Audi’s new Sport RS3 Sedan: a snarling sprinter with family values

In dim light the new RS3 could just about pass for a staid, monotonous suburban four-door saloon – but look closely at the twin-exhaust pipes, and you are offered a clue this is something a bit quicker

PUBLISHED : Friday, 15 September, 2017, 4:03pm
UPDATED : Friday, 15 September, 2017, 9:41pm

During the first world war the British invented what they hoped would be a wonder weapon that would send Jerry the German packing.

(The French, incidentally, weren’t far behind with a superior machine made by a company called ... Renault.)

The radical weapon in question was in fact a vehicle, and a cunning plan was needed to stop German spies discovering any information about it.

So to throw the Germans off the scent, the British pretended they were developing, not a vehicle, but water-storage equipment – and accordingly called their invention a “tank”.

And this is relevant because? ... Audi – finally, the Germans make it to the party – have, however inadvertently, come up with just such a ruse to camouflage your basic boy-racer instinct.

A ruse that will keep the household peace while giving you your kicks on Route 66, 67, 68, the M1, the North Lantau Highway down to Chek Lap Kok and the autobahn.

When She Who Must Be Obeyed (or He Who Must, depending on your domestic arrangements) decrees it’s time for a new, respectable, reliable and safe saloon for all the family, you the driver now has the perfect response. Your response is to go out and buy the Audi Sport RS3, to give it its full, upstanding Sunday name.

It also borrows the meaty brakes of its TT cousin, its rapid-fire seven-speed twin-clutch gearbox and its adaptive Quattro all-wheel drive system for gecko-strength grip

It certainly doesn’t sound like a slumberfest, although in dim light the car could just about pass for the sort of staid, monotonous suburban charabanc (that’s an early form of bus, used typically for pleasure trips) that might be favoured by a British Tory MP.

But they would somehow have to overlook completely the snarling grille and LED-headlight arrangement out front and the chunky, growling twin exhaust pipes at the tail that spit fire, or at least scream like they do, when manual is engaged, the gears drop and the revs rise.

Impressive blare aside, to consider the RS3 boring, our Tory friend would also have to be immune to the charms of an interior with quilted leather seats (racing style and RS logo’ed at the front), microsuede-finished door panels and a meaty, sawn-off sports steering wheel flattened at the bottom to give that heady whiff of Formula 1.

The RS3 is not so much a wolf in sheep’s clothing as a sabre-toothed tiger pretending to be a cuddly toy. Covering 100km on 8.6 litres of petrol and capable of zero to 100km/h in 4.1 seconds, with a factory-limited top speed of 250km/h (who knows what its real top speed is?), the RS3 delivers the sort of g-force acceleration that pummels you back into that figure-hugging sports seat.

This we tested scientifically while burning off a Mercedes-Benz CLS350 at traffic lights on Clear Water Bay Road. The results proved most satisfying.

RS does, after all, stand for “Rally Sport”. And it’s this ethos Audi have tuned into, the RS3 being only a blind tardier from a standing start than the TT RS.

That comes as less of a surprise when you consider the RS3 is propelled by the same five-cylinder, in-line 2.5-litre turbocharged engine that delivers 400hp, plus 480Nm of torque at 1,700rpm to 5,850rpm, as the TT RS.

It also borrows the meaty brakes of its TT cousin, its rapid-fire seven-speed twin-clutch gearbox and its adaptive Quattro all-wheel drive system for gecko-strength grip.

Given all that muscle, it’s reassuring to know that autonomous emergency braking comes as standard, as do five-bladed, 19-inch cast aluminium alloy wheels.

Boot space is a respectable 315 litres, which becomes 717 litres with the 60:40-split rear seats down. Put those seats back up and three children, or two hefty adults, can be accommodated comfortably – although available headroom suggests those adults should be slightly vertically challenged.

Audi’s Virtual Cockpit infotainment package is an essential (and standard) part of the RS3 experience and is the outstanding feature of its trademarked and widely envied MMI (multimedia interface) system.

Simple to use, with crisp, clear graphics, its information is displayed across a large recess behind the steering wheel and on a seven-inch screen above the dashboard.

And, oh joy, for those of us who prefer what I’ll call analogue driving, that pop-up screen is retractable and perfect for minimising digital distractions.

There are manifold reasons why the Audi RS3 will be elbowing aside its direct rivals – including compatriots the BMW M2 and the Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG – and prominent among them is its on-road price of HK$799,800 (US$122,300).

Audi have crammed an awful lot of high-end car into a relatively small space and remembered to give supreme value for money at the same time.

I was fortunate enough to witness the recent debut of what the press rather lazily calls a supercar.

My fellow gawkers were motoring scribes from around the planet and naturally talk turned to their own beloved automobiles back home.

Several were singing the considerable praises of their Audis. Imagine that: driving a “McFerrorghini” with a sticker saying, “My other car is an Audi”. Well, it’s no joke.