2022 Audi RS 3 Sedan - Review by David Colman +VIDEO
Porsche performance at peanut pricing
Special Correspondent to THE AUTO CHANNEL
This is unquestionably the fastest car I have driven in the last ten years. And yet, despite the fact that it will top 180mph, spring from zero to sixty in 3 seconds, and dispense with the quarter mile in 11.8 seconds at 117mph, the RS 3 is so prosaic looking it could fly under the radar. Prosaic that is, if you dress it in something subtler than the screaming shade of Turbo Blue that graced our test car. But don't get me wrong, I think that the no-extra-charge Turbo Blue paint suits this outrageous Audi perfectly. Besides it looked just great parked next to my Turbo Blue Recycling can.
So how does the milquetoast A3 Audi mature into an RS 3? The lionization process begins under the hydraulic prop supported lightweight hood, where elves from Germany's Black Forest have tossed the A3's 201hp 2.0 liter 4 cylinder turbo motor and replaced it with a mega blaster tracing back to Audi's storied past. In the early 1980s, Audi wedged an inline 5-cylinder powerplant under the hood of their new Audi coupe. The Quattro (all-wheel-drive) coupe went on to become a world beating rally car for more than a decade. Audi's current development program for the RS 3 still depends on quattro for wheel traction. Only now, the turbocharged and intercooled straight 5 produces 401hp and 369lb.-ft. of torque. These are astronomical numbers considering this engine displaces just 2480cc (151 cubic inches). It's even relatively efficient from a fuel mileage standpoint, returning an overall economy rating of 23MPG.
Of course, achieving that fuel efficiency presumes your right foot will hover gently over the aluminum-faced throttle pedal. For me, this was an act of restraint too tempting to observe. I often found myself burying the throttle at the least provocation, just so I could watch the hockey stick-shaped tachometer explode to redline, and hear the ferocious burble of the "RS Sport Exhaust System with Black Tips" (a $1,000 optional indulgence).
Learning to shift the Audi takes a kind of secret handshake that is not clearly explained in the Owner's Manual. For example, it took a bit of reading, a bit of logic, and a dash of intuition before I finally figured out how to slot the RS 3's 7 speed "S tronic" transmission into full manual mode. Most hi-performance gearboxes have a manual mode button, but not this Audi. It presents you with an undersized flick-stick that looks like a light switch. If you flick this protuberance back into Drive, and then flick it back a second time, you will achieve the nirvana called full manual mode. When you reach redline, you must remember to upshift manually with the alloy shift paddle, because the RS will not upshift without instruction from you.
Beautiful is the fit and finish of the diminutive five-door. All four seats are done in hexagonally quilted Nappa leather with honeycomb stitching. At night the interior becomes a dramatically lit stage production. Thin illuminated light bars denote the door cards and the dashboard. Best of all, when you open the driver's door in the dark, ditch lights project the "RS" logo in white and red onto the pavement.
An easy-to-modulate HVAC control panel graces the center of the dash. Our test Audi was fitted with the $2,750 "RS technology package" which provides a navigation system and a stellar "Bang & Olufsen sound system with 3D sound." Another outlay of $750 seemed well justified for a set of 19-inch "Y-spoke design wheels" finished in matte black. These understated rims looked great against the flashy Turbo Blue exterior. Better yet, they were shod with summer-only (TW 200) staggered Pirelli P Zero PZ4 radials (245/35ZR19 front; 265/30ZR19 rear). Note that "ZR" rated tires are good for speeds "above 149mph" and these Pirellis are not only top speed rated for the 180mph RS 3, but also leach-like in their grip on canyon roads.
So the $64,000 question is : "Why spend $64,845 for an RS 3 when a basic A3 carries a base price of just $34,800?" The answer is that the RS 3 is the deal of the decade: Porsche performance at peanut pricing.
2022 AUDI RS 3 SEDAN
• ENGINE: 2.5 liter inline 5, turbocharged and intercooled, aluminum block and head, port and direct fuel injection
• HORSEPOWER: 401hp@6500rpm
• TORQUE: 369lb.-ft.@3500rpm
• FUEL CONSUMPTION: 20 MPG City/29MPG Highway
• PRICE AS TESTED: $64,845
HYPES: Looks like a Welterweight, Punches Like a Heavyweight
GRIPES: Sluggish Off the Line in Drive: use launch control
STAR RATING: 10 Stars out of 10