I love the bit at the start of the Star Trek films where the captions appear at the bottom of the screen and gently roll into the distance. At the same time, stars and planets drift gracefully towards you. And then suddenly… kerpow… everything hurtles forward in a blur. Scotty in the engine room has obviously hit the warp factor button.
Well, that’s what it’s like when you use the launch control on the latest Audi RS3. While the car is stationary, stamp hard with your left foot on the brake pedal. Floor the throttle with your right foot. Then release the brake and you hurtle to the horizon at an ungodly speed. “It’s life Jim, but not as we know it.” Welcome to the world’s most powerful hot hatch.
The latest Audi RS3, which has just received a mid-life makeover, now comes with an aluminium 2.5 litre, 5-cylinder engine which produces a stonking great 395bhp. It’s mated to a 7-speed S-tronic gearbox and plonks all of the power onto the road via all-wheel drive. You don’t need to be Mr. Spock to realise all of that power in a comparatively compact car, means you’re going to get magnificent performance. 0-60 takes just 4.1 seconds.
Top speed is limited to 155mph unless you take off the restrictor which then allows it to carry on to an eye-watering 176mph. As for economy, it’s the usual story; if you can afford the £44,755 asking price which, let’s face it is a tad pricey for a small-ish 5-door hatchback, or Sportback as Audi calls it, you won’t be too fussed by an mpg return in the mid 30s. Incidentally, as part of the re-fresh of the RS3, there is now a 4-door saloon which is a grand more expensive.
Audi has left BMW, Mercedes and Jaguar standing when it comes to build quality
The Audi RS3 currently rates as the Usain Bolt of hatchbacks. It’s more powerful than the Mercedes-AMG A 45 and BMW M2. In other words, if you want the ultimate in flying machines at this sort of level, make a bee-line for your local Audi dealer.
Oh, and don’t assume that the prowess of the Audi’s performance figures sum up the RS3. It doesn’t. Audi has now left the likes of BMW, Mercedes and Jaguar standing when it comes to build quality.
For example, you’ll struggle to get a fag paper between the shut lines of the exterior panels. The interior oozes quality. The switches have a nice cushioned feel to them. The sports seats are supremely comfortable and you get loads of kit as standard. Consequently, even though the RS3 Sportback looks pricey on paper, it actually stacks-up well against the competition when you compare like for like.
What really impresses though, is the usability of the RS3. Plonk it alongside a Porsche 911, a McLaren or Ferrari and when it comes to a straight drag race, there’s not a lot between all of them. However, the 911, McLaren or Ferrari can’t let you take the rubbish to the tip or go to the beach with a load of kids plus the family Ladbrador and a ton of picnic grub.
The Audi RS3 Sportback is arguably the best car that Audi has produced
And don’t be fooled into thinking that this is a temperamental hyper-car because it will happily trundle through traffic, do the school run and head to the local supermarket before allowing you to have some serious fun on the way home. It looks good too.
As mentioned earlier, Audi gives their RS range in general a really good level of standard equipment. The RS3 Sportback comes with sat nav, air con, leather seats, sports suspension, DAB radio, Bluetooth, rear parking camera etc. There’s no need to dip into the options brochure although the adaptive suspension is worth it. The launch control is a neat trick. Granted, it’s a bit of a toy, but the shattering performance it delivers from the 4WD system is truly astonishing.
The ride is firm but not harsh. If you go for the optional adaptive suspension (we would), the ride becomes nothing short of remarkable for a serious performance car. At town speeds it remains comfortable while it tautens nicely when you head for the fun stuff.
Another option is something which is a bit of a personal choice. The sports exhaust makes one heck of a racket. We love it. You’ll want it despite the £1000 plus outlay.
The Audi RS3 Sportback is arguably the best car that Audi has produced. Shattering performance, wrapped up in a gorgeous body with loads of cossetting trim and goodies for the passengers, but is happy on the school run or blasting for a spot of skiing in Zermatt.
We loved it.