In terms of both style and reputation, Audi today is a far cry from the Audi we knew at the turn of the millennium. Huge strides in looks, performance, technology, reliability and safety have up-jumped the German automaker from distant competitor to BMW and Mercedes to reigning king of Deutschland’s automotive landscape.
Audi’s RS 3 — built on their urban-friendly A3 sedan’s diminutive body style but packing the punch of their powerful engine technology — is the culmination of their modern philosophy that blends luxurious creature comforts with performance meant to satisfy even the most discerning speed demon.
Here are the five reasons the RS 3 should be in the running to be your next daily drive.
1. The Style
The A3 body, core to the RS 3’s looks, already benefits from the recent changes to Audi’s new stylings. Sleek lines all around make the A3 a head turner, but the extra touches that Audi has added to the higher-end RS 3 truly set it apart from its lower-end brethren. That means two-tone details all around, a grille that’s immediately recognizable as it runs up on your rear view mirrors and a host of colors that you’ll only find in the RS lineup. Our tester was Catalunya Red and it was a standout whether we were parking next to you in a lot or cruising by you in the passing lane.
2. The Gut
The RS in RS 3 stands for RennSports, aka Racing Sport, and the leather interior seemed directly dictated by that standard. This is an interior that toes the line between the necessary tightness of a racing cockpit and the luxury we’ve come to expect of Audi. That means hard-riding on racing seats...that also happen to be made of fine tufted leather. None of the controls you want when you’re burning up roads are more than an arms length away since the interior wraps around you, tightly and comfortable. In terms of the RS 3’s gut, it’s just as suited for white-knuckle red line driving as it would be to keep you comfortable during endless daily commutes.
3. The Engine
A unique aspect of the RS 3 is its 5 cylinder inline engine. Similar to Nissan’s witchcraft with their GT-R, Audi has managed to create an extraordinary amount of horsepower and torque without going to the 8+ cylinders you normally see in racing-inspired vehicles. Peppy and responsive with enough get-up-and-go to burn lines with a sub-4 second 0-60 (3.9 to be exact), there wasn’t a moment of driving where the RS 3 left us wanting more.
The RS-specific exhaust gave a throaty howl every time we fired the ignition and continued sending out sonic call signs as we revved through gears. Adjustments to suspension could be made on the fly from the RS 3’s HUD, throwing it into dynamic for higher-speed highway driving or down into comfort when dealing with the local roads we found ourselves tackling. Again, Audi impressed us by offering versatility without cutting back on performance.
4. The Tech
Introduced a few years ago, Audi’s virtual cockpit HUD seems to improve every single year, and it impresses the hell out of us every time we experience it. The digitally simulated analog-styled cluster leverages a large screen right behind the steering wheel and pumps pertinent information about your car or your destination, on demand. It’s beyond fluid, dynamically able to change to your style and shifts on your whims. Couple the signature Audi virtual cockpit with the tuck in/tuck out Infotainment display, and the RS 3 literally surrounds you with any info you could want.
Audi has also tackled the insurmountable feat of detailed input with a new touchscreen hand controller. With it, simply sliding your hand back from the shift stick and onto the well-placed touchscreen will let you finger-draw letters with surprising accuracy. Since most vehicle’s voice recognition will often leave you screaming out instructions over and over (think tone-deaf Siri frustrations), this tactile alternative allowed for fast and accurate inputs into the RS 3’s computer systems. It’s one of the few times we actually preferred using the first-party system instead of simply mounting a smartphone and using Waze for nav instead.
5. The Lifestyle
Starting at $54k, the RS 3 is going to give you performance and looks way beyond its price class. It’s a car that will get you automatic cred from those who appreciate cars. It’ll get you head turns from the uninitiated based on looks alone. It’ll provide you with the performance to satiate almost any need for speed. All this and it’ll still fit into a tight parking spot.
The RS pedigree is on full display in the RS 3, and anyone you encounter while driving it will be hard-pressed to look away.