connections too, to things like Google Earth and what have you, though you’ll be too busy enjoying its wonderful five-cyinder soundtrack to care, we imagine.
Interestingly, it’ll be launched in the USA and China next summer as an ‘Audi Sport’ model. It’s the first model to launch under the new tag, which replaces the Quattro gmbh division, in name at least. Audi’s topmost performance cars - RS models and the R8 - as well as its official motorsport activities and customer racing support all fall under ‘Audi Sport’.
Reckon this RS3 saloon is a worthy car to kick it off?