THE UPDATED Audi RS3 sedan has arrived in Australia packing a lighter and more powerful five-pot engine and an even sharper dynamic package.
WHAT IS IT?
A comprehensive mid-life update for the Audi RS3, bringing with it a new sedan bodystyle that’s a first for the RS3 badge.
WHY WE’RE TESTING IT
The entry-level RennSport model comes with a new alloy-block five-cylinder engine, that sports significant weight reductions to improve agility. It impressed at its international launch in the Oman, but we wanted to see how it held up on rougher Australian roads.
THE WHEELS VERDICT
The sedan is a worthy addition to the RS3 range and provides sharp performance and excellent all-paw handling, while also doing double duty as a sophisticated daily driver.
PLUS: Muscular engine; five-cylinder engine note, rockstar interior, forgiving dynamics
MINUS: Long option list above the $84,900 base price, no autonomous braking
THE WHEELS REVIEW
IT’S A strange feeling when you give way to an Audi A4 and the driver stops in the middle of an intersection and stares. I’m driving the box-fresh Audi RS3 sedan and the chap obviously has enough 0000-positive blood coursing through his veins to know the significance of the first compact sedan to wear a RennSport badge.
The addition of a sedan body style is part of a significant mid-life update to the RS3 range, which until now has only been available as a hatchback. The sedan stands out from its mainstream A- and S3 sedan siblings thanks to a bolder stance with wider tracks [20mm front/14mm rear], a 25mm lower ride height and RS styling headlined by flared wheel arches, and gloss-black honeycomb grille.
As well as adding a more conventional boot (which is actually 65-litres smaller than the RS3 hatch) the sedan boasts an all-new heart in the form of an aluminium-cased 2.5-litre inline five-cylinder turbo engine. The new donk is 26kg lighter than the old cast-iron unit and 24kW more powerful too, producing 294kW/480Nm and a magnificent soundtrack highlighted by a grin-inducing warble around 4000rpm.
Audi claims the RS3 sedan will do 0-100km/h in a launch-assisted 4.1sec [0.2 quicker than the old hatch], though this is a car bred for bends as much as straight line performance, with its quattro drivetrain providing 50:50 default torque split that can fully favour the rear axle when necessary.
With plenty of grip it lets you negotiate bends assertively while providing plenty of scope for mid-corner adjustability should you get too cocky.
The steering rack is designed so the ratio tightens in corners and, even in the tightest hairpins, the helm is firm and responsive to both driver input and road feedback.
On the twisty B-roads of Tasmania’s Houn Valley the standard four-link rear fixed suspension is firm but absorbs bumps well. It’s the same set up as before but with damping retuned to take advantage of the lighter engine.
Optional performance enhancements include a unique staggered wheel fitment that puts wider 255/30 tyres at the front and 235/35-section rubber down back for $1500 and magnetic adaptive RS sport suspension that’s part of an optional $5900 RS ‘Performance Package’ that also adds the staggered tyres, carbon inlays and a 750W, 14-speaker sound system.
Interior trim is to Audi’s usual high standard with RS-branded diamond-quilted Nappa leather seats and Audi’s excellent 12.3-inch virtual cockpit digital instrument cluster with specific RS functions including large rev counter and G-force, power and torque meters.
The sedan will be joined by the updated RS3 hatch later this year with Audi expecting is a 50:50 sales split between the two body styles. That sounds about right as the sedan brings enough of its own desirability to be more than just a niche variant.
Model: Audi RS3 sedan
Engine: 2480cc inline five, dohc, 20v, turbo
Max power: 294kW @ 5850-7000rpm
Max torque: 480Nm @ 1700-5850rpm
Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch
Fuel economy: 8.4L/100km
0-100km/h: 4.1sec (claimed)
On sale: No