Audi has unveiled an all-new RS3 saloon boasting 394bhp from a 2.5-litre five-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine.
It means the BMW 2-series rival matches the recently launched TT RS for power and, with the help of Audi's quattro four-wheel-drive system, will be nipping at the heels of far faster and more expensive machinery. If you're yet to read it, have a look at our review of the current-gen TT RS, which will give you an idea of how the new five-cylinder performs.
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Audi claims 354lb ft of torque for the RS3 saloon and a 0-62mph time of 4.1 seconds – quick enough to put it alongside the BMW M3. Top speed is limited to 155mph, although Audi can remove the electronic limiter, upping that figure to 174mph.
Audi will offer the RS3 saloon optional RS Sport Suspension Plus, which uses adaptive dampers. The characteristics of the S-tronic seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox, engine response, steering and exhaust note can also be altered through three modes – Comfort, Auto and Dynamic – using Audi's familiar Drive Select function. The digital 'Virtual Cockpit' instrument binnacle from the R8 and TT, complete with its special RS rev counter and information display, will feature, too.
Compared to the standard A3, the RS3 is lowered by 25mm. It also has enormous 370mm front brake discs with eight-piston calipers. Carbon-ceramic discs can be specified at the front of the car. As standard, it rides on 19-inch wheels with 235/35 tyres – 255/30 tyres will be an option at the front, however.
To make the most of all that rubber, the front track of the RS3 saloon is 20 millimetres wider than that of the standard A3 at the front and 14 millimetres wider at the rear.
The RS3 will also act as the basis for an RS3 LMS touring car that will compete in the TCR racing series. With its engine detuned to deliver 325bhp, in line with series regulations, and a six-speed sequential gearbox, the RS3 LMS sprints to 62mph in around 4.5 seconds and has a top speed capped at 150mph. The car is intended to be an entry in the world of Audi Sport customer racing, and as such has a relatively modest price tag of 129,000 euros plus VAT. Deliveries will start in December.
‘The TCR market has even larger potential than that of the GT3 category,’ says Chris Reinke, head of Audi Sport customer racing.
‘In 2016, there were ten TCR series with races in 18 countries, and more and more series are being added. With the TCR version of the RS3 we’re also reaching countries where no GT3 races are held. The costs for a TCR race car are very low. In terms of support and parts supply, [customers will] benefit from the experiences we’ve been gathering with the Audi R8 LMS since 2009.’