Audi RS3 driven

* 335bhp hot A3 reviewed * On sale in June, just 500 will be made * Car costs nearly £40,000...

Audi RS3 driven

Audi isn't short of performance models in its line-up, but this RS3 adds a new element a five-door performance hatch.

The car is powered by the same engine as the Audi TT RS, a turbocharged 2.5-litre, five-cylinder petrol engine good for 335bhp. This is linked to a seven-speed dual-clutch S tronic gearbox.

To cope with this performance, the car is lowered, has more width between the front wheels, anti-roll bars and reworked spring and damper settings. The steering has also been made more direct.

Styling changes from the Audi S3 include a deeper front bumper, more aggressive rear bumper, wider front wings, more substantial sills, a larger rear spoiler and imposing 19-inch wheels.

The net result is a highly desirable car. On our brief test drive in the snowy Canadian mountains it was clear the RS3 handles brilliantly, inspiring confidence and proving easy to place precisely on the road. Whats more, ride on the ice-ravaged asphalt roads was still acceptable, which was quite an achievement given the cars sporty brief.

The engine is the high point, though. It sounds great and pulls almost effortlessly thanks to 332lb ft of torque from low down the rev range. If you want to push, the RS will cover 0-62mph in just 4.6sec.

The torque also means it is as friendly a touring companion as it is thrill-a-minute drive. Gearshifts are seamless and refinement extremely good: wind- and road noise are subdued, and the engine is very quiet at low revs. It neednt break the bank to run, either Audi claims it does an average of 31.0mpg.

The Audi RS3 is available to order now for £39,900, with deliveries beginning in June. Just 500 cars will be built.