First it was the look that bright Kyalami paint, then the smell of the Nappa leather upholstery as I opened the door of the Audi RS 3 and finally the sensation of the fine leather with honeycomb pattern stitching on my skin when I sat down. All of this and more made the Sportback feel like a baby Lamborghini Urus and from that moment on my family referred to the RS 3 as ‘Baby Urus’.
It’s not that much of a stretch in reality either with both the Urus and RS 3 coming from the Volkswagen Group family, with plenty of performance running through their pipes. The optional Carbon package limited ($6,100) with a carbon roof spoiler, carbon inlays in the side skirts, carbon around the side mirrors and the black styling package added to the aggressive look of this RS 3. The look matched with ability and the RS 3 Sportback will despatch with the 0-100km/h time in a claimed 3.8 seconds and has a potential top speed of 290km/h. Overall, driving the RS 3 felt less tinny than other performance hot hatches I have experienced.
This acceleration and speed are possible thanks to the legendary five-cylinder powerplant mounted east-west under the bonnet combined with Audi’s proven Quattro all-wheel drive system and a 7-speed S tronic transmission, which is a dual clutch, direct-shift gearbox (DSG). The 2.5 litre, 5-cylinder, turbocharged petrol engine produces a maximum of 294kW of power between 5,600 – 7,000rpm and a maximum of 500Nm of torque through a wide rev range between 2,250-5,600rpm. I could perceive this when I put my foot down in the RS 3 as there was just the slightest amount of delay before the power really kicked in and pushed me back into the seat. My fondness of doing this repeatedly meant I did use more the official 8.3L/100km of 98RON fuel and for my week I averaged 11.9L/100km.
There are multiple drive modes to select from in the RS 3 Sportback, four are standard and two are configurable. The standard modes are Efficiency, Comfort, Auto and Dynamic and these do what is says on the box, Comfort mode is comfortable and Dynamic mode does make the RS 3 ride firmer, but it is not bone jarring. The real fun comes when you engage either RS Individual or RS Performance modes and I can only imagine what happens when you activate RS Torque rear to switch ESC off, because this is only for use on a race track.
RS Performance mode allows you to configure the Suspension between Comfortable or Dynamic, the Steering between Comfortable, Balanced or Dynamic, and ESC is either On or Dynamic. In RS Individual mode you can select between Comfortable, Balanced and Dynamic for the RS Torque Splitter, Drive System, Suspension and Steering. The Engine Sound can be set to Subdued, Automatic or Pronounced and the ESC can be set to On or Dynamic.
I found myself pressing the RS button on the steering wheel many times, which gives you quick access to both RS drive modes. My go to preference was RS Individual mode with everything in the most dynamic settings. Here the RS 3 felt most alive underneath me and I could really feel how the tyres were communicating with the road surface through the seat of my pants. The exhaust note is the element that of the RS 3 differs most greatly from the Urus. Even in the loudest setting there is only of soft burble on start-up and when aggressively ‘manually’ upshifting and downshifting through the DSG there are no theatrics from the two large oval exhaust pipes. I described the exhaust as ‘animated, but not animal’ in my notes on the RS 3.
When you select either of RS drive modes the 12.3” virtual cockpit plus transforms into something more like a race car dash with the taco represented by two parallel lines in the centre of the screen that light up towards you as your right foot presses more firmly towards the firewall. These act like shift lights with the colour changing from green to orange, and eventually flashing red before you get to the 7,000rpm redline that is available once the RS 3 is warmed up. On completion of my driving session in the RS 3, the Sportback signed off with the signature ‘Audi Heartbeat’, accurately reflecting the my own heart.
Step over the RS puddle light and illuminated door sill and the race car ambiance continues in the cabin with the snug fitting RS sport front seats in black Nappa leather with Micrommata green contrast stitching, RS embossing and in this Sportback the optional ($2,150) RS design package in green. This package adds a black Alcantara steering wheel with contrasting stitching that looks sporty and is lovely to hold. I particularly liked the metal wheel-mounted paddle shifters for their robustness and coolness on my fingertips. The RS design package also includes the green edge on the seat belts, seat shoulders in Dinamica also coloured Micrommata green, floor mats with the RS logo and the Micromatta green centre bar on the front air vents. All this bright green really added to the Urus feel of the RS 3 interior.
Both front seats are heated and have power adjustment for recline, forward/back, seat height front and rear and 2-way lumbar support, with manual front leg extension. The driver’s seat also gets two memory positions to save your perfect setup. Currently the 4-way lumbar support for both the driver and passenger is unavailable due to global component shortages.
I liked the dash design, ambient lighting and the graphics used on the 10.1” central touchscreen, particularly the RS monitor pages with the graphic showing maximum G meter values. The only problem with the screen was it showed very bad finger marks, as does the gloss black surround around the metal gear selector on the centre console. You can use voice control to access the infotainment system by pressing the button on the steering wheel with the feminine looking silhouette on it. The voice control worked well for me for making a phone call and setting a destination on the sat nav, but it was a bit hit and miss for changing the radio station.
The Bang & Olufsen 3D premium sound system is another highlight with media sources from AM radio, DAB/FM, Bluetooth, USB device or external device. I noted that the DAB/FM reception was better in areas where it would normally drop out for me in other vehicles.
Cabin storage is plentiful in the RS 3 with good sized drink bottle storage in both the front and rear door cubbies. The cup holder storage in centre console is adjustable and there is a wireless key charger in the base and a removable rubber mat for easy cleaning. Next to the cup holders there is one 12V outlet and at the front of the centre console is a cubby for your phone with wireless charging for compatible devices. This pad also links your smartphone to wireless Apple CarPlay, but Android Auto has wired connection with two USB-C ports located in the front cubby. One thing I did notice though was due to the size of my phone it was difficult to plug the cord in and keep the phone sitting flat in the cubby.
Smart keyless entry is available on all four doors, something your children may appreciate when they need to get out of the rain quickly. The RS 3 has two ISOFIX/three rear tether child seat restraint points, but only enough room for two car seats due to the vehicle width. The rears seats have adequate head and leg room for me, but taller individuals may find it a bit tight. The centre seat folds down as an arm rest with two broad, shallow cup holders in it and even though these have grippy sides I think tall drink bottles may fall over easily out of these? Rear passengers get two central rear air vents with individual open close and direction controls. There are mats on the rear floor, but no mat over the transmission tunnel so this carpet may wear over time from children stepping over it.
The RS 3 Sportback has a powered tailgate with handsfree gesture open and close that worked well for me. You can also open/close from the button on the tailgate and in the cabin and open only from the key fob. The boot is a good size and will fit a weekly shop or a stroller and a smaller shop. Or if more space is required the rear seats have a 40:20:40 split fold mechanism with the release located on the shoulder of each seat. There are four substantial tie down points in the boot for the cargo net, two hooks, two lights and a 12V outlet. Under the boot floor you will find the tyre repair kit.
Passive safety includes seven airbags, with front airbags for driver and passenger, side airbags for front seats, centre airbag, head level curtain airbag for front and rear. The RS 3 currently only comes with standard rear view reversing camera due to global component shortages. You also get front and rear parking sensors, auto lights, auto high beam and auto wipers. Only two-wheel drive variants of the Audi A3 model range have a 5-star ANCAP (2021) safety rating, all-wheel drive variants including the RS 3, are unrated.
Active safety includes Audi’s pre-sense city and pre-sense basic, with front with Autonomous Emergency Braking and provides collision mitigation up to 85 km/h (pedestrians and cyclists) and up to 250 km/h (vehicles). Plus, lane departure warning and blind spot monitoring that alerts you with a flashing light on the inside of the side mirrors. The RS 3 also has adaptive cruise control set using the older style stalk that is behind the steering wheel rather than buttons on the steering wheel.
All new Audi vehicles sold come with a 5 years/unlimited kilometres manufacturer warranty. The service interval for the RS 3 is one year or 15,000kms, whichever occurs first, and you can purchase a five-year service plan upfront for the RS 3 currently for $3,580.
The Audi RS 3 Sportback is a hugely impressive small car that channels its big cousin, the Lamborghini Urus, and it is by far my favourite Audi driven to date. Prices start at $91,391 excluding dealer delivery and on-road costs and the Kyalami green paint is a no cost option. As tested with the two optional packages this RS 3 was $98,224 excluding the above costs. You can shop for an Audi RS 3 Sportback online or visit your preferred Audi dealer for more information.
|The driving experience||Exhaust note is a little subdued|
|The Nappa leather seats||Older style adaptive cruise control stalk|
|The metal wheel-mounted paddle shifters||Infotainment screen gets bad finger marks on it|
Photographs by Driven Women Magazine.