A car for all seasons

Behind the wheel of the Audi RS 3 Sportback.

Pick a scenario and the RS 3 shines – but it’s on the track that you get a real sense of just how good it is.

Harry Vick

26 August, 2022

The new RS 3 takes the crown as the quickest in the compact performance ranks

The numbers are impressive enough for boasting rights in any performance company. Even if 294kW of power and 500Nm of torque is difficult to quantify, the good old standing sprint time says it all. At 3.8 seconds from rest to 100km/h, the new RS 3 – available as a Sedan or Sportback – is a seriously fast car.

Certainly there are faster cars in existence, but not in the compact luxury ranks, where the new RS   3 now takes the crown as the quickest.

Its top speed of 290km/h with the optional RS dynamic package plus is likewise well and truly in supercar territory, but it's the way the new RS models deliver their power that really impresses.

It wasn’t that long ago that a car capable of this sort of performance carried two people at most, and they had to be shoehorned into the cabin at that. So the combination of a car that will carry five adults in absolute comfort as well as a significant amount of luggage only adds to the appeal. And while a car like this absolutely begs to be driven on the ‘right roads’ or better still, a race track, so tractable is the 2.5-litre five-cylinder and the seven-speed S tronic combination that it’s as tame as a kitten around town even if the snarl of the exhaust note suggests otherwise. 

Coming in at $91,391* for the RS 3 Sportback and $93,891* for the RS 3 Sedan, these represent the ‘entry level’ models of the coveted Audi Sport range – a range that enjoys tremendous popularity with Australian customers – and for good reason.

On a winding road, its extraordinary acceleration and tremendous grip are a thrilling combination, slingshotting it out of one tight corner after another, or devouring long straights. It sits dead flat no matter the speed and feels planted and solid over even broken road surfaces and under hard braking. All accompanied by that glorious five-cylinder soundtrack that never gets tired.

The only lists to the RS 3 on the road are the speed limits, but put it on a race track and and you get to push its boundaries to get a sense of just how good it is. 

Around somewhere like the The Bend Motorsport Park in South Australia – far from speed limits and traffic – the RS 3 is right in its element, with its perfect combination of 2.5-litre TFSI powerplent, seven-speed S tronic and quattro all-wheel drive.

Its wider footprint – 33mm up front and 10mm on the rear – 19-inch rims and the RS sport suspension with electronically controlled dampers make for a car that feels supremely planted at speed.

Likewise under heavy breaking, there is nothing skittish about the RS 3, the huge 375mm discs on the front and 310mm pulling it down confidently lap after lap, while the torque splitter system elevates the handling package to another level again.

The first time this technology has graced an Audi model, the torque splitter is an advanced system that uses multi-disc on the rear axle to direct torque to the rear wheels. This new system replaces the axle differential of the previous model to offer fully variable torque distribution between the rear wheels.

On a winding road, its extraordinary acceleration and tremendous grip are a thrilling combination

At its outer limits, the torque splitter can direct up to 100 percent of power to one of the rear wheels

What this means in practice is that the rear wheel on the outside of the corner – the one that has farthest to travel – is fed more of the power. This in essence ‘pushes’ the car around the corner, or more accurately drives it around. This makes for a far more rear oriented bias in the handling than ever before and all but eliminates understeer even when you really push into corners. It also further enhances the overall feeling of stability and that ‘surefooted’ feel and makes the RS 3 more agile than ever before – which is no small feat given the model’s predecessors.

At its outer limits, the torque splitter can direct up to 100 percent of power to one of the rear wheels and the system also makes it possible to ‘drift’ the car in the right environment.

It is a blindingly fast, beautifully balanced package that feels right at home on the racetrack – bear in mind that the RS 3 Sedan set the record for the compact performance class around the Nürburgring Nordschleife on debut.

That it can perform at such a high level for lap after lap though and then happily be driven home is truly astounding. Cycle through the seven drive modes in the Audi drive select and the car’s temperament completely changes to suit. From RS Torque Rear, Dynamic, RS Individual and RS Performance for the more spirited driving to Comfort, Auto and Efficiency for your more sedate daily needs. Hell, in the efficiency mode, the RS 3 essentially drives via the front wheels to deliver a creditable 8.3L/100km or 8.2L/100km for the RS 3 Sedan.

The personality change is nothing short of astounding as you leave the track after lap after lap and drive home. Those creature comforts that became invisible while you concentrated on braking points and turn in seem to materialise once again as the RS 3 reverts to being a beautifully sorted, mid-sized luxury car once again, and a kitten around town.

Of those customers who are attracted to the RS 3 models aren’t necessarily looking for a kitten around town, but once you’ve had your fun at a track day or a spirited drive far from the madding crowd, it’s that dual personality that counts for a lot, because that’s where a good deal of your driving is done. In day to day driving over all manner of road surfaces and all conditions, the RS 3 is perfectly at home and it’s here that its wealth of creature comforts and beautifully finished cabin make all the difference.

From the Audi connect plus navigation and infotainment offering, to the Bang & Olufsen sound system with its 15 speakers and 16-channel amp, even sitting still in bumper-to-bumper traffic, the RS 3 is a good place to be.

Intellectually, the very idea of a high-performance car that can really cut it on the track and a smooth, fully loaded luxury tourer suggests significant compromise – but that simply isn’t the case with the new RS 3. The development team at Audi Sport have managed to hit the sweet spot and produce a car that delivers on all fronts with equal success – genuinely a car for all seasons and reasons.

(*Manufacturer List Pricing [MLP] – excludes dealer delivery and government statutory charges) 

Once you’ve had your fun at a track day, it’s that dual personality that makes the difference