Compared with a standard A3, the track is widened and the ride height lowered to achieve a more squat, planted stance on the road and increase cornering stability.
Ride and Handling
The suspension set-up combines MacPherson struts at the front end with a multi-link arrangement at the back. Compared with a standard A3, the track is widened and the ride height lowered to achieve a more squat, planted stance on the road and increase cornering stability. The quattro permanent four-wheel-drive system uses an electronically-controlled multiplate clutch to shift torque between the two axles as and when needed. Most of the time the system delivers 80% of available power to the front wheels most of the time, but automatically shifts more power to the rear wheels when required.
On a test route in rural Austria that was at times damp and greasy after recent rain, the RS 3's poise and grip was hugely impressive and reassuring. This was over terrain where Audi's all-wheel-drive system was originally developed in shakedown trials for the first Audi Quattro, and it showcased the RS 3 very well. In potentially slippery conditions it felt immensely sure-footed and master of its terrain, with a pleasing neutrality and absence of understeer.
Ride quality is set towards the firmer end of comfort acceptability, with the suspension set 25 per cent firmer than a more mildly sporty S3 model, which itself has stiffer spring and damper settings than a standard A3. The damping is well-judged to keep the ride just pliant enough to avoid feeling harsh, but inevitably it just jar over deeper potholes.
Ease of Use
High performance supercars can be a pain to live with, gloriously fast with lightning quick responses, but some can be irksomely temperamental with Jekyll and Hyde behaviour. The appealing character of the RS 3 Sportback is its supercar performance without the drawbacks. This is a dynamically highly accomplished car with mannerly behaviour. It is relatively docile when driven with mild inputs to the throttle and steering, but it comes alive when unleashed with an urgent right foot. Then it is an exhilarating car to drive, a galloping thoroughbred with almost no discernible vices.
Having five doors, rather than the two or three doors more often associated with cars at this level of performance, makes the RS 3 is a convenient and practical everyday car. It is not some low-slung supercar, and access in and out is easy, with a cabin that accommodates five adults in snug but perfectly adequate comfort. There is also a reasonable boot: 302 litres with the rear seats in place, and stretching to 1,032 litres with them folded out of the way.
Audi S3 Road Test Data
|Model Reviewed||Audi RS 3|
|Colour||Misano Red, Pearl Effect|
|Performance (manufacturers data)|
|0 - 62 mph||4.6 Seconds|
|Top Speed||155 mph (limited)|
|Transmission||7 Speed twin-clutch S tronic|
|CO2 Emissions (NEDC Figures)||g/km|
|Economy (NEDC Figures)|
|Extra Urban||41.5 mpg|
|Euro NCAP Rating||4 Star|
|Warranty||3 Years / 60,000 Miles|
|Price (when tested on the 15/08/11)||£39,930|