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Test bench | Audi A3 / S3 / RS3: multiple personalities

(Athens, Greece) Entrance ticket for the family with intertwined rings, the A3’s mission is to recruit and retain new customers. A mission that she has been doing quite well for the last fifteen years.

Therefore, the primary objective of its renewal is logically not to confuse buyers of this car which has created a new category, that of luxury compacts.

It has flourished, the Audi A3, since its launch.


Placid or angry, the little Audi assumes its split personality.

One of the pioneers of the so-called luxury compact category, this sedan that appeared almost 20 years ago had something shy about it and a slightly pinched air. Today, it imposes even more than the previous generation and it takes up as much space on the street as it did when the A4 was called 90.

Multiple targets

The smallest Audi sold in North America is not afraid to practice the splits.

In terms of price first, from $ 38,900 to some $ 64,000 (the price of the RS3 has not yet been officially fixed). But especially under the hood, this new generation of the A3 being offered with a “modest” engine of 201 hp or a volcanic five-cylinder producing 401 hp.


This Audi RS3 brakes as fast as it accelerates.

A car of contrasts, the A3, like the rest of the range, experiences an identity paradox. The list of engines offered shows an increase in power while presenting a lower level of consumption, mainly on the entry model (A3). This indeed shows a notable loss of horses to reach the reduction targets set by the German manufacturer and encourages enthusiasts to opt for the revitalized (and more expensive) mechanics listed in the catalog.


The interior of the Audi RS3

The deflation of the supercharged 2 L of the A3 is a hitch. However, at the wheel, the presence of the 2 L turbo (A3) is not really traumatic, apart from the frustration that constitutes the unspecified sound. This engine remains “round”, well supported by a double clutch gearbox and vigorous enough to drive this sedan. For Audi representatives, there is no doubt that the friendly customers are ready to accept this relative moderation imposed by the global tightening of environmental standards.

Audi A3 / S3 / RS3 at a glance

Price range: $ 38,900 to $ 64,900 ($ 64,900 estimated price for the RS3 version)
Visible in dealerships: now (RS3 from spring 2022)

WE love

Flawless motor skills
Improved consumption (A3)
Muscle and musicality of the five-cylinder (RS3)


We like less

Measured habitability
Seats to be reviewed (RS3)
Declining performance (A3)


Our verdict

A strong recruiting agent for the brand

The A3, which sees itself as a top-of-the-range vehicle, intends to expand Audi’s customer base; it is not particularly a question of democratizing it. After all, notes the brand with the rings, many buyers are willing to spend as much, if not more, on a car that is smaller, but also capable and well endowed.


The RS3 is the piece de resistance of this model: its supercharged five-cylinder has a sound signature that is, on its own, worth the cost of entry.

With its catalog of very sophisticated options, the A3 only asks to be transformed into a luxury model or a sharp sports car, because the automotive hierarchy is no longer necessarily confused with the weight of the sheet metal or the size of the car. displacement. The S3 or, better yet, the RS3 testify to this fact.


Audi RS3 dashboard view

The S3 first. With more than 300 hp under the right foot, this variation is displayed at a reasonable price given its performance. It is undoubtedly the most homogeneous offer in the range, but not necessarily the most competitive on the market against the future Volkswagen Golf R and Subaru Impreza STi, which both promise to be more powerful and, in certain aspects, more sophisticated than the S3. Therefore, for these buyers, there remains the RS3, more expensive but more exclusive, to put everyone in their place.


The engine of this Audi RS3 sets off thunder (and lightning) as soon as the right foot presses the accelerator pedal.

The RS3 is the piece de resistance of this model: its supercharged five-cylinder has a sound signature that is, on its own, worth the cost of entry. With its voice from the next day, this mechanism does not only make noise. It moves air too. On its own, it takes three seconds off the acceleration time obtained with the base A3 and a full second from that of the S3. If the Highway Safety Code allowed it, it could reach nearly 300 km / h at top speed.


Audi RS3

This is not the most important. We will especially remember the more balanced, more linear power range of this engine, its elasticity in the times and especially the thunder (and lightning) that it triggers as soon as the right foot depresses the accelerator pedal. And, once is not custom, this Audi brakes as fast as it accelerates. The German manufacturer will offer an expensive (for purchase and maintenance) option “ceramic”, but this is not necessary, as long as the vehicle does not frequent the circuits regularly.


The RS3’s supercharged five-cylinder engine has a sound signature that is, on its own, worth the cost of entry.

Beyond the euphoria aroused by the mechanics, there is the handling. Deposited on a proven platform (code name MQB, similar to that used by several Volkswagen products), the A3 benefits from well-felt developments, particularly with regard to steering.

Without achieving the same sensitivity or the same finesse as that found on a BMW 2 Series for example, the steering of this Audi reads with more emotion the road (and its deformations) which scrolls under its wheels. Benefiting from wider tracks and a more sophisticated all-wheel drive (see the Specifications tab), the RS3 demonstrates increased cornering stability and surprising traction when it comes time to pull out.

Young atmosphere

If the RS3 appears by far as the most talented and the most exhilarating of the range, all models benefit from a more modern and younger interior than before. The wedge-shaped dashboard is surprising at first glance, but incorporates all the little treats – with the exception of the touchpad for the air conditioning – of the brand’s recent creations.


The Audi RS3 ‘gearbox’

The seats, with a new design, incorporate recycled materials (in this case, 45 plastic bottles of 1.5 L) into their production. On the A3, or even the S3, the tubs do not raise criticism, strictly speaking. On the RS3, these offer too little support given the performance of the vehicle.

The trunk, whose capacity is in an honorable average, suffers from insufficient opening, but benefits from increased modularity when we lower all or part of the backs of the rear seat.


The trunk has a capacity of a decent average, but the opening is a bit cramped.

As for the passenger compartment, it cares very little about the comfort of the passengers in the rear, who access the bench and find it difficult to extract themselves from it where, de facto, only two people can live together.


The rear seat of the RS3.

No matter which version is chosen, the little Audi relies above all on the quality of its presentation, the attention to detail and a more refined behavior than in the past.

Integral intelligence


The Audi RS3 “Torque Splitter” all-wheel drive

Much more successful than the previous generation, the new RS3 introduces a more sophisticated all-wheel drive called “Torque Splitter”. This has an electronically controlled multiple-disc clutch on each of the drive shafts. This ensures that the right amount of torque is distributed optimally.

When driving more dynamically, the torque distributor increases the drive torque to the outer rear wheel with the higher wheel load, which significantly reduces the tendency to understeer. This new approach allows the addition of a “Drift Mode”, which allows controlled drifts on closed runways. The torque distributor directs all the power to just one of the rear wheels.

New record


The new Audi RS3 Seda1

With a time of 7:40, 748, the new Audi RS3 Seda1 is the fastest compact model on the legendary Nürburgring Nordschleife. Last June, Audi Sport development driver Frank Stippler broke the previous lap record in this class by 4.64 seconds. Unsurprisingly, the managers of the German brand believe that the torque splitter (Torque Splitter) has greatly contributed to achieving this record time.

Technical sheet

A3: L4 2.0L DOHC Supercharged, 201 hp @ 4,800-6,000 rpm, 221 lb-ft of torque 1,600-4,700 rpm
S3: L4 2.0L DOHC Supercharged, 306 hp @ 5,450-6,500 rpm, 221 lb-ft of torque between 2,000 and 4,750 rpm
RS3: Supercharged 2.5L DOHC L5, 401 hp @ 5600-7000 rpm, 369 lb-ft @ 2250-5600 rpm

Weight (minimum-maximum): 1450 kg –1575 kg
Acceleration (0-100 km / h): 6.7 s (A3), 4.8 s (S3), 3.8 s (RS3)
Top speed: 209 km / h (A3), 249 km / h (S3), 290 km / h (RS3)
Gearbox: 7-speed dual-clutch automatic
Drive mode: all-wheel drive
Tires: 225 / 45R17 (A3); 225 / 40R18 (S3): 265 / 30ZR19 – 245ZR19 (RS3)
Tank capacity: 55 L
Recommended gasoline: regular (A3); super (S3 and RS3)
Consumption: 7.6 L / 100 km (A3); 8.7 L / 100 km (S3); 10.1 L / 100 km (RS3)
Wheelbase: 2631 mm
Length: 4542 mm
Height: 1412 mm
Width: 1984 mm (exterior mirrors included)

Transportation and accommodation costs related to this report were paid by Audi Canada.


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