This is where the Audi gets a little bit more outrageous. From that 2.5-litre five cylinder the RS3 is drawing 400PS (294kW) and 500Nm (369lb ft). It’s turbocharged, which sends those figures slightly up the rev range, you can hunt out peak power over 5,600rpm and peak torque will kick in at 2,250.
The gearbox is a seven-speed DSG and sends power through a central differential into that complicated quattro torque-vectoring system. In simple terms this doesn’t bother with an old-fashioned rear diff, instead putting a clutch pack on each side of the rear axle. The RS3’s big brain can then decide how much power to send through each wheel at any given time when it works out which one can use it best.
Jump in and drive around town and you’ll barely notice that the RS3 is even on. It’s so A3 when in comfort mode it’s almost laughable that this is a £60,000 car. But summon up all that the five-cylinder can do and you’ll quickly get a reminder. That warble is amplified into the cabin, but louder outside. If anything Audi could have done more to bring it in because it’s a spectacular tone, all forest rally stage-ey and warm. Then, when you get above 2,250rpm, that 500Nm makes its presence known. The thump in the back isn’t done until you’re past 5,000rpm because that’s when it really kicks in. To extract maximum from the RS3 you need to use the paddles, tell that S-Tronic system that it has to sit in a higher gear until you’re done with the torque.
The connection to the road is perhaps where the RS3 loses some marks. From a proper masterpiece of an engine you move onto an incredibly complicated transmission which hugs the tarmac on a fast run like a kitten looking for its mum. But the communication between you and that is lacking, the steering doesn’t give you anything to work with other than the odd tug and the paddles are typically limp.
However the way the RS3 does cling to the road is impressive. It will hurl itself down a more open piece of road like air resistance just isn’t a thing. High speed where that quattro system just works, hunting out the grip to bring everything together. The engine sings as you fly on and as a package it’s hard to find fault.
Come to something slower and it’s perhaps not quite so rosy. That torque vectoring system seems to decide it needs to do more work in a tighter environment. The caveat is that the work it is doing is good, in the middle of a slow corner you will find grip magically appearing on the outside wheel as it sloshes all of that push to one side. However if you’ve set yourself to approach that corner one way and the car then changes the conditions, it can knock your confidence a little. It’s a car that takes two or three days to master, just adding that extra awareness to change into your arsenal.