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Audi’s hooligan RS3

16.02.2016

The hyper-hatch segment is on fire as manufacturers work their magic on what appears to be sensible family hatchbacks.

Take the latest Audi RS3 for example; it looks like an A3 and it’s as practical as one, but the RS3 is able to reach 100km/h quicker than a Ferrari 360 or a V10-powered BMW M6. In fact, it will hit the 100km/h mark quicker than the latest 412kW Audi RS6. I spent a week with this hooligan car to see what it’s all about.

These hyper-hatches are doing to the car world what the original Golf GTI did. They seem to be rendering an overly expensive, impractical sports car, redundant and it’s not just Audi. Mercedes-Benz has the A45 AMG, BMW has the M135i and Ford will be unleashing its Focus RS pretty soon. All these cars offer performance figures that were only available on high-end supercars, less than twenty years ago.

Back to the RS3, which is in its second generation. The first car came along a few years ago; it was sold in limited numbers and the same goes for this new one, which, I guess, keeps them exclusive. I just think it’s cruel really because this car is a blast to drive. I’ll get to that later - let me first talk about the styling…

Audi does the “subtle thing” really well! From a distance, it’s difficult to see why this car is so special. Once you get closer however, things start to stand out; things such as the massive disc brakes and RS-branded callipers, which, on my test car, were finished in racing red. The front bumper is also different and the iconic “quattro” word can be found on the lower part of the grille. The LED headlights have a slight tint to them, which adds to this car’s menacing guise. At the rear, Audi has ditched its little dual, one-sided tailpipes and has gone for the traditional RS-style oval exhaust tips, which can be found at either end of the bumper. The roof spoiler is also slightly different to that found on the S3 and the car features bigger side-skirts, which give it a beefy look.

It’s pretty much A3 business as usual. The cabin is roomy and the dashboard is uncluttered. To make you feel special though, the RS3 does come with a sporty leather and Alcantara flat-bottomed steering wheel as well as sporty seats. The air vents feature red accents on the inside and the dials are finished in silver.

On the tech side of things, my test model came with Audi’s MMI (Multi-Media-Interface) system, which doesn’t only include a retractable dashboard-mounted screen but also one of the easiest toggle controls. The system is not so complex, so you don’t need an IT degree to operate it. I do however feel the system is lagging behind that of competitors, especially Mercedes-Benz’ operating system, which is much more visually appealing. Audi seems to have stuck to the same one for a few years now.

Now onto the crux of the matter… the drive. The RS3 is fitted with that beautiful 2.5-litre five-cylinder engine, which I first experienced in the previous generation TTRS. This motor now develops 270kW, which is 20kW more than in the previous RS3. It also develops 465Nm of torque which, thanks to the brand’s superb seven-speed S-Tronic gearbox and quattro all-wheel-drive system, equates to a 0-100km/h time of just 4.3 seconds, according to Audi. It will also reach well over 250km/h given the right conditions.

To add to the car’s madness, my test model was fitted with Audi’s Sports Exhaust, which completely benefits that five-cylinder. My goodness does it sound good! It makes many wonderful sounds as the revs increase. It also burbles and barks on upshifts and the overrun sounds like gunshots. This was made evident by the fact that our neighbourhood watch would go crazy when I made my way home in the late evenings. As for the ride, well it is firm but then again the car is sporty by nature. The RS3 has Audi’s Drive Select functionality, which gives drivers the ability to select various driving modes. Comfort is best suited for everyday conditions. Dynamic is what I used when I headed to my favourite mountain road.

This RS3 was just made for a twisty road. The steering is direct and the speeds at which you can enter and exit corners are hugely impressive. The big brakes come in handy as well. However, there is a price to pay for all this good old hooliganism. The base price for the RS3 is around R710 000. My test unit though, was fitted with many options such as the special paint and those red callipers, thus the tested price was around R823 000.

Now, before you choke, there is a way to look at it. You could say the Audi RS3 is a ridiculously expensive performance hatchback or you could consider it to be a bargain-priced sports car, which will fill the rear-view mirror with cars that cost well over a million Rand.

Article written by Justin Jacobs
16.02.2016
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