Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
The latest Audi RS3 uses the same basic 2.5-litre five-cylinder engine as its predecessors – and that’s great news because it’s an absolute cracker. Its maximum 394bhp isn’t quite a match for the Mercedes AMG A45 but it’s still a huge amount for a car of this size and delivers true performance car pace.
Indeed, the RS3 offers similar performance to the much more expensive Audi RS4 and BMW M3 and, in our tests, managed to hit 62mph in a staggering 3.8 seconds. Any driver could match this acceleration thanks to a standard launch control system that allows you to make the perfect getaway every time, plus a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox that takes care of shifts far quicker than you could hope to with a manual clutch and gearlever.
When you drive the RS3 at a moderate pace in Comfort mode, the steering is light and naturally weighted. The Dynamic setting adds a lot of unnecessary heft, which arrives in an artificial way as you turn into bends, so is best avoided. Either way, when you’re driving really hard along a road with lots of turns, you don’t get a huge amount of feedback streaming to your fingertips.
This certainly doesn’t rob you of any confidence, and the steering is always very accurate. It just means you don’t enjoy the final degree of reward you get from the best hot hatches, including the AMG A45.
The latest RS3 has better brakes than any of its predecessors, with long-lasting carbon ceramics available for track-day enthusiasts. These are very expensive, though, so they're only worth considering if you’re expecting to put your RS3 through some really punishing laps.
We’ve only tried the RS3 on adaptive suspension, which comes as standard on the range-topping Vorsprung and is optional on lesser versions. It delivers a remarkably composed ride in Comfort mode – in fact, the suspension is barely any less forgiving than in regular versions of the Audi A3.