Audi RS3 Quattro The suave face hides blistering pace By Richard Wiley

Audi RS3 Quattro The suave face hides blistering pace By Richard Wiley

I’ve stated before and I’ll state again that I have spent many hours in RS4 and RS5 versions of Audi’s performance models and that includes lapping the Nurburgring in the former. For the most part though, these exceptional sporting models have been driven on high speed motorways within the European network as well as on typical UK arterial roads.

While the RS4 proved to be the more nimble of the two, the RS5 proved itself to be a consummate and supremely comfortable high speed cruiser, albeit one with decidedly cramped rear quarters. The bigger coupe offers wide ranging adjustability to suit different road conditions and gobbles up huge distances with absolute disdain.
Yet, and I base my comments on the super-extensive reading I do, respected overseas titles (and some in SA for that matter) persist in being critical of the RS5 in particular, and the long-discontinued saloon version RS4 to a lesser degree, for relatively uninspired track performance, quoting leaden steering and relatively slow responses as negatives.

My reaction to those findings is equally negative as neither model was designed to be used as a track car and I totally fail to understand the relevance of testing road cars in a track environment for the very obvious reason that 99.9% of owners will never take their cars on track.

I mention all this because I’ve recently spent a week with a Sepang Blue RS3 Sportback – on the road – and to say I was enthralled is an understatement.
Even with the bright, ultra-glossy paintwork, gaping honeycomb front grilles, rear aero accoutrements, aluminium trim highlights and huge 235/35R19 tyres mounted on RS-style 5-spoke alloys, this Audi still flies, to some extent, under the radar. It’s like half a stealth bomber which is just how I like it as posers in reputedly high performance coupes and cabrios mostly can’t live with it.

For me, its nearest competitor is the A45AMG which is altogether louder in visual terms and not nearly as polished when it comes to interior finish, plus of course, its cheaper stablemate, the Golf R.
Under the bonnet lurks a simply stupendous 2.5 litre turbo’d straight five that produces no less than 270kW and a peak torque of 465Nm. The test car was equipped with a factory sports exhaust that gurgled, popped, banged and barked with the best of them to such good effect that the local pigeon squadrons abandoned my area but my neighbour remained glued behind her lace curtains, desperate to establish the source of these wondrous tones!

The nice thing is that thanks to the availability of a string of driving modes, the use of Comfort mode makes the RS3 seem, aurally at least, like an A3 if the mood takes you. My preference was for the suspension to be set in Comfort and for all else to be in Dynamic in order to sharpen responses and sounds!
With little effort, a 0-100 time of around 4.3s can be achieved while overall fuel consumption sat at 12.2l/100km but a 50km motorway run at about the legal limit yielded an encouraging 8.2l/100km.

Roll control is brilliant while the ride in any mode is firm but not bone jarring, possibly because this car sported optional Magnetic Ride. I also found the steering beautifully-weighted and responsive but one thing did irritate and that was the rumble and patter produced even on mildly uneven surfaces, by the rear suspension – hence the selection of Comfort mode.
Grip, which is automatically apportioned by the quattro system, is stupendous as is the performance of the massive brakes, and for the most part, the 7-speed s-tronic dual clutch gearbox shifts ultra-rapidly and smoothly.

Inside, all is pure Audi which means unrivalled quality of finish and detailing and in RS3 form, you get a bucket-full of additional features but I suggest a visit to www.audi.co.za for a full rundown of all the equipment.
Aside from the noisy rear suspension, the RS3 is enthralling. Within its compact dimensions, it offers good space for four adults in a superb environment and serves up astonishing levels of performance, grip, road manners and all-surface usability. It’s one of those special cars that makes you look for excuses to go out and about.

Pricing at December 2015, inclusive of 5yr/100 000km Freeway Plan: R710 000

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