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Audi A3 RS3 first drive

Driven January 2011

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Populist conjecture will unreliably inform you that Canadians ride polar-bears, say about ‘a-boot' and live in igloos because it is unfathomably cold. This is untrue. It is biblically cold.

I've just stepped off the cosy confines of an airbus to be greeted by a gust of wind so brutal I'm instantly transported back to a time without long-johns. Mercifully, sitting right in front of me is a brand-spanking new Audi RS3 in metallic grey; a sight to warm the frozen hearts of petrolheads the world over.

See more pics of the new Audi RS3

But, it's been nearly two years since the RS3 was rumoured and the world is now becoming accustomed to 300bhp+ hot hatch monsters, and this Audi doesn't have the market all to itself. Ignoring the Focus RS500 (because you can't actually buy it any more), there's the small matter of the BMW 1-Series M Coupe, too.

The head of quattro GmbH told us he doesn't consider the BMW to be a direct competitor, instead referring to Audi's TT RS. Still, there's no mistaking the RS3 and 1M cost the same, are released around the same time and boast similar power.

Ah yes, power. The RS3 gets the TT RS's engine, drivetrain and diff, meaning 340bhp/332lb ft of torque, permanent four-wheel drive and a 0-62mph time of 4.6 seconds (limited top speed of 155mph).

Did we mention it's cold in Canada? The roads were caked in black ice and dusted with a garnish of fresh snow, so our road test was limited to a brief 20-minute blast along a frustratingly straight road.

The engine sings fantastically. As in the TT RS, it accelerates with venom, and the standard-fit S tronic ’box does a good job of harnessing the five-pot's pull. Sounds fantastic, too - a hint of old-school Audi quattro lingers in the upper regions of the rev range. Other than that... well, I couldn't really tell. Driving a 340bhp Audi RS3 with a Captain Sensible hat on is rather like dating Kelly Brook by proxy; you hope it's going to be great but never know until you actually try.

One thing of note, however - the ride was extremely firm and quite unforgiving...

More info in next month's TopGear magazine - on sale 27 January - but for now, we can attest that its engine is certainly up to the RS tag. The rest of it, you will have to wait and see.

Vijay Pattni

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