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RS3 Sportback

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Audi RS3 Sportback

Motoring Review

The hard-edged hammer song of a V8 is just superb. And there's not much to touch the feline wail of a straight six as the rev-counter arches towards the no-go zone. But there's something uniquely special about the sound that an uneven number of cylinders brings.

Enter then the "throaty growl," as Audi so aptly dubs it, of the new RS3 with its award-winning five-cylinder powerplant. And I do emphasis the "power" bit.

This is one of the most potent hatches - although its makers dub it a "Sportback" - available on our market, and its vital statistics are vivid. Try a zero-to-100km/htime of 4.3 seconds topping out at an electronically governed 250km/h, although you can optionally have that figure raised to 280km/h.

But then that's what you get with 275kW and 465Nm from just 1,625rpm courtesy of a 2.5-litre five-cylinder motor with aturbocharger developing up to 1.3 bar of charge pressure. Another figure, and that's 108.9kW per litre - the Audi's rather remarkable specific output.

Fuel consumption - if anyone cares about this with machines of this calibre - is a claimed 8.1 litres per 100km. Good luck with achieving that while tapping into even a fraction of this car's performance. I didn't.

Power runs to all four wheels - hence its quattro badging - through a seven-speed S tronic transmission. And at full chat the Audi makes for a visceral experience, while  of course thanks to that drivetrain its well nigh impossible to unseat.

Now this baby comes from quattro GmbH, which is Audi's high-performance subsidiary, effectively being to the Ingolstadt company what AMG is to Mercedes.

Its local launch also  brings to seven the number of scorching RS models on our market - those being the RS3 Sportback, the RS Q3, the RS4 Avant, the RS5 Coupé, the RS5 Cabriolet, and the RS7 Sportback. And it builds on an Audi tradition of devastatingly powerful five-cylinder engines, harking back to the immortal rally cars of the Eighties.

It's a striking machine this. Indeed, the Singleframe grille looks like it just wants to hoover up the road, while the widened front fenders and the large roof spoiler plus sprinkling of RS3 badges add to the visual muscle. But it's never too bling, never too showy, while buyers can choose from eight colours including two new shades: Nardo Grey and Catalunya Red, which is exclusive to the RS3.

Cut to the interior and you get precisely what you'd expect from Audi: utterly superb build quality. I still maintain that this manufacturer has some of the finest cockpits in the business, and the RS3 shines, from standard sports seats covered in nappa leather with contrasting grey stitching to an RS multi-function sport steering wheel flattened at the bottom.

Add to this pedals and footrest made of stainless steel plus distinctive RS dials, and you know you're sitting in something special.

 

The list of standard equipment is predictably long. Sports suspension, 19-inch alloy wheels, Audi drive select - so allowing you to alter the driving characteristics of the car - climate control, LED interior lighting. It's all there. So too is the full range of active and passive safety features.

But as with most of the German manufacturers there's a long list of options available, and the Floret Silver RS3 test unit that came my way was loaded with R113,769 of them, from a sports exhaust (R11,840) to LED headlights (R13,060) to an RS interior design package (R12 520). The last includes red accents on the air vents, floor mats and the seatbelts, and effectively ramps the subtle visual drama of this car up a notch or two. But at this rarefied level it's a little surprising that a reverse camera is listed as an option (R6,119) - something that the test car was equipped with, by the way.

Yours including a one-year/unlimited km warranty and a five-year/100,000km maintenance plan.

Another great from Audi - and a viable alternative to the only fractionally less expensive Mercedes A45 AMG.

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