Audi RS 3 Sportback on test

In his gray outfit, he looks like seven days of rainy weather, but thanks to the clever drive concept, the new Audi RS 3 now seems to be full of bliss. A test between blatant progress and homemade malus.

Five cylinders again, 400 hp again and again everything sounds like hot ass and hoopsasa. Somehow we suddenly feel such a strange pressure on the brakes on euphoria. One could even say that the fear is spreading, the fear of déjà vu. After all, a new RS 3 would not have led us onto black ice for the first time. Or better: sent into the desert with our expertise. It's been four years since Audi asked Oman to test the then freshly baked sedan version. And Simsalabim, the four-wheel drive vehicle was suddenly enchanted: no understeer whatsoever, but such a squeaky merry rear end that we immediately rolled over with excitement.

At home then the belly landing: The oh so agile machine drove through Hockenheim like a paraplegic, whereby it became clear that the outburst of driving sensation was less due to the technology than to the Arabian road conditions - this mix of sand blowing around and oil-licking truck, which apparently like opium on the handling worked. And: narcotic on our competence.

This time the RS 3 was launched in Greece. And ouch, it's dusty on the streets there too, and sometimes the trucks aren't completely sealed. But at least there are now reasons to believe that the bright prospects are real and not just another mirage. Yes, one even thinks looking at the third RS-3 edition that it doesn't want to disappoint us again, that it wants to be more than the two before it, goes further in its striving - to the point that the standard body has become too small for so much potential. And even if the wide front tires aren't really a grip measure, but only a concession to the load capacity, one can confidently understand the fat cheeks as swelling with pride.

Big fist behind the pipes

What's behind it? First of all, a comparatively discreet cockpit that mixes up Lamborghinistic design traits with RS themes: sports seats, runway-look display graphics, perforated leather steering wheel with a shortcut button for the sharp driving profiles. Whereby: The RS 3 sharpens its profile above all with consistency - through the iron adherence to the five-cylinder, which has always been an exception and is now finally becoming a lone wolf among all the golfers. Take a look around: Since BMW cleared its special items, the compact athletes have lined up like the organ pipes. The performance range extends from 200 to an obscene 421 hp, but underneath they all wear tame goods: four-cylinder. With fine rib.

So if it's even just a question of differentiation from the foot Volkswagen, then the verdict is hereby official: 60.Scrape together 000 euros and off to the Audi dealer! Because regardless of how this turns out, there won't be more charisma in this format. And in case you're still complaining about the disharmony between the engine and the double clutch, that's settled with the model change. In contrast to the first OPF versions, which started as if with a hand blender, here all drive parts pull together. The force closes crisply, but then takes the usual little time to build up with the turbo. From 2,200 rpm the boiler is then under pressure and the 1,580 kilos start whistling.

The performance remains at 400 hp, but thanks to an optimized angle drive, 20 Nm more are now spread across the speed range. Is that noticeable? Counter-question: Has the RS 3 really always been this good? The answer is provided by Uwe with the measuring case. After a few minutes and a lot of noise, it's clear: the new one is the crowning glory of the madness of its predecessor. With the same curb weight, it pushes the 0-100 value by another three tenths. In absolute numbers: 3.7 seconds measured, around 3.0 felt.

But again: Knock off your stool, the other compact graders can do that too. You only paddle on the steering wheel with them on the soup, but here the power delivery is like a shot from the goulash cannon. The propulsion is meat, not just bone, revving up has that wonderfully malty consistency, the sound has more original wort. Although it has to be said that the acoustic delta isn't as big as it used to be.

On the one hand, four-cylinder engines sometimes sound more lavish than they are these days. On the other hand, the laws have driven out the 2.5-liter's heroic howling as well as the rough exhaust bass, so that the RS 3 still sounds like concentrated traditions, but no longer like Röhrl's S1 back then on Pikes Peak.

The only new thing is that the rally feelings no longer need a sound track, they arise from driving dynamics: More negative camber on both axles, stiffer stabilizers and increased spring rates give the associations the necessary substance, the torque splitter in the drive gets them going. Whose working principle? Exactly the same as on the A 45, Golf R and Focus RS: Instead of a classic Haldex coupling for the entire axle, each rear wheel has its own here, which can be used to change the power to the lever. In right-hand bends, the rear is pushed to the left, when turning left, it pushes over to the right.

Things are going well in "Dynamic"

And hallelujah, this time the agility does not depend on country-specific peculiarities either. In the gentle modes, the system is just as elegantly reserved as the optional adaptive chassis, but in "Dynamic" the RS 3 gets straight to the point: steering commands are no longer stuck on the front axle, they spread over the entire car .And if you also press a good portion of torque into the joints in curves, then your butt dances out of line and it's hot ass around the corner or, if you're too cocky, hopsasa too far.

But that's not all with the range of new options: There is also a drift program with which you can shred a complete set of rear wheels in no time - pardon me - as well as the much more serious performance mode. It releases specific characteristics for steering and damping and balances the rear axle distribution in such a way that lateral drive and lateral support meet at the optimum - that's the theory.

However, practice begins with giving in, which with a weight distribution of 59 to 41 percent remains quite a fiddling. Only when the 265s hook in does the torque circuit boost the driving dynamics and the RS 3 begins to rotate into the curve. Sometimes a bit late, sometimes a bit suddenly, sometimes under strange chassis clatter, but generally highly effective - as the lap time proves.

Nevertheless, the enthusiasm in the end is a question of perspective. If you measure the performance based on the predecessor alone, the corks can now pop: The new one gets a fabulous five-second lead. And even if you subtract the grip advantage of the pre-heated Trofeo-R tires, there's still more than enough to celebrate. However, Audi has tied the RS 3's Nürburgring best time for its segment to its leg, which now implies that it will also outdo its rivals in Hockenheim. And that only partially succeeds.

Why? Well, maybe the angular character of the track doesn't suit the set-up, maybe the foggy November weather cost some grip; or who knows, maybe the Nordschleife on the day of the record - wink smiley - was simply desert sand and a bit oily.


Even if the RS 3 is quite far behind the (fabulous) time of the AMG A 45 S, we weren't wrong about it this time. In any case, the variable all-wheel drive not only brings a full plus in performance, it also turns the handling on the chocolate side. Okay, the five-cylinder weighs on the steering behavior. But you forgive a real emotional bomb like him.


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