Since the BMW M2 first debuted, its main rival has been the Audi RS3. Both cars are about the same price, both have somewhat similar power figures and both are about as fast. However, they make that power and that performance in two drastically different ways. The Audi RS3 Sportback (a sedan is available) is a four-door, all-wheel drive hatchback and the BMW M2 is a two-door, rear-wheel drive coupe. The Audi RS3 uses a 2.5 liter turbocharged five-cylinder engine while the BMW M2 uses a 3.0 liter turbocharged inline-six engine. Both do use dual-clutch gearboxes, though (a manual is available for the M2). So which is better/faster? Cars.co.za finds out in this latest two-part video series.
The first video is about pure speed. Which car is faster in a straight line? Before the quarter-mile drag race even begins, it’s advantage Audi. The Audi RS3 packs 400 hp from its turbo-five and has all-wheel drive traction. By comparison, the BMW M2 makes 365 hp and only has two wheels to make traction. So the Audi RS3 should crush it in a drag race. And it does.
Both cars were equipped with Racelogic V-box GPS-based systems that can accurately determine the speed of both cars. The first go shows the Audi RS3 Sportback take the M2 in a quarter-mile race. In that first sprint, the RS3 did 0-60 mph in 4.1 seconds and the quarter-mile in 12.6 seconds. The BMW M2? 4.3 seconds and 12.84, respectively. However, the M2 had a poor launch so they went off for another go. On that second run, the M2 got a better launch but still lost, with not much variation in the times. So the RS3 is clearly faster in a straight line.
But the BMW M2 isn’t about straight-line performance. It’s more about fun in the corners with tire smoke in the air. And on a twisty track, the M2 clearly has the advantage, with just rear-wheel drive and an electronically-controlled limited-slip differential. It also has a better weight balance than the RS3, which is a bit nose-heavy and can tend to understeer. So can the Audi RS3 Sportback keep up with the M2 in the twisties?
Cars.co.za put former racing driver Ashley Oldfield in the driver’s seat of both cars. Up first was the Audi RS3 Sportback. Its big power and all-wheel drive grip allow it a ton of speed but one wonders how much its understeer will scrub some speed and if it can be as fast as the nimble Bimmer on the track. Ash recorded a standing lap of 1:31.37 and a flying lap of 1:27.32. Seems pretty good so far. One thing we know for sure is that the RS3 sounds epic as its mighty turbo five-pot thunders around the track.
Next up was the BMW M2. Can the less powerful but more nimble and better balanced BMW be quicker in the twisty bits? The answer is yes but it’s incredibly close, much closer than we thought it would be. Its standing lap was 1:31.19, so less than a second faster. Its flying lap was 1:27.01, so it was again less than a second faster.
These two cars are so close in terms of actual performance, that it really comes down to preference. The Audi RS3 Sportback is faster in a straight-line, grippier and more all-weather capable. The BMW M2 is sharper, more dynamic and more of a track weapon. So whichever car appeals to you is probably the better choice. In terms of actually performance, it’s pretty split, though.