The dynamic duo

The wraps come off the new Audi RS 3 Sportback and Sedan.

Audi Sport has pulled out all of the stops with the newest iteration of the RS 3 Sportback and Sedan – these ‘compact’ performers, punching well above their weight in just about every measurable metric and then some.

19 July, 2021

The RS 3 Sedan and RS 3 Sportback – in their second and third generations respectively –  represent the most serious versions of each model ever

It’s easy enough to present a snapshot of a car’s performance potential using numbers. Power and torque figures related to vehicle weight create a certain perception of what it can do, and of course the acceleration and top speed figures allow comparisons with other similarly endowed vehicles to create a sort of performance hierarchy.

What’s almost impossible to convey with numbers, words or even wild hand gesturers though is the ‘exhilaration factor’ which is what the new Audi RS 3 Sportback and RS 3 Sedan models are designed to deliver in spades. Teased several weeks ago, the dust covers have at last been removed from this dynamic duo, giving performance enthusiasts around the world and particularly here in Australia, every reason to get excited.

The RS 3 Sedan and RS 3 Sportback – in their second and third generations respectively –  represent the most serious versions of each model ever. Every conceivable aspect of their character, design and of course performance have been honed to a fine edge, and Audi Sport has dialled up that illusive ‘fun factor’ to new highs.

Australian customers will have to wait until the first half of next year to get behind the wheel and experience the new RS 3 models themselves, so in the meantime we have to rely on the figures to create that snapshot – and a compelling snapshot it is.

The looks speak for themselves – significantly more aggressive and unmistakably derived from the brand’s proud racing heritage. The large air inlets behind the front wheel arches are straight from motorsport, as are the even more muscular flanks with their quattro blisters housing 19-inch cast wheels which can be shod in Pirelli P zero ‘Trofeo R’ semi-slick rubber for the first time should the customer desire.

The treatment of the Singleframe grille is significantly wider which accentuates the width of the car and the purposeful stance. Indeed the front and rear axle track have been widened 33mm and 10mm respectively over the previous model.

Black honeycomb treatment ties the grille to the massive air intakes on either side and with the four rings in matte or high-gloss black finish, the effect makes a statement. Then there are the lights – LED headlights and taillights with dynamic indicators. Matrix LED are also available as an option and the distinctive daytime running lights, with their checkered flag design are another subtle nod to the track.

Indeed from the purposeful front end treatment, right down to the subtle rear spoilers and the large, twin oval exhaust pipes, the RS 3s are all business.

Delivering on that performance promise is, once again, the multi-award winning 2.5 TFSI engine, which continues to deliver scintillating performance and set the standard, with no less than nine International Engine of the Year awards to its credit. Audi’s exceptional five-cylinder engine, with its distinctive snarl has long been music to the ears of performance enthusiasts and this latest version builds on that great tradition.

More powerful than ever before, it produces a massive 294kW of power and an earth-moving 500Nm of torque – 20Nm more than the previous model – which is on tap between 2250 rpm and 5600rpm. This translates to a 0 to 100km/h time of just 3.8 seconds on the way to a governed top speed of 250km/h in standard guise. Opt for the RS Dynamic package and ceramic brakes, and that top speed can be increased to 290km/h.

The RS 3s run a seven-speed S tronic transmission which features shorter shifting times and a closer gear ratio spread to make best use of the five-cylinder power plant and of course both cars put power down to all four wheel via quattro all-wheel drive.

As we reported earlier, these RS 3 models also feature the torque-splitter technology, using an electronically controlled multiple disc clutch on each of the drive shafts to ensure the right amount of torque is optimally distributed along the rear axle. 

Delivering on that performance promise is, once again, the multi-award winning 2.5 TFSI engine, which has won nine International Engine of the Year awards

There is also an RS Performance mode which has been created specifically for the race track

In plain terms this means that when pushed hard (say, on a race track), the torque splitter increases the drive torque to the respective outer rear wheel with the higher wheel load, which significantly reduces the tendency to understeer. It also means controlled drifts (again, in the appropriate environment) become part of the driving equation, with the torque splitter directing all of the power to only one of the rear wheels – with up to 1750 Nm per wheel possible. Audi Sport has even developed a driving mode specifically for the RS 3 for this very purpose – RS Torque Rear – as a drift mode with its own characteristic curve for the torque splitter. There is also an RS Performance mode which has been created specifically for the race track. This can be added as a factory option as well as the standard Audi Drive select profiles of comfort, auto, efficiency, dynamic and RS Individual.

Suspension and braking are obviously likewise geared to operate at the very highest levels of performance, with the RS 3s sitting 10mm lower than an S3 or 25mm lower than the A3 models on RS sports suspension. This system features newly developed shock absorbers and a valve system both specific to the RS 3 (RS sport suspension plus with adaptive damper control is available as an option).

Even the wheel camber has been revised on the RS 3 models for more precise steering, the front wheels with just under a degree of additional negative camber compared to a standard Audi A3. Then there is the RS‑specific progressive steering which varies the gear ratio depending on the steering angle, so that as the steering angle increases, the gear ratio becomes smaller and the steering more direct.

The performance of the RS 3 models is further enhanced by the presence of another new feature in the form of the vehicle dynamics controller (mVDC) – a system which synchronises the torque splitter, adaptive dampers, and wheel-selective torque control for precise steering and handling.

Braking too is serious equipment as you’d expect, with newly developed six-piston steel brakes as standard fare, or a ceramic system measuring 380 by 38 mm is optionally available on the front axle and weighing 10kg less than the steel system.

The resultant package is pure performance and one that will delight the most demanding of the performance fraternity. These are cars that just beg to be taken to the track and put through their paces and yet they are still perfectly at home driven day-to-day on the road.

Certainly the interior has that unmistakable motorsport influence without losing its premium feel and finish. There is a flat-bottom multi-function wheel complete with die-cast zinc shift paddles and even a 12 o’clock stripe in the optional Design Package for when things get frantic at the track.

Alternatively, customers can opt for a round RS steering wheel with hands-on detection – which uses capacitive grip recognition for assisted steering functions. Both feature the new RS Mode button which is used to select the Audi drive select modes. 

The RS sport seats with RS embossing and anthracite contrast stitching (optionally available in fine Nappa leather with RS honeycomb stitching and black, red, or green contrast stitching) offer form-hugging support for the track and supreme comfort around town and again it is this dual personality and ability that is the RS 3’s most compelling feature.

Technology for both the track and daily driving is of the highest order, with a 12.3-inch Audi virtual cockpit plus which shows revs in the form of a bar graph and power and torque as percentages. 

Certainly the interior has that unmistakable motorsport influence without losing its premium feel and finish

And then there’s that exquisite exhaust note – courtesy of the unique 1-2-4-5-3 cylinder firing sequence

Optionally, this rev display is available in the new ‘RS Runway’ design which shows the highest speed in the foreground and the lowest speed in the background, like looking down a runway. And of course the Audi virtual cockpit plus includes displays for g-forces, lap times and acceleration from 0‑100 km/h, 0-200 km/h, quarter mile, and eighth of a mile. 

In addition to the virtual cockpit, the RS 3 models also use a 10.1-inch touch display which includes an ‘RS Monitor’ displaying vehicle functions such as coolant, engine, and transmission oil temperatures and tyre pressures. Also included as standard equipment on RS 3 for the first time is the head-up display, which projects relevant information onto the windscreen right into the driver’s line of sight.

There are no gimmicks here, but rather all of these systems have been carefully designed and integrated to add to the driving experience, whether that be on the limit at a race track, the daily commute or taking advantage of a spirited drive far from the madding crowd.

When they arrive in the first half of 2022 the new RS 3 models will not just continue the proud RS tradition but further raise the standard in terms of high-performance cars that can be comfortably driven on a daily basis. Using the numbers to tell the story, the fact that these ‘sub four second’ cars – complete with lap counters and g force meters – can still carry five adults and luggage, makes them an extraordinary proposition – once again.

Calling them practical supercars isn’t new, but it’s still the best possible description and goes a long way to summing up their extraordinary appeal.

And then there’s that exquisite exhaust note – courtesy of the unique 1-2-4-5-3 cylinder firing sequence –  that is as much a part of the RS 3 experience as the acceleration and handling. In fact it’s a combination of all of these elements that provides the ‘exhilaration factor’ that just can’t be adequately described. That is something that definitely needs ‘hands on’ experience to be fully realised. Roll on 2022.

For those who'd like to receive additional information on these models ahead of the Australian launch, just click on the appropriate model to register your interest in the Audi RS 3 Sportback or the RS 3 Sedan.

This article refers to the global introduction of the RS 3 Sportback and RS 3 Sedan and is intended to give an overview of the model range.

The exact specification and pricing for the local market will be announced closer to the Australian launch.