The Mercedes-AMG A45 S has barely had six months to assert its new-found dominance at the top of the hot hatchback ladder, but Audi Sport doesn’t look to be giving an inch with an all-new version of its RS3 Sportback (and saloon) that will be arriving far more promptly than its two predecessors.
We’ve already seen prototypes of the new RS3 in both hatchback and saloon guises, but this is the first time we’ve seen it with what looks to be production-specification bodywork, rather than the crude over-fenders and cut-out rear diffuser hiding the typically oval exhaust pipes of previous prototypes.
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The hatch, seen here at a familiar German racetrack, is clearly sporting a dramatically widened set of front wheelarches that build on the already flared units on the standard A3. So much so in fact that designers have decided to open up a slip vent behind the front wheel – whether this is a functional vent, or a way to avoid the need for a new door pressing to meet the wheelarches’ new geometry is anyone’s guess at this stage. Either way, the effect is certainly aggressive, and paired to the gaping intakes flanking the A3’s low-set grille and boxed sill flares, the new RS3 should be no less aggressive than its bigger, even more caricature RS6 sibling.
The rear bumper also looks more complete than on previously spotted prototypes, and includes the trademark oval exhaust outlets and faux rear diffuser section. The rear spoiler is bigger than has been previously seen on the new A3, while the eagle-eyed among you might also have glimpsed a set of carbon-ceramic brakes on the front axle – an option that was also available on the previous version.
Audi’s recent work getting its charismatic R5 2.5-litre turbocharged five-cylinder past the most recent set of European emissions regulations should also pay dividends on this new RS3, where it will match, if not overtake, the previous RS3’s 394bhp peak power figure. It’s unknown at this stage whether Audi Sport will go after the A45 S’s 416bhp peak power figure, but we can assure you 394bhp is plenty. Connected to the five-pot will be the usual seven-speed dual-clutch transmission and Haldex-style all-wheel-drive system.
What’s less certain is whether Audi Sport will fit the new RS3 with any clever active differential systems like those found on the latest A45 S, or if it’ll include any mild-hybrid assistance to subtly augment the petrol engine for the sake of efficiency.
Of course, if there was one element of the previous RS3 that didn’t need any more substance it was the powertrain, but a little more subtlety and precision in the chassis wouldn’t go amiss in what was always a bit of a clumsy hot hatchback to drive. The AMG A45’s supple, involving and enjoyable chassis only adds further pressure for the folk at Audi Sport, who considering this is the third generation of RS3, have now had plenty of time to get it right