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No small feat
IT may only be an extra cylinder and one more gear ratio but they can make a very big difference. The new Audi RS3 is faster, lighter and better, and it is not just because it has one letter more than the S3.
The German premium carmaker's RS line represents the pinnacle of the model range and the RS3 has all the specs to prove it - a 2.5-litre five-cylinder turbocharged engine mated to a seven-speed dual clutch transmission with quattro all-wheel-drive.
So even as Audi's smallest RS model, it packs the same amount of excitement as an RS6 with a V8.
At a glance, the RS3 Sportback looks similar to the S3 Sportback, but there are visual differences. For one, the RS3 has full LED headlights/tail lights and 19-inch wheels (versus the S3's 18 inches). RS wave-design brake discs and the signature Audi RS honeycomb grille and intakes complete the look.
But most importantly, it is the Audi RS3's performance that distinguishes it from the S3, which has a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo and six-speed dual clutch gearbox.
The five-cylinder turbo with quattro not only represents a special formula in Audi's history, but is also instrumental in the second-generation RS3 sprinting from zero to 100kmh in just 4.3 seconds, down from its predecessor's 4.6 seconds.
This means the RS3 is seriously fast, with a mid-range acceleration that can only be described as frightening.
Maximum torque is now 465 Nm - up from the previous car's 450 Nm - and available in a broad band from under 1,700rpm all the way up to 5,550rpm. Add that to a lighter car - it has shed 55kg to 1,520kg - and the RS3 exhibits an exciting responsiveness.
Tap the gas pedal and it blasts off. The Audi Drive Select range of driving modes is new for this second-generation model and in Dynamic, the sport exhaust is louder and more aggressive. It spits and pops every chance it gets, with the accelerator automatically blipped during downshifts.
Also aurally entertaining is the unique thrum of the five-pot engine. With quattro all-wheel-drive, all that power is harnessed for maximum grip in fast corners, resulting in very neutral and confident handling.
The RS3's progressive steering provides good feedback; the initial input is sharp, but it smoothens out with more lock.
And although the RS3's suspension is fixed, it is well-tuned for a happy blend of handling and comfort. For a hot hatch with a relatively short wheelbase of 2,631mm, ride comfort is commendable.
Several timely additions to the second-generation RS3 have made it more comfortable too, such as the Audi MMI Navigation plus (there was no navi option previously) and the Bang & Olufsen sound system (from Bose).
The cabin's red accents are also tastefully applied - to the leather on the steering and doors, the seat belts and even the vent openings.
They highlight the RS3 Sportback's performance, which Audi has expanded to the point where this five-door hatchback has the power and handling of a focused sports car.
Yet, its everyday useability is maintained and the Sportback is easy to drive in the city. It goes to show how accessible the RS3 is.
Audi RS3 Sportback
Engine: 2,480cc inline-5 turbocharged
Gearbox: 7-speed S tronic dual clutch transmission
Max power: 367 hp @ 5,550-6,800 rpm
Max torque: 465 Nm @ 1,625-5,550 rpm
0-100 kmh: 4.3 secs
Top speed: 250 kmh
CO2 emissions: 194 g/km
Average OMV: S$57,000
Price: S$287,800 (with COE)
Distributor: Premium Automobiles
Tel: 6566 1111