Audi RS3 Sportback review
The comprehensive Audi RS3 Sportback review
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What's in this guide?
|Which Car||80%||"... it's the best engine in any hot hatch on sale today."||Read more|
|Cars Guide||76%||"The RS3 Sportback is going to take some commitment; the ride isn't comfortable on less than great roads, but the performance payoff is outstanding."||Read more|
|Car Advice||85%||"Loud. Outrageous. Utterly illogical. Usually these aren't flattering terms, but apply them to the Audi RS3 Sportback and they become an ode to automotive hooliganism in one of its finest forms."||Read more|
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How does the Audi RS3 compare with its peers?
The complete Audi RS3 Sportback review
Audi RS3 Sportback pricing
The 2018 Audi RS3 Sportback is priced at $80,240 plus on-road costs.
OverviewAudi's RS range is all about power and performance. You can think of it as the black sheep of this respected German family, producing a variety of wild and exciting machines designed to tempt hardcore driving enthusiasts.
And if you're in the market for a premium hot hatch, the Audi RS3 Sportback is one of the main contenders. With a much-loved five-cylinder engine that churns out almost 300kW, the RS3 produces speed and performance that's entirely worthy of the roar emitted when you jump on the accelerator. It's also a whole lot of fun to drive, offering composed handling that'll have you searching for windy country roads to explore, and is just as practical as any ordinary hatchback.
But while motoring journalists have found plenty to praise in the RS3 Sportback, they've also found a few areas where there's room for improvement. For example, the firm ride lessens the Audi's appeal for day-to-day driving, while the interior features and finish aren't quite to the same premium standard as some competitors.
With all this in mind, is the RS3 Sportback worth its circa-$80k price tag? To find out, let's see what the reviewers had to say.
Looks are important in any car, but hot hatches usually need to make a statement. The reviewers were quick to point out that the RS3 boasts an imposing and potent on-road presence.
While some hot hatches tend a little towards the garish and over the top, the Audi is a little more mature than that – but still leaves you in no doubt that this is a car capable of leaving most others in its dust. From the big black grille at the front to the rooftop spoiler and chunky tailpipes at the back, this thing looks like a weapon.
19-inch alloys and red brake calipers complete the look, and the end result is something that looks a far cry from the A3 Sportback on which it is based.
Engine and performance
An update to the RS3 Sportback in late 2017 saw the introduction of a new five-cylinder engine. Producing an astonishing 294kW of power, this 2.5-litre turbo-petrol is super quick. Not only can it sprint from 0-100km/h in a “blink and you’ll miss it” time of 4.1 seconds, but with peak torque (480Nm) available from 1,700rpm it offers an impressive performance range.
Audi’s quattro system is responsible for distributing the immense amount of power on tap to all four wheels, while a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission (which Audi calls S tronic) takes care of gear changes smoothly and efficiently.
One thing the reviewers loved was the meaty, guttural soundtrack produced by the five-cylinder engine. This thing is loud, fiery and keen to be noticed, emitting a note that’s sure to have any petrolhead drooling with envy.
The official fuel consumption figure of 8.4L/100km sounds quite reasonable on paper, but the reviewers did point out that this is not as good as its Mercedes-AMG A45 rival. Of course, in real-world conditions and with an enthusiastic driver behind the wheel, you can always expect to consume a fair bit more fuel than the official figure suggests.
- Engine type
- -Inline 5-cylinder petrol with direct fuel injection and turbo-charging
- - FWD
- - 2,480cc
- Fuel type
- - Petrol or diesel
- Max. torque (Nm@rpm)
- - 480Nm @ 1,700 - 5,850rpm
- Fuel consumption – combined petrol / diesel
- Max. power (kW@rpm)
- - 294kW @ 5,850 - 7,000rpm
- Combined CO2 emissions petrol / diesel
- 191 g/km
- Acceleration (0-100 km/h)
- - 4.1 seconds
- Emissions standard
- - N/a
- - 7-speed S tronic
OK, so the RS3 Sportback has plenty of power, but how does it drive in the real world? The answer depends on a couple of factors.
On a windy country road, the reviewers found the RS3 Sportback to be an agile and confident performer. With sharp turn-in and a composed, planted feel, this car offers taut performance that will put a smile on the face of any keen driver.
Traction is excellent and while there’s a brief moment of turbo lag, it’s not really anything worth complaining about. Braking performance also impressed the reviewers, with the standard steel (rather than the optional ceramic) brakes doing an admirable job of controlling the RS3’s sizable power. There’s also some understeer, but the reviewers generally agreed that this was no more than you’d expect from an all-wheel-drive performance car. That said, one reviewer did single the RS3 out as being too front heavy.
However, some reviewers also suggested that the firm ride in the RS3 deserves some criticism. For daily urban driving and trips to the shop, the ride isn’t as comfortable as it could be. The best way to combat this is to select the “Comfort” driving mode, which tones down some of the RS3’s more aggressive mannerisms to provide a more sedate and plush experience.
Switch to “Dynamic” mode and the mood changes instantly, with faster throttle response, quicker gear shifts, firmer suspension and that signature engine note all arriving on cue.
The interior was probably the one area where the RS3 Sportback came in for the most criticism from reviewers. They found that there wasn’t a whole lot to distinguish the interior of the RS3 from that of the A3 – while there’s nothing at all wrong with the layout and everything is high quality, it lacks the premium, luxurious feel you might expect when you fork out $80,000.
That aside, there’s still plenty to like about the RS3’s cabin. The leather RS sports front seats are supremely comfortable and supportive, not to mention heated, and the high seating position provides good vision. The seats can be adjusted manually, but if you’d prefer electrically adjustable sport seats that aren’t quite as extreme then these can be fitted as a no-cost option.
There’s also a pleasing level of standard kit to enjoy. Leather trim, LED lighting, dual-zone climate control and satnav are all available, as are Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. The 12.3-inch instrument cluster is a good thing, while adaptive cruise control and keyless entry and start are worthwhile inclusions. However, some reviewers suggested that at 7 inches, the size of the satnav screen is a little disappointing.
In the rear stalls, the high and flat roofline means that headroom is good, but taller passengers may be a little cramped. There’s room for three people across the back seat but, as is the case in most hatches, getting stuck in the middle seat certainly isn’t an enviable position to be in.
There’s 335 litres of space in the boot, but fold the rear seats down and this balloons out to a sizable 1,175 litres. There’s also a decent range of storage containers and nets spread throughout the interior, as well as a USB hub in the front and 12V outlets in the front seat, the second row and in the boot. Unfortunately, there’s no spare wheel on offer.
From a safety perspective, features include seven airbags and heaps of driver assistance tech. Lane keeping assist, auto emergency braking, rear cross-traffic assist and blind-spot warning are all provided, so there’s an impressive level of kit to help you stay safe on the road.
The RS3 is backed by a three-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty, with servicing recommended every 12 months or 15,000km. Unfortunately, RS models aren’t included in Audi’s capped-price servicing plan.
|Audi RS3 Sportback interior and safety features|
|Audi Active Lane Assist||Yes|
|Audi Side Assist||Yes|
|Cross-traffic assist rear||Yes|
|Autonomous emergency braking||Yes|
|Electronic Stabilisation Control (ESC)||Yes|
|Adaptive cruise control||Yes|
|Audi Drive Select||Yes|
|Audi Parking System plus front and rear parking sensors with rear view camera||Yes|
|RS sport front seats||Yes|
|Electrically adjustable sport front seats||No-cost option|
|Automatic air conditioning with dual-zone climate control||Yes|
|Keyless entry and start||Yes|
|LED interior lighting package||Yes|
|Multifunction sport steering wheel in leather/Alcantara, flat bottom with shift paddles||Yes|
|Audi Connect including in-car Wi-Fi hotspot and Google services||Yes|
|Audi Smartphone Interface||Yes|
|10-speaker Audi sound system||Yes|
|14-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system||Available as part of RS performance package|
|Audi Virtual Cockpit with 12.3-inch colour display||Yes|
|Navigation system with 7-inch colour display||Yes|
|Bluetooth interface with music streaming||Yes|
All things considered, the reviewers largely had positive impressions of the Audi RS3 Sportback. Its main drawcard is undoubtedly the menacing five-cylinder engine, which is fast, potent and emits an exhaust note that’s impossible to ignore.
Handling in the right driving conditions is another big selling point, while braking performance, the list of standard kit and that eye-catching exterior design were also praised by motoring journalists. Then there’s the fact that the interior of the RS3 is an entirely practical space, with ample cargo room and reasonable space for rear-seat travellers.
However, the performance on offer and the hefty price tag may mean that the Audi RS3 Sportback is too much car for some. At $80,000, the RS3 is right at the pointy end of the hot hatch price range.
If this is stretching your budget a little, you can still get impressive performance out of the Volkswagen Golf R and the Ford Focus RS for a whole lot less. That said, the RS3 is substantially cheaper than Audi’s TT RS, with which it shares an engine, so it’s well worth considering if you like the look of the TT RS.
There are some drawbacks, such as the lack of a premium feel in the cabin and a ride that’s a little firm around town, but they’re not enough to severely dampen the appeal of this premium hot hatch. If you’re after something that’s fun, fast and packs a performance punch, but that’s also practical enough for everyday use, make sure Audi’s RS3 Sportback is on your test-drive list alongside its closest rival, the Mercedes-AMG A45.
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