As Americans, we’ve been waiting for an Audi RS3 for years now. Ever since the first RS3 Sportback model debuted in Europe, American enthusiasts have been salivating at the chance to get their hands on one. Unfortunately, Audi always seems to turn its back on American enthusiasts, when it comes to the brand’s best performance models. However, the folks in Ingolstadt have decided to give the ‘States a consolation prize and it’s made its debut at the 2016 Paris Motor Show — the 2017 Audi RS3 Sedan.
Admittedly, we probably would still want the hatchback, as it’s more practical and better looking, but the sedan will do just fine, thank you. Fortunately, the Audi RS3 Sedan is actually quite good looking. Based on the current-generation Audi A3, the RS3 is short, stubby and muscular looking. While it isn’t pretty by any means, it has a particular bulldog-ish stance that makes it cool. But, really, it’s not the looks of the RS3 Sedan that matter, it’s what lies underneath.
Under that short, stubby hood lies the heart of a monster. The 2.5 liter turbocharged inline five-cylinder engine is a masterpiece. With 400 hp and 354 lb-ft of torque, the Audi RS3 Sedan out-powers everything in its class. Compared to the BMW M2 (365 hp) and Mercedes-AMG CLA45 (375 hp), the RS3 boasts the biggest muscles. Paired with the seven-speed dual-clutch S-Tronic gearbox and Quattro all-wheel drive, the RS3 is capable of 0-60 mph in 4.1 seconds. And thanks to the five-pots odd firing order, the sound is absolutely delicious. It sounds strange, unnatural and a bit devilish. It’s one of the best sounding engines in the world right now. The sound can also be modified through Audi’s Drive Select modes, so it’s quieter in Normal and louder in Dynamic.
But the engine isn’t all about brute force and loud noises. It’s a clever bit of engineering. With a lightweight-allow aluminum crankcase and cylinder head, this new 2.5 liter engine weighs 57 lbs less than before. That means less weight over the nose, therefor sharper turn-in and less understeer. It also uses a dual fuel-injection system, into both the intake manifold and into the combustion chambers, as well as the Audi Valvelift for variable control of the exhaust valves. This makes the new engine more powerful and more efficient than ever before.
Audi will go on and on about how the Quattro all-wheel drive system uses a new electro-hydraulic multi-plate clutch and how it can distribute torque evenly between both axles. And that’s true, it can give the RS3 a 50/50 torque split, front/rear. However, that’s the most amount of power the rear axle can receive, 50 percent. That means that under any other circumstances, it’s front-wheel biased, which isn’t optimal for performance driving. That’s because, despite the Quattro name, it’s still a Haldex setup. Admittedly, the latest generation of Haldex is incredibly quick at sending power to the rear and doing it intelligently. So while you can’t get more than 50 percent of the power there, you can rest assured it will get there as quickly as possible and at the right moments. But, like the Audi TT RS, the RS3 won’t be a canyon-carving scalpel, but more of an all-weather brute.
Compared to the standard Audi S3, the RS3’s suspension is lower 1.0 inch and features a new four-link rear axle. So it should handle better than the S3 while also riding better. The steering is progressive as well and should be sharper, especially with less weight over the front axle.
To help slow all of those 400 horses down, the Audi RS3 Sedan features 14.6 inch front brake rotors and 12.2 inch rear rotors with eight-piston calipers. Five-spoke 19″ wheels with 235/35 section tires are standard.
In terms of looks, the Audi RS3 Sedan is exactly as we thought it would be. It looks like a more aggressive S3, with bigger front air intakes, “Quattro” written in its blacked out singleframe grille, lowered stance, rear diffuser and giant exhaust pipes. It looks cool, if not particularly pretty.
On the inside, the cabin is typical of Audi RS models and that’s to say brilliant. Every Audi RS model has a cabin that simply feels special. The standard A3 interior is a bit humdrum, so the folks at Quattro GmbH had their work cut out for them to make it feel special. And it looks like they’ve done an excellent job. While I don’t love the weird red lipstick around the air vents (which is likely just an option), the rest of the cabin is superb. Those massively bolstered seats with red contrast diamond stitching look as inviting as ever and the leather/alcantara flat-bottomed steering wheel looks superb. I wish car makers would stop using so much carbon fiber for interior trim, as it looks a bit too bro-racer, but it looks fine here.
The Audi RS3 Sedan also gets the brand’s latest MMI infotainment system with Google Maps and Google Street View. Audi’s brilliant Virtual Cockpit is also standard on the RS3 and it’s the same one from the Audi R8 and TT RS, so it gets the sport screen with a center digital tachometer.
We’ll see the Audi RS3 Sedan in the USA in Summer 2017. No pricing is available yet, but expect it to be competitive with the BMW M2 and Mercedes-AMG CLA45. We still wish that it was the Sportback, as the sedan seems like a watered-down version, but we’ll take what we can get.