no, we won’t get it here in the US I love this car, it’s basically a TT//s in 5 door form factor.
cliffs: 7 speed DSG, 335hp, awd.
Driven: 2011 Audi RS 3 Sportback
Jan 17, 2011 by: George Achorn ![http://www.fourtitude.com/news/uploads/featurelogo_003.gif](http://www.fourtitude.com/news/uploads/featurelogo_003.gif) Like most markets, Audi Canada operates its own driving experience and, not surprisingly, the Canuck take includes lots of snow and ice. That it’s focus is Audi’s prowess on the slipper stuff is to be expected though when we were offered the chance to drive the company’s all-new Euro-only RS 3 Sportback we found its temporary presence in Canada quite unexpected. Eh?
Fascination quattro is technically the name of this year’s Canadian winter driving program based near Quebec’s Mont Tremblant and less than an hour’s drive from Montreal. Produced by Audi Canada, participation in the program is open to customers from other countries (namely the USA). Also, it should be clarified that the RS 3 is not part of their usual consumer program that normally includes the Audis S4, S5, Q5, Q7 and A8.
So why was the RS 3 in Montreal? Well, officially, this was part of Audi’s annual winter drive event held for an international mix of journalists and this particular visit also included a German market RS 5 coupe, two A1 pre-production prototypes, the Q5 hybrid and thrill rides in some vintage Audi rally racers. Still, there’s more to the story of the RS 3’s presence here according to some highly placed sources.
Word on the current A3 is that the United States will soldier on with the current car longer than Europe. In fact, sources suggest Americans won’t see the new A3 (expected to be revealed this year) until the 2013 model year. That’s a long wait and word is that Audi is evaluating the idea of bringing in the RS 3 as a way to keep up (pardon the pun) momentum in the current car. It seems the loss of those eagerly awaiting the new car may be a gain for Audi performance nutters wishing we had the 5-cylinder 5-door on this side of the pond.
For those who’ve missed the briefing, the RS 3 takes the venerable A3/S3 quattro platform and adds to it the vaunted turbocharged 5-cylinder engine sporting 335 bhp and 7-speed S-tronic drivetrain of the TT RS. The RS 3 skips the added design flare (and cost) of alloy box-flare fenders like the RS 6 and RS 5 though does get RS-specific kit like a angry front fascia, rear valance and some interior bits. More subtle but very effective are wider front fenders made of carbon fiber in order to shed weight and to accommodate a 22mm wider track. No bodywork change was needed at the rear, which simply has a more aggressive offset to achieve the wider stance. Tires also get a front bias, 10mm wider at the front, perhaps to better make use of the RS 3’s Haldex system that drives solely the front wheels until it senses slip.
And while kit is nice and all, the real story here is aboot the engine. As if adding a five-pot turbo and the mean growl that go with it wasn’t enough for Audi lifers the heady power figures are likely to win over nearly anyone with any taste for performance or sense of reality. In RS 3 guise this 2.5-liter turbocharged FSI engine throws down 335 bhp between 5400-6400 rpm and 332 lb-ft between 1600-5300 rpm.
To the uninitiated this might appear to be simply a blown Volkswagen Rabbit engine or maybe even half of a mill from an Audi RS 6 or Lamborghini Gallardo. Now each of these boast 5-cylinder rows to be sure but in actuality, any of the above from Rabbit to Lambo are a bit of an understatement. Even in the less aggressive RS 3 tune this engine has more horsepower per liter than a Bugatti Veyron… second only to the Veyron SuperSport in hp/liter on the very impressive list Volkswagen Group product.
BHP PER LITER COMPARISON: 148 bhp/liter Bugatti Veyron SuperSport
134 bhp/liter Audi RS 3
123 bhp/liter Bugatti Veyron
114 bhp/liter Audi RS 6
106 bhp/liter Lamborghini Gallardo LP560-4
And then there’s another side to the 5-cylinder turbo in the RS 3. Audi claims a combined fuel economy figure of 25.85 in the European cycle. Try that Mr Fancypants Veyron SuperSport.
For now the RS 3 puts the power down solely with Audi’s new 7-speed S-tronic transmission. Though the TT has both the twin-clutch wunder tranny and a manual 6-speed gearbox, Audi chose to go with the S-tronic only after carefully reviewing sales reports of its less potent S3 Sportback according to quattro GmbH boss Stefan Reil who was on hand in Canada for a chat before we climbed into his latest creation.
Audi claims the RS 3 is capable of 0-62 mph in just 4.6 seconds. That’s notably faster than the new BMW 1-Series M coupe and just 1/10th of a second off of the V10 Biturbo Audi RS 6.
0-62 MPH COMPARISON: Audi R8 V10 – 0-62 mph in 3.9 seconds
Audi RS 6 V10 Biturbo – 0-62 mph in 4.5 seconds
Audi RS 3 - 0-62 mph in 4.6 seconds
BMW 1-Series M Coupe – 0-62 mph in 4.9 sec
Our particular test car was fitted with snow tires and most of our short test route was on a mix of pavement, dirt and snow. Results may vary with summer rubber but this grey 5-door was more than willing to spin all four wheels as it clawed at dry pavement and you can imagine how willing it was to rooster-tail the snow or mud.
And then there’s the sound. 5-cylinders have a deep, rabid bark all their own. Yes this modern FSI I-5 is more composed than an 80’s era rally car but the DNA line is obvious when one of the five-pot rally cars Audi is also demonstrating in the area blows past on full steam.
On the roads around the ice-covered Mecaglisse test track near Mont Tremblant the RS 3 served as rally car in 5-door Sportback form. Think Walter Rohrl taking Frau Rohrl, Walter Jr. and his playmate Stig Jr. to the local tastee-freeze. Its compact size, improved balance and Group B-like torque on tap made it a extremely enjoyable to drift back and forth down the winding access roads. And unlike the vintage rally cars on hand, there’s no need to keep revs and boost up for fear of an unwanted mid-turn boost bitch slap. The torque of this engine is quite readily on tap.
To be clear, this is still a Haldex-based quattro which means power comes from the front until there’s slip, but it’s also evident that Audi is running some of its best differential software we’ve driven to date as the car readily and easily drifts along through the trees. Yes, we wish the car received the Haldex XWD setup with rear right-left differential much akin to the S4’s Sport Differential but this is surprisingly and refreshingly of less concern now that we’ve driven the car.
And yet, as glowing as we are about the car, we must admit it’s not quite as impressive as the TT RS. Performance-wise the horsepower difference can be counted on just one hand but the TT RS’ lower center of gravity and lighter aluminum chassis is a noticeable advantage… at least when you’ve just stepped out of an identically specced TT RS and taken the wheel of the RS 3. Worth noting, the TT RS is more than 250 lbs lighter. Still, we’re guessing those needing the utility of a 5-door will readily accept that extra 250 lb. worth of ballast for the added flexibility.
So will Audi of America (and thusly Audi Canada) take the plunge on the RS 3? There’s no official word but our own confirmation of its exploration through sources at Audi of America and quattro GmbH is enough to make us salivate. One matter that will need consideration is that of transmission. The RS 3 that goes on sale this quarter in Europe is a 7-speed S-tronic-only affair. The drivetrain in the already confirmed US-spec TT RS is manual gearbox only so Audi of America and quattro GmbH must decide whether to pay the extra federalization costs of certifying the S-tronic or build the car for the USA with a manual gearbox. We’re hoping they do.