Split personality

An irresistible combination of superb manners and extreme attitude. High-performance motoring has a new hero.

The first compact, luxury, high-performance sedan from Audi Sport, the RS 3 Sedan is the complete package – a race car in a beautifully tailored business suit.

15 June, 2017

It’s a tough call trying to be all things to all people. High performance motoring, by definition, usually means compromise in the usability stakes. Practicality is invariably the enemy of excitement and true luxury comes with a matching price tag.

How is it possible then, that the new Audi RS 3 Sedan can make such a mockery of these seeming contradictions, laughing, or more accurately snarling its defiance and being able to deliver the goods right across the board? 

You want to slide effortlessly through traffic on the morning commute, perhaps listening to something soothing on the Bang & Olufsen* sound system? No problem. Need room for the kids or perhaps you’re offering some work colleagues a lift to the office? Easy, it is a four-door sedan after all. Feel the need to get the blood pumping on a twisting mountain road or test your limits at a track day? Done and done – the g-force monitor and lap timer are standard, and you can opt to increase top speed from 250km/h to 280km/h if you really want to explore limits.

The Audi RS 3 Sedan – the first RS sedan in this segment – delivers all of this and then some, from the strong, yet subtle styling, to the raft of safety and driver assistance systems, credible efficiency and a soundtrack that turns heads and never fails to put a smile on the driver’s face.

The series production realisation of the Audi Clubsport quattro, the RS 3 Sedan takes all of the attributes of the tremendously popular RS 3 Sportback, dials up the performance and offers it all in a sharp, sedan shape. Pricing too defies popular logic for a vehicle that demolishes the 0 to 100km/h sprint in just 4.1 seconds, yet is yours for just $84,900 MLP^.

It’s really not a surprise though that the RS 3 Sedan is as good as it is. It’s Sportback sibling, released here in 2015 has proved a resounding success, to the point that at the end of last year (2016) more than one in four Audi A3 Sportback models sold was an RS 3. Australia’s appetite for the Audi Sport product is well documented, which is why Australia is one of the first world markets to receive the fire-breathing RS 3 Sedan, fittingly launched in Tasmania where the current model RS 3 Sportback made its debut only two years ago.

The more muscular of the A3 Sedan family, the RS 3 Sedan is in fact 21mm longer than the standard car, but has a slightly shorter wheelbase. It’s track, too, is wider for greater stability at speed and ride height is 25mm lower.

The Singleframe grille, with its mesh finish tells the story even without the subtle RS badging, while the large front air intakes lend an aggressive air as well as serving a very real purpose. Huge twin exhaust tips on the rear likewise give the game away to train spotters, as does the rear diffuser and the boot like spoiler is about as subtle as it’s possible to be.

Standard 19-inch rims add to the overall impression, and the red RS brake calipers are another obvious nod to the fact that this is a serious performance car (brakes too can be optioned up to ceramic units for the really sports oriented owner).

A total of eight colours (two of them specific to RS 3 Sedan) given ample choice of exterior hue, or those really wanting complete originality can opt for the Audi exclusive treatment and come up with their own colour chart. Two optional styling packages are also available.

But good looks aside, it is the magical combination of the award-winning 2.5 litre TFSI powerplant and Audi’s quattro all-wheel drive that make for the most incredible driving experience and set the RS 3 Sedan apart.

The superb five-cylinder TFSI engine powering the RS 3 Sedan is the most recent incarnation of the engine that has been internationally acclaimed since 2010, winning the coveted ‘Engine of the Year’ award seven years in a row. This new version though is 26kg lighter than its predecessor, thanks largely to an aluminium crank case, and 24kW more powerful – delivering a massive 294kW of power and 480Nm of torque. That 0 to 100km/h speed is 0.2 seconds quicker than its predecessor, and yet fuel figures of 8/4L/100km are still attainable.

The fact that all of that power is put down to the road surface by a quattro system that is constantly seeking to find the optimal grip – channeling power to the wheels with most traction as performance levels increase – gives the RS 3 Sedan unbelievable grip and handling to match the power in all manner of road conditions.

Tasmania’s brilliant driving roads provided the Australian press with the perfect environment in which to put this new performance special to the test, the hills echoing with the distinctive snarl of the RS 3’s exhaust. But while the snaking Targa roads are the natural hunting grounds of an RS model, to fully experience the dual personality of this vehicle at the limit, nothing short of a race track would suffice.

Baskerville Raceway just outside Hobart provided the ideal place to really let the RS 3 Sedans ‘off the leash’. The challenging 2.1km layout, with its tight switchbacks perfect for the tremendous acceleration and razor-sharp handling of the RS 3. In this environment, the RS 3 Sedan was pure race car and completely in its element – lap after lap, with nary a hint of brake fade. In this track setting, the motorsport DNA of the RS (Renn Sport) car was evident, and it’s for this reason that some owners will opt to have the top speed raised to 280km/h over the electronically governed 250km/h. 

What’s as impressive as the performance though, is the fact that this car is able to belt around a race track like a pro, and then head back into the city traffic on the way home with all of the poise and civility of a luxury sedan. Set the Audi drive select to ‘Comfort’, nestle back in the quilted RS bucket seats its as gentle as a lamb. Standard appointment is nothing short of extraordinary, with LED headlights, Audi virtual cockpit with 12.3-inch digital display, MMI Navigation plus with MMI Touch and 10GB hard drive, Audi Connect with in-car Wi-Fi hotspot, DAB+ digital radio, Audi parking system plus with rear view camera, tyre pressure monitoring system as well as the full complement of Audi driver assistance systems.

Even the stirring snarl of the exhaust note can be dialled back for those refined, ‘quiet times’, but that incredible performance is right there just under the surface whenever you want it. A super hero and mild mannered alter ego in automotive form. A compact sedan, the RS 3 impresses on a giant scale.

*Bang & Olufsen sound system is an option on RS 3 Sedan.

^ Manufacturer’s List Price (excludes dealer delivery and Government statutory charges.