As the race of supercar-killing hot hatches heats up, Audi has now revealed its latest and greatest hand – the latest generation Audi RS3 Sportback and Sedan models. Packing 400hp and Audi’s newest drivetrain technologies, both models promise mega performance and have their crosshairs aimed firmly at cars such as the Mercedes-AMG A45 and BMW M2.
Both the third-generation Sportback and second-generation sedan (the sedan came later) RS3 models are powered by the latest generation of Audi’s 2.5-liter turbocharged 5-cylinder engine which outputs 400hp and a whopping 500Nm of torque.
Those figures represent a 5bhp and 20Nm increase over the outgoing model, and Audi claims the powerband is substantially wider thanks to a new engine control unit that also increases the speed at which all of the drive components communicate with each other.
However, the peak power is still lower than that of the Mercedes-AMG A45S which offers 415hp and the BMW M2 CS which offers 444hp from its turbocharged inline-six engine.
The engine is mated to a 7-speed Dual-Clutch automatic that has been updated with even faster shift times and a sportier gear ratio spread. From the transmission, power is routed to all four wheels through Audi’s trademark Quattro AWD system. In terms of performance, the RS 3 models sprint from 0-100 km/h in just 3.8 seconds.
Their top speed is limited to 250 km/h, but 280 km/h is also available as an optional upgrade. With the RS Dynamic package and ceramic brakes, they can even reach a top speed of 290 km/h.
A major highlight is the all-new RS Torque Splitter and specific RS 3 modes. The new Audi RS 3 is the first Audi model that comes standard-equipped with a torque splitter. It replaces the rear axle differential and the previous multiple disc clutch package on the rear axle. Instead, an electronically controlled multiple-disc clutch is used on each of the drive shafts. This ensures that the right amount of torque is optimally distributed along the rear axle. During more dynamic driving, the torque splitter increases the drive torque to the outer rear wheel with the higher wheel load, which significantly reduces the tendency to understeer.
For instance - in left-hand curves, it transmits the drive torque to the right rear wheel, in right-hand curves to the left rear wheel, and when driving straight ahead to both wheels. The new technology also makes controlled drifts possible – in this case, the torque splitter is able to direct all engine power to only one of the rear wheels if needed.
Audi even developed a driving mode specifically for the RS 3 for this purpose – “RS Torque Rear” – as a drift mode with its own characteristic curve for the torque splitter. The RS Performance mode, created specifically for the racetrack, is another first. It uses a specific engine and transmission configuration and is precisely tailored to the semi-slick tires that are, for the very first time, available for the RS 3 as a factory option.
Elsewhere, the standard-fit RS sports suspension features newly developed shock absorbers and a valve system both specific to the RS 3. The absorber valves are set up to ensure that the shock absorbers exhibit a particularly sensitive response as part of the rebound and compression characteristics. This allows the suspension to respond to the respective driving situations even faster and more effectively. An adaptive damper system is also optionally offered.
Compared to the regular Audi A3, the wheels on the front axle of the new RS 3 have additional negative camber for greater steering precision and response. To achieve this, the pivot bearings were modified and the lower wishbones were equipped with stiffer bearings, subframes, and stabilizers. The rear axle features a four-link design with a separate spring/ damper arrangement, subframe, and tubular stabilizer bar. Even the wheel carriers are stiffer than those of the Audi A3 and S3, to absorb the increased lateral forces generated by the torque splitter.
The RS 3 comes standard-equipped with larger and newly developed six-piston steel brakes to keep the power of the five-cylinder engine in check. A ceramic brake system measuring 380mm in diameter is optionally available. Standard brake discs measure 375mm at the front and 310mm at the rear. This makes them larger and more stable than in the previous model. Separately, air control elements further improve brake cooling by 20 percent according to Audi.
In terms of aesthetics – the RS 3 for the first time sheds its understated looks in favour of more aggressive design details over the regular A3 and S3 models. In the front, the wide RS bumper, the redesigned Singleframe with its distinctive honeycomb grille wedge-shaped LED headlights demarcate the RS 3 from the rest of the range. There is also a new design element behind the front wheel arches: an eye-catching additional air outlet. The rocker panels with black trim have also been redesigned, in combination with the flared wheel arches.
Round the back, the rear bumper incorporates an integrated diffuser, and the RS exhaust system (with two large oval tailpipes) and slim LED taillights further give the RS 3 an aggressive stance. The RS 3 is standard-equipped with 19-inch cast wheels in a 10-Y spoke design, a ‘5-Y spoke’ rim with RS branding, and the aforementioned Pirelli P Zero Trofeo R semi-slick tyres are optionally offered as well. The RS 3 models can also be ordered in two exclusive RS colors: Kyalami green and Kemora gray.
On the insider, the RS 3 models feature a carbon-fiber instrument panel and RS sport seats with RS embossing and anthracite contrast stitching as well as a unique three-spoke RS Sport multifunctional ‘flat bottomed’ leather steering wheel with a flattened bottom die-cast zinc shift paddles. Elsewhere, special floor mats with contrast stitching and RS embroidery, as well as seatbelts with colored edges are included as well.
In terms of instrumentation – the RS 3s sport 12.3-inch Audi Virtual Cockpit Plus which accompanies a 10.1-inch Touch Display includes a specialised “RS Monitor” that displays the coolant, engine, and transmission oil temperatures as well as tire pressures. Separately, an RS-specific blinking shift indicator in manual transmission mode changes the rpm display from green to yellow to red, blinking in a manner identical to that used in motorsports, to indicate the ideal time to change gears.
The Audi RS 3 Sportback and Sedan will be available to order in Europe starting in mid-July 2021 with a base price starting from EUR 60,000 for the Sportback and EUR 62,000 for the sedan.