2018 Audi RS 3 Sedan Review
Alex Rae’s 2017 Audi RS 3 Sedan Review with pricing, specs, performance, ride and handling, infotainment, safety, verdict and score.
In a nutshell: Undiluted performance without much sacrifice for comfort.
2017 Audi RS 3 Sedan
Pricing From $84,900+ORC Warranty three years, unlimited kilometres Service Intervals 15,000kms/12 months Safety 5-star ANCAP rating Engine 2.5-litre five-cylinder turbocharged petrol Power/Torque 294kW/480Nm Transmission seven-speed dual-clutch automatic Drive all-wheel drive Dimensions 4466mm (L); 1796mm (W); 1392mm (H) Boot Space 315 litres Spare space saver Fuel Tank 55 litres Thirst From 8.2L/100km
ALMOST ONE THIRD of all Audi A3 hatch sales in Australia have been RS 3 models. We obviously have a thing for hot cars Down Under, and Audi knows it. In fact, it says it knows exactly the kind of person who will probably buy a car like this: “They’re 30-45 years, male, entrepreneurial, have a high income and the car is a symbol of their hard work and success. A high proportion are first time RS buyers and the RS 3 is the stepping stone into RS models.”
As far as stepping stones, it couldn’t get much better: 0-100km/h in about 4.0sec, all of the premium feeling bits inside that Audi is known for and the same Audi Group B rally-inspired 2.5-litre five-cylinder engine that lives in the more expensive TT RS. And all for under $100K – sounds like a pretty good deal, but can it live up to the task of cruising country roads and battling a race track? We found out just what it can do on the roads around Hobart and at Baskerville raceway.
You can read our international first drive of the Audi RS 3 HERE.
What do you get in the Audi RS 3 sedan?
The RS 3 is based on the A3 compact sedan but sits 25mm lower and has some special exterior styling parts to help differentiate it. This includes a high gloss black honeycomb grill upfront, fog lamps, black side mirrors and the word ‘Quattro’ cross the front lip. At the rear there’s a boot lip spoiler and rear diffuser, along with twin black exhaust pipes that help produce a wonderful five-cylinder soundtrack.
The base model is priced from $84,900 (+ORCs) and includes tuned sports suspension, 370mm front and 310mm rear brakes (ceramic cost-optional), RS sport seats with diamon leather stitching, alcantara D-shaped steering wheel, virtual cockpit and 7-inch infotainment with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Virtual cockpit also adds a special RS mode with information such as rev counter, tyre pressure, torque, g forces, boost pressure, oil metre and lap timer shown.
It’s pretty well kitted as standard, but the optional $7300 RS performance pack adds plenty. In that, the RS 3 receives Audi adjustable magnetic ride suspension dampers, 19-inch wheels with larger front-tyres (235/35 standard, 255/30 optional), Bang & Olufsen sound system and carbon fibre inlays inside.
Of course the show of the RS 3 sedan is its engine and trick quattro all-wheel drive system. The 2.5-litre engine is an updated version of the powerplant found in the RS 3 Sportback that’s 26kg lighter and 24kW/15Nm more powerful. It produces a total output of 294kW and 480Nm which knocks 0.2sec of the 0-100km/h time to 4.1sec. It also hits a top limited speed of 250km/h, or a top speed of 280km/h when delimited (optional). The car remains relatively frugal, however, sipping just 8.4L/100km.
The quattro drive system in the RS allows for up to 100 per cent of power to be delivered to the rear wheels, and is dynamically adjusted on the fly by computer.
What’s the interior of the Audi RS 3 Sedan like?
Despite a compact size the RS 3 affords a good amount of space inside and the quality of finishes is top-notch. Upfront the seats provide well bolstered and sporty support while the diamond stitched leather provides a touch of class. Manually controlled, the driver’s seat has a good range of adjustment, from high to low hip points, and it’s easy to get into a good driving position, even for a taller driver like me.
The steering wheel has a good shape and feels nice in the hands and the Alcantara sides hint at the RS 3’s performance bent. As only a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic is available, there’s also steering wheel mounted paddle shifters on the wheel. Behind that is Audi’s 12.3-inch virtual cockpit, fitted as standard on all models.
In between the front seats are two cup holders and they did well accomodating take away coffee cups and 600ml water bottles, although not all at the same time. There’s enough storage space for wallets and mobiles in the centre console bin and all windows feature one touch up and down operation.
Both front seats provide ample room for two adults – my six-foot frame seated with plenty of headroom and foot space – however the rear space is similar to that of the hatchback and is better suited for small kids or low distance trips with larger passengers. Nevertheless the rear seats are comfortable and continue the premium appearance of the front pair.
Around back the boot suffers a little and is only 315 litres large, although it can be extended to 717 litres by folding the 60:40 split fold seats down.
What’s the Audi RS 3 Sedan’s infotainment like?
A seven-inch centrally mounted infotainment screen pops up from the dash so it can be put out of view, and is perhaps beginning to feel a little small (which sounds crazy, right) amongst the common 8-inch-and-larger screens at the premium end of the market.
The display itself is crisp and glossy without much glare, and Audi’s implementation of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto works very well. Input is either via a rotary dial and buttons or the directly on touch-sensitive screen, which works better when using CarPlay.
Audi’s infotainment software is based on ‘Audi connect’ which provides access to navigation using Google Earth and Google Street View, or alternatively, it allows for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity via one of the two USB ports in the centre console compartment. Apple CarPlay connects flawlessly and there were no issues during our test.
What’s the Audi RS 3 sedan like to drive?
Around the suburbs of Hobart the RS 3 gave a firm ride but there was a some relief offered with the adaptive suspension dampers in Comfort mode. Without the optional dampers, the ride was still livable and the feel around traffic was similar to that of the Audi S3 sedan.
The engine has more than enough grunt for driving around town, but the dual-clutch can be a touch slow to engage fully when you need it at low speed. A common trait amongst its peers, but nonetheless annoying when crawling traffic.
Out of the city the RS 3 sharpens up, and brutally so in Dynamic mode. We found Auto mode provided the best compromise of giving throaty five-cylinder growl and sharp handling when required, but wasn’t tiringly jarring on some of the lesser quality surfaces we encountered. Sound insulation was good.
Suspension in both cars (standard and adaptive) provides minimal body-roll and the all-wheel drive is excellent, allowing the driver to get on with the job and squeeze every little bit of performance from the thing with absolute confidence. Like all all-wheel drive set-ups, understeer will creep in when you’re at the thing’s limits (and more so when running the narrower tyres 235mm vs 255mm) and that’s safer than the rear-end suddenly snapping sideways on you. A lift off the throttle is all it takes to get the snout pointing back at the corner.
The five-cylinder turbo is a tremendously powerful engine and on the public roads it’s not possible to appreciate its full potential. The sound however was terrific. With the bi-modal exhaust fully opened, there’s a howl of off-beat crackle and pops to get you grinning. But fortunately for our right foot, we were lucky enough to move on to Baskerville raceway where we could enjoy the car’s full potential.
Baskerville offers a smooth surface with plenty of technical turns and gradient changes. Some of the corners are tricky and require some patience to get right, but the quattro all-wheel drive is somewhat forgiving in moving torque effectively to minimise understeer and oversteer. Without pressing too hard, the RS 3 shifts its weight well between connecting corners and there’s minimal body roll even when pushing hard.
The engine offers a wide range of power, and acceleration out of corners can be brutal when in the right gear. Needing to shift mid-corner though can result in some slight hesitation from the gearbox but around the track it was general sharp and rapid to select gears.
Along with impressive power are good brakes. They provided continuous sharp bite and good pedal feel despite a long day, but can be upgraded to even larger ceramic units.
What about the Audi RS 3 sedan’s safety features?
The RS 3 has been awarded a 5-star ANCAP rating. It comes with a raft of safety features as standard such as AEB, lane keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, cross traffic alert, front and rear parking sensors and reverse camera. The lane keeping assist and adaptive cruise is quite sophisticated and perform accurately. While approaching a low level of autonomy, the lane keeping assist does look for driver input after 40 seconds and sound a warning if none is detected.
So, what do we think about the Audi RS 3 sedan?
Audi knows it has a good thing with the RS 3 Sportback and the sedan is only going to push sales of its RS models higher. For the money, the RS 3 sedan offers some of the best performance below $100,000 but it doesn’t sacrifice comfort or safety. Audi is right that this is the stepping stone into its RS range, but there’s no reason to want to step higher.