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Audi RS3 (2011–2013)

Last updated 3 October 2016

A real blast to drive. Great performance and sound from five-cylinder chain cam 340PS engine, Immense grip and traction from quattro four-wheel drive. Forgiving ride.
No manual gearbox available. Not cheap at a few pounds shy of £40,000.
Updated 6 November 2014
Spanish built Audi Q3 RS upgraded:

RS Q3 flagship boosted to 340PS and available to order from January 2015 with deliveries from Spring 2015. Now gets from 0-60 in 4.6 seconds. Has the desirable chain cam 2.5 5-cylinder RS engine offering...

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Introduction

Audi’s high performance RS models have been a little hit and miss of late. There’s the thunderously quick but very expensive RS6, the refined and sophisticated RS5 and then the not quite as good as you’d hope it would be TT RS. So there are high hopes for the latest model in the line-up – the RS3, not least because it’s the most affordable RS model. It’s also very exclusive with just 750 right-hand drive versions confirmed for production.

That said at a few quid shy of £40,000 (£39,900 to be exact) it’s not exactly cheap, but given the performance, engine and equipment you get, that’s not a bad price in relation to similarly powered alternatives. The RS3 has a lot going for it - make no mistake, this is a lot more than simply a pumped up Volkswagen Golf R or Audi S3. For starters it’s fitted with Audi’s 2.5-litre five-cylinder turbocharged engine which is only otherwise found in the TT RS. This has a mighty 340PS in reserve which translates into a blistering 0-62mph time of 4.6 seconds.

The engine certainly has plenty of character about it and surprisingly sounds even better in the RS3 than it does in the TT RS. Press the Sport button on the dash and this opens a sound flap in the exhaust, intensifying that lovely deep note even further. Like all RS models it has quattro all-wheel drive so there are few worries about traction plus it means the RS3 can put all that power down cleanly without scrabbling for grip or feeling unruly at the front.

Unusually the RS3 only comes in five-door Sportback form, rather than the more traditionally sporty three-door hatch bodyshape, but thanks to the extras like the 19-inch alloy wheels (available in a particularly bling black with a red trim finish), rear spoiler and body kit, it still looks the part. There are changes inside too with leather sports seats and a flat bottomed steering wheel.

The sticking point for some enthusiasts may be the gearbox. Like the RS5 and RS6, the RS3 only comes with the S tronic  automatic transmission which although an impressive bit of kit, doesn’t give you the same sense of involvement as a manual ‘box. Audi says it has no plans to fit a standard gearbox, although it said the same about the TT RS and lo and behold six months after it was launched, a manual version was added to the range.  So hopefully it’s a case of good things coming to those who wait.

 

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