The five cylinder is back! In sunny Oman Audi gave us a first taste of the new Audi RS3 Sedan and RS3 Sportback. We took the RS3 Sedan, or Limousine, for a good spin through the stunning Omani mountains and were quite impressed with the new compact RS model.
The RS3 Sportback could be considered a facelift of the previous generation RS3 Sportback. The RS3 Sedan however is a completely new model that will be sold globally starting with the first customer deliveries next month in the United States.
Audi RS3 Sedan Specifications
Both share Audi’s new 2.5 liter TFSI five cylinder engine that produces 400hp and 480Nm of torque. The famous Audi five cylinder engine has been rebuilt from the ground up reducing its weight by a staggering 26 kilograms. The sprint from 0-100 km/h is equally impressive at just 4.1 seconds – that is as fast as the first generation Audi R8 V10 Spyder!
The top speed is limited to 250 km/h but can be raised to 280 km/h. But the new RS3 Sedan and updated RS3 Sportback are not all about straight-line performance. A lot has been done to improve the handling of the RS3 – the previous generation had a large tendency to understeer and wasn’t the most dynamic sporty compact on the market.
With the new generation RS3 the engineers at Audi made major changes to the quattro system and the suspension setup. The quattro all-wheel drive system uses a new multi-plate clutch specifically which can distribute up to 100% of the torque to the rear axle in a split second. Depending on the driving style and grip on the road the clutch can send the power to the rear axle when turning in to a corner. The result can be felt immediately, the desire to understeer is gone completely. In dynamic mode or with ESP in sport the RS3 is actually quite tail happy coming in to the corner already – certainly a great new feature which we didn’t expect to find on the RS3 Sedan. With ESP in sport it actually allows you to put down some very decent drifts.
Suspension wise the Audi RS3 Sedan comes with the RS sport suspension which offers a 25mm lower ride height than the standard A3. Comfort is less than in a regular A3 but on the roads in Oman it was never too stiff and yet provided enough rigidity to counter most of the body roll. For more flexibility and even further reduced body roll under braking you can order the optional RS sport suspension with adaptive damper control. This allows you to change the damper settings between a softer comfort mode and a stiffer dynamic mode through the Audi Drive Select menu.
Talking about drive select; the system is very similar to the one available on other models. A switch on the dashboard allows you to change between Comfort, Auto, Dynamic and Individual. In individual, you can set your preferences for engine, sound, gearbox and suspension.
Audi RS3 Sedan Sound
So the performance improved, the handling improved, what about the sound? The five cylinder provides a very unique sound track thanks to the order in which the cylinders are fired – 1 and 2 then 4 and 5 and finally cylinder number 3. Sitting inside the car it does sound good but not extremely loud or monotone. At certain rev ranges it pops and crackles a bit but not as extreme as other – sound engineered – models on the market. However, the moment you get out of the car and listen to the RS3 Sedan roar under full load everything changes.
Standing by the side of the road I witnessed a few RS3s come past and boy did they sound good. It really provides a full bodied and masculine sound track and best of all it is all natural. Audi offers two different exhausts for the RS3; the standard RS Exhaust and an optional RS sport exhaust with black oval tailpipes. Both have flaps that can be adjusted through the MMI menu or by switching from comfort mode to sport and vice versa.
Audi RS3 Sedan Interior & Design
The Audi RS3 Sedan comes optionally with Audi Virtual Cockpit replacing the traditional speedometer and rev counter. It gives the RS3 Sedan a very modern and clean interior feel. However, the materials used could be a little bit more exclusive (less plastics). The RS sport seats provide good side support and there is enough head- and leg room for taller drivers like myself. In fact, there is way more space than in Audi Sport’s flagship R8 which actually makes driving the RS3 Sedan more enjoyable for me.
Another thing that caught my attention is the steering – it is very precise and does not feel over-engineered like the dynamic steering on many other Audi RS models. Sometimes less is more.
My test car came equipped with the Audi ceramic brakes at the front. Although they offer excellent stopping power I’m not sure if it justifies the drawbacks and extra money over the standard steel brakes. Unless you plan to take your RS3 Sedan on track, a lot, I wouldn’t go for ceramics.
Last but not least a few words about the design. The RS3 Sedan has a very strong appeal – the proportions, the aggressive lines and its stance are exactly what I’m looking for in a sporty limousine. The RS3 Sportback is nice too but is nowhere near as sexy in my opinion.
Overall the Audi RS3 Sedan is a great looking sporty limousine with performance and handling to match. In comparison to the last RS3 Sportback it has undergone a major transformation, it more mature and fun than ever.
The Audi RS3 Sedan can be ordered from April world wide. First customer deliveries start in the United States next month followed by Europe in Summer. The RS3 Sportback will only be sold in selected markets including Europe and will see first customer deliveries in Summer in Europe along with the RS3 Sedan. Pricing for the RS3 Sedan starts at 55,900 euro in Europe, the Sportback is slightly cheaper with a price starting at 54,600 euro.