by Iain Curry
AUDI claims its new RS 3 Sedan offer more "bang for buck" than any of its hot RS models before it.
You could take this as typical hyperbole surrounding the launch of an all-new model, but in the RS 3 Sedan's instance it's hard to disagree.
For $84,900 before charges you take home a practical and muscularly pretty four-door that will propel you to 100kmh in a mere 4.1-seconds; a figure supercar owners bragged about just a few years back.
Reasons for such velocity in this sportiest of Audi A3s are manyfold, but primary is an all-new lightweight 2.5-litre five-cylinder engine that is truly the star attraction here, both in its performance and delicious-sounding voice.
Boasting a mighty 294kW and 480Nm - the latter available in its entirety from just 1700rpm - Audi aficionados can go all gooey for the heritage and sound of this thing.
The five-cylinder traces its roots to the legendary Sport quattro S1 rally car which starred in the WRC's high-point Group B era of the early 1980s. While the RS 3 can't quite rival such fire-spitting turbo aural perfection, clever "active baffles" in the new Sedan's RS sports exhaust booms joyous rally-esque notes and pops through the sporty cabin.
Power and torque are up 24kW and 15Nm over the engine used in the current RS 3 Sportback (it gets the new engine and updates later this year), and much of its 26kg weight saving is down to an aluminium rather than iron block.
Performance is kept user-friendly through a lighter seven-speed dual-clutch auto gearbox and the latest version of Audi's all-wheel-drive quattro system, with the system favouring more torque - up to 100% - to the rear wheels during dynamic driving.
Driving purists may lament the lack of a manual gearbox offered, but so perceptive and responsive is the Audi auto unit, especially in Dymanic mode from the drive mode selector, that even the die-hardest of three-pedal fans should come around.
Typical of RS-badged Audis the customer wins don't begin and end with the powertrain.
The RS 3 Sedan's design oozes subtle aggressiveness. Wheel arches are flared but not overdone, there are oversized front air intakes, a quattro emblem on the single frame front grille, two large oval tailpipes poking out of an RS rear diffuser and a subtle boot lip spoiler. Overall, the four-door shape looks more grown up than the Sportback version.
Further visual performance hints include giant 370mm front brake rotors clamped by red eight-piston calipers behind 19-inch wheels, plus the tell-tale RS badging.
Audi's not skimped on the inclusions too much either. The RS 3 Sedan has LED wedge headlights, advanced MMI navigation, Audi Connect with in-car Wi-Fi, rear camera with countless parking aids, and the quite brilliant Audi Virtual Cockpit. This gives you a 12.3-inch digital display with all your key driving information, sat nav and media projected in high-res glory behind your steering wheel.
An RS-specific mode with the likes of lap counter and g-forces looks ideal for track work.
Advanced driver aids also come as standard as expected at this price point, giving the likes of radar cruise control, side assist, active lane assist and rear cross traffic assist.
On the road
Diamond-pattern leather seats greet the occupants - four adults can enjoy the fun in ample space - as part of a cracking cabin.
Audis lead the way with the layout/features/style/comfort blend against like-priced sporty Germans (think Merc-AMG CLA45 and BMW 340i), and the RS 3 balances the plushness and sportiness very well - not least with the Alcantara/leather flat bottomed steering wheel.
There are fireworks as soon as you fire up the engine - the world's most powerful production five-cylinder.
Leave the drive mode in Comfort and it handles town roads without too much jarring and the steering is effortlessly light.
Select Dynamic mode and the mongrel arrives. The barking exhaust note intensifies, and throttle response and steering weight go all race mode.
Peak power comes between 6000-7000rpm, encouraging you to play close to the redline of this gloriously revvy motor. That sound never, ever gets boring, and make no mistake, this is a truly rapid car.
Turn in is eager and pin-point accurate thanks to the weight lost from the front. The race track could be the only place you'd feel able to unsettle this thing, as for fast on-road use it is unflappably confidence-inspiring.
If there's any complaint it's that at legal road speeds, even on the twisties, you have no chance to explore its personality properly and bring it out of its shell.
We can expect a number of RS 3 Sedan owners to be race track bound. You can spend plenty more on Audi options to enhance its track potential, including carbon-ceramic brakes ($9500) and wider front tyres ($1500).
My brief track test had the RS 3 in its element. The engine just loves high revs, which can easily be exploited by using Sport mode and the steering wheel shift paddles.
Its ballistic speed was the highlight, and precisely placing the front into corner apexes was made to look easy. It's a really pointy little thing with superb grip (I had the wider front wheels on), while positively, the standard brakes remained solid after numerous laps.
Good news for buyers, it's one of those cars that is easy to drive fast, and help you look good at the race track.
Verdict - 4.5 Stars
What a package. The RS 3 Sedan is a ferociously quick and capable little sedan, oozing muscular style, cabin luxury and as much tech as most could wish for.
Expensive for an A3, yes, but as a ballistic performance tool it is a bargain.
The glorious 294kW turbo five-cylinder is the car's symphonic hero, but joy abounds throughout this compact weapon.
AT A GLANCE
Audi RS 3 Sedan
PRICE From $84,900
WARRANTY 3 years/unlimited km
CAPPED SERVICING Not available
SERVICE INTERVAL 1 year/15,000km
SAFETY 5 stars, 7 air bags
ENGINE 2.5-litre 5-cyl turbo petrol, 294kW/480Nm
TRANSMISSION 7-speed dual clutch S tronic auto, AWD
PERFORMANCE 0-100kmh in 4.1 seconds
DIMENSIONS 4479mm(L), 1802mm(W), 1399mm(H), 2631mm(WB)
SPARE None (has tyre sealant)
What matters most
The good: Five-cylinder engine is a muscular-sounding powerhouse, seriously quick, chassis balance, cabin quality and features, comfortable enough for everyday use.
The not so good: Needs a race track to reveal its true abilities and personality, not cheap for a pumped up A3, but for many it will look a bargain.