When you're looking for a small, fun car, Audi tends to be the last name we think of. People including myself used to believe that Audis are a bit too anonymous and understeering bores. But to be fair, how many people will actually take their cars on track? With this mindset, the RS3 suddenly became a very appealing choice of car for me.
First impressions were absolutely brilliant. The car may look like any A3, with the exception of the larger 235/19 wheels, the twin oval pipes and the Quattro printing at the lower front grille. Yes, this doesn't catch the attention of everyone, but this means that when you drive through places like Oxford or Cambridge, people won't stone your car and you won't get any unwanted attention.
The interior was very solid as well. Sure, the interior may be as dark as the DC universe and the trim may look as if they were designed on Microsoft Paint with fixed shapes, but everything feels well-built and expensive, which it should considering it starts at £46000 with taxes. The supersport seats looked exciting and even with the fixed headrests they don't push your head forward and deform your neck. The virtual cockpit is as good as any other Audi. The highlight for me is the alcantara steering wheel. It allows your hand to get a good grip without turning it into a cutting board.
But you don't buy an RS3 for the interior. You buy it for the turbocharged 5 cylinder. Even with the new 2019 "Greta Thunberg" filters fitted, the startup noises will still give any car enthusiast a giant stiffy. The noise is simply beyond belief, a familiar V10 growl at any rpm and a naughty pop when you upshift. Even though it's just one turbo, peak torque comes in at just under 2000 rpm and the maximum power of 394 bhp doesn't stop until you reach 7000, which you will constantly try to hit because of the racket the engine makes. On the B-roads, I encountered several slow drivers, and the RS3 easily destroyed them. Within 3 seconds, I overtook 2 drivers who were going about 50 at once from the same speed. During the hour I had with the RS3, I constantly found myself giggling when I deliberately slowed down and floored it. It is also unbelievably smooth at high RPMs, and this is coming from somebody who has a straight six E39 528i and has driven a Lamborghini Huracan.
Moving onto the handling. Although Audi claims that the Quattro can direct 100% of the power to the rear, this will never happen unless your front wheels are off the tarmac, so don't expect any typical BMW behaviour. When I took the car onto some B-roads, there was no sign of any slip even when I hammered it mid corners, it just encourages you to push harder and faster until you understeer into a ditch at 100 miles an hour. Resist the urge to drive the car at anything above 8 tenths, the RS3 will absolutely obliterate everything.
If you do decide to drive the car sensibly, the car will happily oblige. The engine barely drones or barks like an attack dog when you overtake, tyre roll is barely present, wind noise is unbelievably low for something that is shaped like a brick. I even managed to get 28mpg for the second half of my drive. The magnetic suspension is also supple in comfort mode.
This car isn't perfect, however. Firstly, the price. When I optioned electric seats with the lumbar support, folding mirrors and the RS Sport pack which includes the exhaust and the magnetic suspension, the price reaches nearly £48,160 without tax. If I wish to have the sunroof option to brighten the interior, the car will be above £50K. For a car that costs this much, the first two options should've been standard. The RS sport pack does seem good value, but then you realise that the new sports exhaust doesn't sound much better than the normal exhaust, so you would want the magnetic ride only. But you can't, because it's only available as a package. Want the supersport seats only? Too bad it is only available with the Audi Sport edition trim, which pushes the price up to £48,290 without options nor tax. Want a reversing camera that looks like you're watching a video at 144p? You will need to pay £995 with useless crap like the comfort access and the not-entirely-essential B&O sound system. Want a 174 mph top speed? You'd have to be as mad as a Mexican's dog to tick the box. Another £1,600 for that. The DSG gearbox also lags a bit when you click the paddles and it sometimes shifts for you even in manual mode. Whoever made that decision deserves a place in hell considering how nice the engine sounds at high revs. Lastly, some of the ergonomics are a bit off. The mode switch is where the climate controls are, which means you will have to take your eyes off the road and reach for it. The only visible indication that you have changed modes is the little words that say "Dynamic" under the speedo. The paddles also feel a bit cheap and difficult to reach.
See the word "Comfort"? Took you a while, didn't it?
Conclusion? If you've got the money, take this over an A45S. If not, look for a second hand one, a 2019 one with around 12,000 miles can be yours for under £40k. Just look out for the cars with the smoking pack, as they may smell of carcinogens which explains the price. If you really want that higher top speed, just take it to a tuning company like DMS automotive to uncork it to something possibly higher for less, and pray that Audi doesn't find out and forfeits your warranty.
*I wish I were sponsored by Audi UK nor DMS automotive, but I'm not.