401bhp Audi RS3 Performance Edition revealed

Audi Sport’s limited-run specials continue, this time based on the excellent RS3

This is Audi’s new limited edition version of the RS3 Sportback and Saloon. Called the RS3 Performance Edition, it might look similar to the standard car, but it packs a bigger punch with small changes to the powertrain and chassis. Audi will only build 300 units globally, split between Sportback and saloon body styles, but unfortunately none will make their way over to the UK. 

Audi UK has cited production constraints as the main reason for not offering its RS3 Performance here, yet RS3 has already proven to be such a hit for the brand that its waiting list is already two years.

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Still, we can’t help but peer across the channel in envy, where we’ll find changes that start under the bonnet. Audi’s given the existing 2.5-litre in-line five cylinder engine the subtlest of upgrades by turning up boost pressure of the turbo by 0.1bar, now peaking at 1.6. This yields a small lift in power, rising 7bhp from 394bhp to 401bhp, peaking between 5700 and 7000rpm – 100rpm narrower than the base car. Torque is unchanged at 369lb ft, plateauing between 2250 and 5700rpm, and together make the RS3 Performance Audi’s most powerful five-cylinder model production car yet.

Audi’s also fiddled with the exhaust, fitting a new centre-box to the system that releases slightly more noise under partial or full loads, plus the RS-typical rounded exhaust outlets are now painted in gloss black. 

Audi quotes no change to the RS3’s acceleration time at 3.8sec to 62mph, but the top speed is now rated at 186mph (or 300km/h) which is 6mph up on the standard car when fitted with the optional RS Driver’s Package. 

Power’s sent via a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission to all four wheels, including the RS3’s torque-vectoring rear differential. The diff is able to fully modulate all its available torque (a maximum of 50 per cent of the total engine output) left and right, and has different mapping depending on the RS3’s chosen driver mode – whether that be a benign setting in Comfort mode, all the way to purposely over-driving the outside rear wheel in Torque Rear model. 

Performance Edition models come as standard with the usually optional adaptive dampers, which operate in three different selectable modes from Comfort, Normal and Sport. These work in conjunction with the standard RS3’s aggressive front suspension geometry which is a MacPherson strut design at the front with RS3-specific pivot bearings that have allowed engineers to dial in just under one degree more negative camber than standard A3 and S3 models. The rear end has a multi-link setup. There are no mechanically adjustable coilovers as have proven to be popular on recent Audi Sport specials like the RS4 Competition.

The standard wheels are a new design of 19-inch cast alloys, behind which sit a pair of 380mm carbon ceramic brakes on the front axle gripped by six-piston calipers, that on their own reduce the unsprung weight by a 10kg. Standard 310mm steel discs with a single-piston caliper remain at the rear, and all four calipers are painted blue. The Performance Edition also includes the standard fitment of Pirelli Trofeo R tyres, which come in the same unusual reverse-staggered sizes of 265-section front and 245-section rears. These tyres are available on non-UK specification RS3s, but are another element the UK doesn’t offer.  

Inside, Audi’s replaced the standard sports seats for a new set of carbonfibre-backed bucket seats that have already been seen on the new RS4 Competition and RSQ3 10 Years Edition. These are upholstered in a Dinamica fabric that’s also used on the door cards and steering wheel. All of the interior highlights are now finished in a blue stitch, matching the painted brake calipers. 

The RS3 Performance Edition is available in a limited range of colours including Arrow Grey, Daytona Grey, black and white, with the iconic Nogaro blue also making a comeback. This, combined with the new wheels and standard black badging all combine to create a marginally more aggressive aesthetic than normal, one you’ll need to concentrate on to notice.

The RS3 Performance Edition will be priced from €75,000 for the Sportback and €77,000 for the saloon – a €12,000-or-so premium in Germany.

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