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First look: Turbo five for all-new Audi RS3

Hotness hatched: RS3 Sportback is open for orders in Europe now.

Audi shoots for hot-hatch crown with 250kW force-fed five-cylinder RS3 Sportback

22 Nov 2010

AUDI has transplanted the cracking 250kW/450Nm 2.5-litre inline turbo-five from its terrific TT RS performance coupe into the A3 to create what should be Australia’s most powerful hot-hatch when it goes on sale in the first half of next year: the RS3.

Emerging so far only in five-door Sportback form, the RS3 follows the local release of the RS5 Coupe (and R8 5.2 Cabriolet) by almost two months to be the newest member of Audi’s high-performance RS family, which also includes the TT RS Coupe and RS6 sedan and wagon, and is expected to grow again with a top-shelf RS7 version of next year’s big new Sportback.

7 center imageAudi’s first RS3, which has been anticipated for well over a year now, is also likely to top Audi’s second-generation A3 hatch range, which dates back to mid-2004 in Australia and is expected to be replaced by all-new A3 MkIII model line-up comprising three-door hatchback, five-door Sportback, two-door cabriolet and, for the first time, sub-A4 four-door sedan guises by 2013.

Unlike the six-speed manual TT RS, Audi’s quattro permanent all-wheel drive hyper-hatch comes with a seven-speed S-Tronic twin-clutch transmission featuring a new launch control function.

Driving through the same viscous-coupled Haldex AWD system and weighing in 60kg heavier than the S3 at 1575kg, the RS3 brandishes the same official 0-100km/h acceleration claim as the TT RS - 4.6 seconds.

That’s not only quicker than a BMW M3, but more than a second quicker than the S3 (and S3 Sportback), which offers a mere 188kW/330Nm from its 2.0-litre turbo-four and is around the same pace as parent company Volkswagen’s hottest hatch, the 188kW/350Nm Golf R.

However, expect the RS3 Sportback to be suitably more expensive than both the S3 Sportback ($69,814 plus on-road costs) and Golf R, which costs $49,990 as a five-door.

In Germany, at €49,900 ($A69,000), the RS3 is positioned about €10,000 ($A13,800) or 25 per cent higher than the S3 Sportback, making a pricetag of up to $90,000 likely in Australia – well short of the TT RS ($136,814).

Like the TT RS, the RS3 rides on aggressive 19-inch alloy wheels (oddly, with 235/35-series tyres at the front than – wider than the 225/35 rears), but appears to swap its variable damping system for a new switchable sport mode in the electronic stability control program of the RS3.

Audi says the lighter RS3, which employs heavily flared carbonfibre-reinforced plastic (CFRP) front quarter panels to wrap around its wider wheel tracks, is slightly more fuel-efficient than the TT RS, returning 9.1L/100km and CO2 emissions of 212g/km. Top speed is limited to the same 250km/h.

Wheel tracks are said to be 42mm wider at the front and 22mm at the rear compared to the S3, while the ride height is 25mm lower thanks to shorter, stiffer coil springs and dampers. Audi also says it has fitted high-strength steel control arms in the front suspension, presumably to better cope with the more ferocious engine output.

To that end, 370 and 310mm front and rear brake discs are also fitted.

Naturally, the RS3 features a more aggressive interior and exterior than the S3, including a deeper front bumper with gaping chrome-topped outboard inlets and a matching honeycomb-mesh central grille, plus the de rigeur flat-bottomed steering wheel and super-sporting one-piece leather bucket seats.

At the rear, a chromed strip tops a lower bumper diffuser and there is an understated twin chromed exhaust outlet and only a subtle hatch spoiler.

Standard equipment includes Xenon Plus headlights with LED daytime running lights, rear parking sensors and climate-control, and the RS3 will be available - at least in Europe - in five exterior paint colours.

The new A3 range-topper will be the fourth Audi model to be built at Audi Hungaria in Gyr, where it is already in production alongside the TT Coupe, the TT Roadster and A3 Cabriolet ahead of first German deliveries in early 2011.

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