Competes with: BMW M2, Mercedes-AMG CLA45
Looks like: A sleeper of a compact sports sedan
Drivetrain: 400-horsepower, turbocharged 2.5-liter five-cylinder with seven-speed, dual-
clutch automatic transmission; all-wheel drive
Hits dealerships: Summer 2017 for the 2018s
Another Audi RS model is coming stateside, but it’s not the six-figure RS 7 or the TT sports car. Instead, the German automaker plans to bring a high-performance version of its compact A3/S3 sedan to the U.S. over the next few months. It’s the 400-horsepower RS 3, a car that will debut at the 2017 New York International Auto Show and go on sale for the 2018 model year this summer, with a small number of 2017s available before that.
The 2017 RS 3 starts at $55,450 for the 2017 model — a mere $11,600 more than the 2017 S3 — but it may be hard to find any cars at that price, as Audi says it will offer only “a limited number” of 2017 RS 3s with a bevy of optional equipment. The 2018 RS 3, meanwhile, hits dealers this summer with a starting price of $55,875.
The RS 3’s six-sided grille has a honeycomb pattern instead of the S3’s slatted design, but the easiest way to tell the RS 3 apart is below it, where the RS’ bumper openings have gloss-black framework instead of the body-colored details on the A3 and S3. The visual effect makes for a continuous, thin opening on the RS 3 that spans the nose and fans out into taller portals below the headlights — interesting in the details, but more mild than wild. In back, the RS 3 ditches the S3’s quad tailpipes for dual pipes, but they’re beefy like the RS 7’s. The RS 3’s silver wheels measure 19 inches and wear high-performance summer tires.
The RS 3 has standard sport seats — they’re optional on the S3 — with elaborate, quilt-stitched sections that fan out at the shoulders. Other areas have aluminum or carbon-fiber inlays. RS badging adorns the seats, door sills and flat-bottom steering wheel. Nappa leather upholstery, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, with Audi’s Virtual Cockpit 12.3-inch digital instrument panel and Bang & Olufsen audio optional. The gauges can show specific horsepower and torque output, as well as a G-meter.
Under the Hood
A performance sleeper, the RS 3 is not. The sedan boasts a turbocharged 2.5-liter five-cylinder with port and direct injection that’s good for 400 horsepower and 354 pounds-feet of torque, up 108 hp and 74 pounds-feet versus the S3’s turbo four-cylinder. The engine drives all four wheels through a seven-speed, dual-clutch automatic transmission with a launch control program for maximum acceleration. Indeed, Audi says the RS 3 can hit 60 mph in a scant 3.9 seconds — considerably less than the S3’s already-quick 4.7 seconds. It’s also a couple of ticks ahead of manufacturer-estimated times for the RS 3’s most direct competitor: the Mercedes-AMG CLA45.
The RS 3’s all-wheel drive has no default bias, but Audi says it’s programmed to send as much power to the rear wheels as possible. Various driver-selectable modes can alter steering and drivetrain settings as well as stiffness for the optional adaptive shock absorbers. The electronic stability system has a sport mode with reduced intervention, and high-performance, carbon-ceramic disc brakes for the front wheels are optional.