Short Take: Audi RS3 Sportback
Ever since the original VW Golf GTI, the hot hatch has been a strong automotive segment in Europe, and to a certain extent, here in the USA. Its not as strong as it could be though, as for some reason, Americans still seem to favor sedans and coupes. Why that is we have no idea, as we believe there is no more fun or practical low cost/high fun car combination in the world than the hot hatch. This is not to say that there are no popular hot hatches in America, but we always seem to miss out on the really special versions.
This brings us to Audis new RS3. Currently NOT slated for USA delivery, this is one hot hatch which we firmly believe Americans WILL understand and want. Granted, we have not heard any inkling as to the pricing for this car, and Audi will certainly not give it away, but we feel that this car is sure to be a good value considering how phenomenal the RS3 is.
Audi takes the 5 door S3 and transforms it into a bona fide pocket rocket with the addition of the very aggressive front and rear bumper treatments, monstrous brakes (370mm rotors front, 310mm rear), 19 inch wheels, carbon fiber bits of body and interior trim, and the pièce de résistance, the RS3s fire breathing 2.5 liter 5 cylinder TFSI turbocharged direct fuel injection engine, which will be mated to the 7 speed dual clutch transmission and quattro all wheel drive system.
Not only does this new 5 pot engine make tremendous power (340hp, 332 lb/ft), it makes all the right sounds. Its EXACTLY reminiscent of Audis old 2.1 and 2.3 liter 5 cylinder turbocharged engines that were fitted to the original Quattro models and various rally and race cars in the 1980s. The only thing is, here, it actually makes more power than even the rare earth homologation version Sport Quattro of the day. Its plenty quick, running to 100km/h in 4.6 seconds (0 to 60 should be a few ticks faster) and maxing out at 155mph.
The RS3 is much nicer to drive than the older cars too. All modern Audis are pretty nice to drive, but when they are fitted with sweet sounding engines and big turbochargers, the grin factor becomes more prevalent. We had the chance to drive the RS3 in the great white north of Notre-Dame-de-la-Merci in Quebec Canada, which arguably is the perfect locale for such a drive. Fitted with excellent snow tires, the RS3 laughed at the icy roads we ripped up and down. The ride was firm, fitting for the type of car but never jarring, even on very rough paved roads. There was very little if any dive, squat or lean either. The car just stayed flat all the time. Steering input is very easy, and the car seems to read the drivers mind with regards to directional changes. Because of the relatively small size and light weight, the RS3 is a blast to fling around on tight roads, even in the snow and ice.
The interior is dressed up slightly (at least the demo car we drove was), with an extra thick suede covered steering wheel (and matching shift knob), extra stitching on leather surfaces, and excellent sport seats. Even with the RS specific logos splashed about here and there, its not over done in any way, but perfectly suited to the top line A3 variant.
We loved the RS3 in a big way. The smooth exhilarating rush of power combined with the turbine like whine of the inline 5 cylinder engine was hilariously fun, the rapid fire gearchanges of the S tronic transmission kept the engine in the meat of its power range, the flat and surefooted handling tied it all together into a massively fun package. The RS3 is a car that we think Americans would love to own! The trick is going to be to convince the folks at Audi in Germany to agree with us. Perhaps its time to get another petition going?