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Hot Audi RS3 set to return

Audi’s rapid RS3 hyper-hatch to boost sales with Aussie comeback, from $83,800

4 Feb 2020

AUDI is set to return its smoking-hot RS3 to the Australian market after about a year out in the cold as the German manufacturer puts European homologation-related production delays behind it and relaunches the hyper-hatch here next quarter, priced from $83,800 plus on-road costs.


Announcing the comeback at an Audi Sport event on the sidelines of the Bathurst 12 Hour last weekend, Audi Australia director of product planning and pricing Shawn Ticehurst said “we’re very pleased to have it back” after sales ran dry last year as a result of production grinding to a halt during the second half of 2018 due to delays triggered by the switch to WLTP emissions standards in Europe.


In 2018, the RS3 made up one quarter of overall A3 sales, but a variety of issues affecting supply of the broader range – and other model lines – saw A3 sales fall 21 per cent last year while the brand’s total volume plunged 19.1 per cent.


But Mr Ticehurst said the problems plaguing Audi were “well behind us” and sales had grown strongly over the past six months (up 15 per cent compared to the same period during the previous year), with S and RS models – most notably the RS3 – to now play a key role in its recovery and eventual return to record growth.


The returning RS3 will be offered in Sportback hatch and sedan body styles, priced from $83,800 and $86,500 plus on-road costs respectively, which represents a price increase of about $2200 on the previous variants.


There will also be a Carbon Edition available – priced at $87,200 (Sportback) and $89,900 (sedan) – with strong interest expected given its additional items such as carbon-fibre mirror housings and interior inlays, and black features centring on the wheels, around window frames and grilles.


It will have gloss-black trim for the Audi rings and logos, plus privacy glass and a panoramic sunroof.


The general price upgrade comes as Audi also increases the level of standard equipment, adding items including Nappa leather, Bang and Olufsen audio, wireless phone charging, metallic paint and the ‘magnetic ride control’ adaptive damping system.


The RS3 retains the 2.5-litre five-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine – packing a formidable 294kW – from the previous incarnation.


This engine was lauded for its 26kg weight reduction over its similar 2.5-litre predecessor and so impressed the international engineering fraternity that it was voted as a top-10 world engine in 2018.


The engine is noted for its strong low-end torque and free-revving nature, spooling up from its single turbocharger to peak at 480Nm of torque from 1700-5850rpm. Its peak power of 294kW is reached at 5850-7000rpm.


Power goes to all wheels through the quattro drivetrain and a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission.


It is sufficient to propel both the RS3 sedan and Sportback to 100km/h from rest in 4.1 seconds. At the same time, Audi claims the pair will each average 8.4 litres per 100 kilometres on the combined economy cycle.


But the carryover of the engine comes with a qualification: in response to Europe’s tightening emission rules that are now entering Euro 6 classification, the RS3 now comes with a petrol particulate filter to reduce emissions and has been specifically tested in Germany to cope with the high-sulphur Australian petrol.


The worldwide harmonised light vehicles test procedure (WLTP) caused a massive shake-up, with European manufacturers faced with a new fuel consumption and emissions test regime, with some companies – including Audi – abruptly ceasing sales of some models, RS3 included.


“The petrol particulate filter is new,” Mr Ticehurst said.


“We have conducted a lot of testing using different fuels including those with a high sulphur content and we are confident it will suit Australia’s 95RON and 98RON petrol.


“However, we have to tell customers not to use 91RON petrol.”


He said that performance owners tended to specify 98RON “but there is a bit of concern that when it goes to the second or third or fourth owner then the same discipline may not apply”.


Mr Ticehurst said the engine output was the same as the previous engine without the filter, “the only difference being a slight change to the torque curve”.


“But there is no change to the performance,” he said.


Adding a filter has one downside: it has softened the exhaust note’s ‘brap-brap’ and crackle when downshifting – a function automatic in the engine’s performance S-mode.


“Fitting the filter was necessary,” Mr Ticehurst said. “It was a case of have the filter or the car doesn’t come to Australia. It is the same situation with the TT RS that also has the same engine and is due here in the fourth quarter.


“We are discussing adding petrol filters to other models but haven’t yet made a decision.”


The 2020 RS3 has followed the design changes made in 2017, sculpturing the exterior further with sharper angles shared with the incoming R8.


All RS3 variants have a standard safety kit including nine airbags, active lane assist through intervention and vibration, blind-spot warning, a rear three-quarter warning when a vehicle is approaching from behind, rear cross-traffic alert, autonomous emergency braking and active cruise control.


While magnetic ride suspension becomes standard, moving it out of the previous model’s options box, the RS3 loses the premium composite-ceramic brakes that have been dropped from the range.


“The take-up was very small and that was the reason why it was dropped,” Mr Ticehurst said. “Australia was not alone – it was an international decision to remove those brakes.”


Mr Ticehurst said he expects strong interest for the car, especially at the beginning of the launch.


“This is an Australian initiative to welcome the RS3 back to the market,” he said. “It is not a limited edition, rather a special edition and we see it continuing for the life of at least this generation of the RS3.”


2020 Audi RS3 pricing*

RS3 Sportback $83,800
RS3 Sedan $86,500
RS3 Sportback Carbon Edition $87,200
RS3 Sedan Carbon Edition $89,900

*Exlcudes on-road costs

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