This was the car I wasn’t supposed to review. It was just straight bonus.
The Audi RS3 hatchback.
The forbidden fruit of the forbidden fruit we sampled on our most recent European excursion. Why this isn’t in Canadian showrooms right now is a tragedy of supply, demand and business cases bitch-slapping us like the invisible hand of denial.
But we drove it. And we can’t get it out of our heads.
Based on the same MQB architecture underpinning the A3 and shared by such Autos.ca favourites as the VW Golf, GTI and Audi TT, the RS3 is the most aggressive example we’ve driven yet. The weather was perfect when we set out from our little resort on the shores of Austria’s Worthersee: warm and rainy. Perfect for demonstrating the range of Audi’s Quattro all-wheel-drive system when tuned for maximum attack by Audi’s RS division.
The RS3’s pulsating heart is a familiar one, the turbo inline-five-cylinder from the previous generation TT RS and Europe-only RS Q3, and an engine that can trace its lineage back to the original Quattro Coupes and rally cars of legend. Here we see 2.5L of displacement, direct fuel injection and a single turbocharger boosting the plant all to smithereens, earning this fast-five 367 hp from 5,500 to 6,800 rpm and 343 lb-ft of torque almost straight off the deck at 1,625 rpm. It braps and it blats with the best of them, the sideways five just big enough to give a deeper bellow, but still small and punchy, somehow coarse and silky at the same time, or at least that coarseness perfected into an art form. But it doesn’t just make noises. Turns out it helps the car go, too.
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Audi’s official estimate to 100 km/h is 4.3 seconds, served up courtesy of the seven-speed dual-clutch S Tronic transmission and a version of Quattro all-wheel drive that can send fully all of its power to the rear wheels if necessary. While wet roads meant we couldn’t replicate that type of launch, it surely satisfied our hungry right foot. We had only a short time in the vehicle, and few standing starts, but where the RS3 showed its mettle was on repeated bursts of acceleration from dawdling highway speeds to impound speeds here in North America. A series of tunnels en route from Austria back to Munich also served to highlight the glorious noises of berserker downshifts and cackling (from the driver and engine) bursts of acceleration.
The speed isn’t all by virtue of outright power and traction, as the 1,520-kg current generation shed 55 kilos over its predecessor, thanks in no small part to the partial-aluminum MQB architecture, which also lends greater strength to the frame, allowing greater precision in the application of suspension fixings. Front MacPherson struts are paired with high-strength aluminum pivot bearings and progressive steering that tightens the ratio from 15.3:1 to 10.9:1 when pressing on in full-boogie mode.