Did you dream about a Countach as a kid and were amazed at their performance? Sorry, but today’s Audi RS 3 is just as good, if not better. With 400 hp sent to all four wheels via a 7-speed DSG dual-clutch automated transmission, the four-ringed bomb accelerates from 0 to 100 km/h in 3.8 seconds (4.9 seconds claimed by a 400 hp Countach LP5000 QV) and flirts with the 290 km/h mark (292 for the Italian supercar). It was while climbing the Mont Ventoux, a remarkable natural site classified by UNESCO, that I tested the ultimate evolution of the RS3. But also the last one in every sense of the word. The brand with the rings has saved the best for last?
Audi has revealed the new version of its RS 3, in both Sportback and sedan versions. The supercharged compact car has a turbocharged 5-cylinder engine with 400 hp and specific driving modes. The Audi RS3 with its supercharged 5-cylinder engine is almost a species apart since the BMW 1-Series ditched the inline 6-cylinder for a 4-legged engine like the Mercedes A-Class signed AMG. But more than its ultra-melodious engine that develops 400 hp, the new Audi RS 3 promises specific features dedicated to driving pleasure and efficiency. Enough to make you lose your mind.
Light and sound show
To set itself apart from its smaller S3 sibling and the rest of the compact supersport world, the 2021 RS3 puts on a show and offers a showdown for performance-oriented engine enthusiasts. This very special Audi takes care of its soundtrack with its 5-cylinder engine whose 1-2-4-5-3 firing order of the engine’s cylinders is accompanied by a new noise damper in the exhaust that opens at different times of the rev range depending on the selected driving mode. For those who want more, an RS sport exhaust system is available at extra cost for an “enhanced” engine note.
But the RS 3 doesn’t just sing well, it looks good too. In addition to the gaping, glossy black grille, it features a special light signature that uses LED technology to remind you of who it is by displaying its RS 3 “name” via the headlight LEDs.Visual effect guaranteed, in case one of the new colors is not enough: Glacier White, Turbo Blue, Daytona Grey, Kemor Grey, Python Yellow, Myth Black, Tango Red, Kyalami Green (the model I’m testing), totally flashy, no love. The front end is mostly made of air intakes, generously widened fenders or its rear end pierced by two huge exhaust outlets. All these elements distinguish it very easily from its peers.
Explosive engine and performance
Finally, you understand better the aesthetic choice? Yes, it’s totally in line with the technical specifications. There are engine configurations that are closely linked to certain manufacturers, at Audi it’s the 5-cylinder, preferably turbocharged, and this RS 3 continues to hold its torch. It’s the same 2.5 TFSI as before, the one that won Engine of the Year no less than nine times, but in a revised version: 400 hp obtained 250 rpm earlier, from 5,600 to 7,000 rpm, and 20 Nm more to reach a total of 500 Nm, from 2,250 to 5,600 rpm. It’s a huge range of maximum power and torque – believe the acceleration is amazing – and still that signature sound, one of the most beautiful sounds in automotive history.
This RS, for “RennSport” (“Sport and race”, in German), is a new character for the German brand… racy and fun to drive. Even at Mont Ventoux, the “maximum” speed is limited. But if you want a little more – on a track for example – for 1,800 euros, you can go up to 300 km/h (290) from 250 km/h (electronically limited).
Control and fun
Going fast in a straight line is good, doing the same when it turns is better. The third-generation Audi RS 3 benefits from a torque vectoring system instead of the differential used by the previous generation. This device offers more agility via the dynamic distribution on the rear axle, but also allows a “Drift” mode via the RS Torque Rear mode.
But that’s not all the chassis has to offer. There are more responsive dampers, more wheel camber for more incisive steering and a modular vehicle dynamics control (mVDC) that optimizes traction on corner exits. Brakes are upgraded with larger discs pinched by 6-piston calipers and 20% more cooling. A carbon-ceramic option for the front is offered. Even better, some markets will offer – as an option, of course – semi-slicks for optimized performance on the track.
A sporty cocoon
Inside, the RS 3 makes its mark with a carbon dashboard and optional Nappa leather sports seats, while the upholstery’s stitching can be chosen in red, green or black depending on the starting color. The flat steering wheel is present.
The 12.3-inch digital dashboard boasts RS 3-specific displays, including an “RS Runway” mode that presents information “in a way that visually resembles an aircraft runway.” The 10.1-inch central infotainment screen also has a special “RS Monitor” display showing coolant, engine and transmission oil temperatures, as well as tire pressure.
Audi has kept the best for last?
This ultimate version of the RS3 is without a doubt the most accomplished. Better still! It provides just as many sensations behind the wheel. With its controlled glide and fully embraced sporting character, the compact sedan is at the top of its game… The price starts at 69,300 € and is subject to a malus: from 18,188 to 19,641 € this year, which will increase to 21,966 to 23,616 € next year.
Audi RS 3 Sportback – from 69,300 € – audi.com