The latest in Codemasters' venerable off-road series nails the handling...
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£43,870 when new
Why the sad face? Our first UK test of the refreshed, updated 174mph Audi RS3 Sportback is enveloped in heavy rain. Raining so much the roads are very much flooded. In fact, I’m writing this (mentally, not in actual fact) waiting in a vast traffic jam caused by a mini flood. And this is Britain, so what’s new? What’s new is the £44,300 Audi RS3. Some stats: a nine per cent increase in power, 3.2 per cent increase in torque, 2.5 per cent improvement in mpg… and a near second-and-a-half improvement in the 0–124mph sprint. Lucky you.
Indeed. And, yes, before you point it out in a pithy and hilarious remark, it is also four-wheel drive, so these should be perfect conditions for it. Just what I was thinking. Though it would be much more fun to drive this 395bhp, 354lb ft hatch on dry, empty roads. Then we could appreciate the 4.1s 0–62mph sprint (two tenths quicker than the old RS3 and, possibly a conservative number judging on past Audi form), playing with launch control, foot buried, standard seven-speed paddleshift gearbox blipping and roaring through the gears. And the noise, ah, we could really enjoy the noise. It’s a five-cylinder unit and that means an excellent noise. A fast noise. Sounds like you got to grips with it OK. Easy to get to grips with such an easy-to-drive machine. Fun, too. As we discovered on our first test in the RS3 earlier this year, the revised four-wheel-drive system (featuring new software) helps the car feel noticably livelier than before. And, in practical terms, easy to get to grips when the steering wheel is coated in lovely alcantara. Sounds plush. Of course it’s plush, it’s a flaming Audi. You can get plushness in every area. You want quilted sports seats? If you’ve got £795, you got them. You want a banging £495 Bang & Olufsen sound system? You got it. What about a £275 extended interior upholstery pack? Hmmm, maybe not, sounds a bit dodgy, to be honest. Will any of that help with the [inevitably] harsh ride? Sshh. The ride was good. Yes, I did just say that about a fast Audi. And my car was on the standard steel suspension, nary a £995 magnetic damper in sight. It’d be fair to say it was firm, but my insides remained unblended and my retinas remained attached. Prepared as I was for a jarring experience, it was simply not forthcoming.
That’s strange. Maybe it’s to do with the fact that the engine is a good 26kg lighter for this refresh, and now placed transversely… Whatever. Did you have it in Comfort? For a while. We started out in Sport then moved to Dynamic and then to Comfort. On these flooded roads, when hero driving is not advised, I was hardly going to try out the full visceral savagery available, but on standard savagery settings, even in Sport, the ride was totally balanced. Grip? Plenty, thanks. Even in a few inches of water. And impressive braking too. Carbon-ceramic jobbies? Available at extra cost: £4,695. But you shouldn’t be surprised by that – even the RS Sport exhaust, the noise-maker, costs an extra £1000. Money well spent, though. How does it compare to its Deutsche rivals? Favourably. As you may have already figured out. It’s lighter: 1510kg Sportback, 1515kg saloon versus the obese 1520kg BMW M2 or gross 1555kg Mercedes-AMG A45. It’s also got more power, more torque (if you discount BMW’s overboost…) and a quicker zero to 62mph time (by a whole point one of a second over the Merc). You can also go faster in it full stop: 174mph, but you’ll have to pay £1600 for the privilege. Of having a topper top speed that you can’t use on the road? Yup. When can I get mine delivered? First UK deliveries are slated for the end of September.