Audi A3


Debut: 2012
Maker: Audi
Predecessor: A3 Mk2



 Published on 8 Jun 2012
All rights reserved. 

New wine in a seemingly old bottle.


2012 is a great year to compact premium hatchbacks – Not only BMW 1-Series and Volvo V40 have just been renewed, Audi and Mercedes are also joining the party with new generation A3 and A-class respectively. In other words, all players but Lexus CT200h are new to the market. Who will take the laurel? We have inspected the 1-Series a few months ago and got a mixed impression. Now we are going to see if Audi can do better. In a few weeks' time Volvo and Mercedes should join the review list, too, by then we can conclude which one will be the best premium hatchback for the next 5 or 6 years. Can't wait any longer!

Born in 1996, Audi A3 does not have a long history, but it is already older than all other competitors – Mercedes A-class arrived in 1997 and BMW joined the battlefield in 2004. The original A3 was often seen as a Volkswagen Golf with a classier look and less affordable prices. That is because it was built on the same platform as Golf Mk4. In fact, the Audi debuted a year earlier than its Volkswagen cousin, thus it carried the mission to preview the influential PQ34 platform. This tradition continued in the Mk2 (2003) and now the Mk3.


The styling of Mk3 is an evolution of Mk1 and Mk2.


When we talk about the new A3, we don't need to spend a lot of words on its styling. Look at the picture above and you can see it is no more than a conservative evolution from the old car. Apart from the new-shape front grille, headlamps and taillights – which have been standard on any new Audis since A6 – you can hardly tell what separates it from the Mk2 model. It even looks too boxy and conservative beside the smaller A1, blame to the consideration for practicality, you know. So after 9 long years waiting for the replacement of Mk2, we should be disappointed to see the Mk3 so conservative! Actually, I think the Mk1 is far better looking than both its successors.

Because the styling is not worth our time, we had better to turn our attention to the MQB platform that underpins the new A3. MQB stands for Modularer Querbaukasten in German or Modular Transverse Matrix in English. It will replace the current PQ25 (Polo / A1 / Ibiza / Fabia), PQ35 (Golf / Jetta / Beetle / Touran / Eos / A3 / TT / Leon / Toledo / Altea / Octavia) and PQ46 (Passat / Superb / Sharan / Alhambra) platform altogether. In other words, close to 90 percent of all next generation cars produced by the Volkswagen group will be built on this platform. To make this possible, the MQB is engineered to be highly flexible. Its wheelbase, overhangs and width are variable. Only the distance between front axle and pedal box will be fixed. Besides, it can accept all kinds of powertrains – petrol, diesel, hybrid and even electric motors – without much modification. It goes without saying that the common platform will result in huge cost savings and enhance the
competitiveness of Volkswagen group.


New MQB platform will underpin close to 90% of all VW group cars...


The MQB also brings new generations of engines:

EA288 is a range of turbo diesel engines. It is improved with lower friction, better thermal management and relocated twin-balancer shafts to reduce vibration. The A3 offers two engines: 1.6 TDI with 105 hp and 2.0 TDI with 150 hp. The latter is 10 hp more than before.

EA888 is a range of larger petrol engines. It consists of 1.8 TFSI and 2.0 TFSI, although the A3 offers only the former at launch. Strictly speaking, EA888 is not new because it was introduced late in the lifecycle of the last A3 and Golf. The 1.8 TFSI on new A3 now features Valvelift (variable valve lift) on exhaust cam and variable cam phasing on intake side. It also sports a Toyota D4-S-style dual injection system, which combines port injection and direction injection. As a result, output is lifted by 20 hp to 180 hp.

The last new engine family, EA211, is probably the most important. It made debut first in Volkswagen Up, but the Audi is the first to see it in four-cylinder form, 1.4 TFSI. Key improvements include weight reduction (saves 22 kg by switching to aluminum block and other measures), twin-loop cooling circuit and an exhaust manifold integrated with cylinder head (to quicken heat up of catalyst). The regular version produces 122 hp and 147 lbft of torque, identical to the old engine but guarantees lower fuel consumption. A more sophisticated version adds dual-VVT and an innovative cylinder deactivation system based on Audi's Valvelift mechanism. It shuts down the valves on cylinder 2 and 3 under light load to save fuel. This engine produces a respectable 140 hp and 184 lbft. It could be the best selling of all engines.


80 kg lighter than the old car in average.


One of the key developments of MQB is lightweight engineering. The new A3 uses not only a lot of high-strength and hot-stamped ultra-high-strength steel to construct its monocoque but also aluminum for its bonnet, front fenders and front bumper beam and a magnesium dash support. Besides, its body size is virtually unchanged – same length and height, just 12 mm wider and 23 mm longer in wheelbase – in contrast to the trend of most rivals. More weight is saved by using lighter seat materials and fewer cables. Audi claims it is 80 kg lighter than the equivalent Mk2 in average. To my surprise, the claim is accurate. According to my records, a Mk2 A3 1.4TFSI 3-door with manual transmission weighed 1255 kg. The new equivalent car? Only 1175 kg. The difference is exactly 80 kg. Compare with BMW 114i or 116i, the A3 1.4TFSI is a good 110 kg lighter. The gap gets narrower if you move up to the iron-block 1.8 TFSI or TDI engines, but the A3 is still a few dozen kilograms lighter than its rival.

Less remarkable is its aerodynamics. The new Mercedes A-class leads the class with a 0.27 coefficient of drag. A3 and 1-Series trail it at 0.31. All three cars employ suspensions with the same layout – MacPherson struts up front and multi-link at the rear – but the BMW has an advantage with its rear-drive, longitudinal powertrain and 50:50 weight distribution. The Audi and Mercedes are more mainstream, being primarily front-wheel drive and optional with 4WD. All of them have switched to electrical power steering, or what the German prefer to call "electromechanical" power steering.


Dynamic-wise, the A3 seems yet to extract the potential of MQB. It once again pays the price for piloting a new platform.


On the road, the new A3 feels immediately different from the old car in its softer suspension tuning, at least on standard suspension (there are stiffer and lower suspensions for Sport and S-line trims). Its low-speed ride is a lot more compliant, although high-speed damping is sacrificed a little. Wind, road, tire and engine noises are all noticeably reduced. Drive it normally and you will enjoy the new-found refinement. The steering is reassuringly weighted and free of kickback. The body control is tidy, the grip and braking are all satisfying. Up the pace and the story is not as good. The steering might gain weight with the Audi Drive Select control switched to Dynamic mode, but there is precious little feel it offers, and its ratio is a tad too slow for the like of keen drivers. Hit a mid-corner bump and the chassis bounces, hinting that the suspension is too soft or the damping is not well resolved. The sportier suspensions might solve the problems but they will undoubtedly bring a harsh ride. Dynamic-wise, the A3 seems yet to extract the potential of MQB. It once again pays the price for piloting a new platform. Given more time for development, I expect Volkswagen Golf 7 will have these problems sorted out.

The powertrain range is more competitive. The 180hp 1.8 TFSI offers good performance (0-60 in 6.8 sec) yet low emission (130g/km), although it is not comparable to the higher power offerings from BMW (218hp 125i) and Mercedes (211hp A250). The 1.4 TFSI 140hp displays a bit more turbo lag but it is fun to access and should deliver diesel-like frugality. The 150hp 2.0 TDI is punchy, but for smoothness and quietness we would choose the 105hp 1.6 TDI instead, especially when the latter emits just 99 grams of CO2 per km and qualify for tax break. In general, the A3 is greener and less thirsty than its rivals.


The low-set dashboard is inspired by A1.


However, what makes the A3 stands out is not the mechanical side but the interior. We know it has always been strong in this aspect, but the new car has lifted the standard again. Inspired by A1, the new dashboard is low-set, clean and uncluttered. Jet-turbine-style air vents inject more sense of style, as do the minimalist center console and the free-standing slim LCD. The latter is part of the MMI infotainment system. You control the MMI through the classy rotary knob on the transmission tunnel. The knob also incorporates a touch-sensitive writing pad on its top surface for character input – just wonder how right-handers on RHD cars use it to write. As expected, material quality, fit and finish set new standards for its rivals to follow. The only downside is the lack of rear seat space. Knee room seems to be benefited nothing from the wheelbase extension, thus it is still tighter than the case of Golf. Not sure how it compares with 1-Series or new A-class, but they should be close.

Alright, the new A3 does not match the best for driving dynamics, and it is not exactly fun to drive fast, but it is a desirable product in its own right. It has a versatile range of powertrains, a green state of mind and the highest quality cabin of the class. Strong resale value means it won't be a wrong purchase. Nevertheless, I suspect the next generation Golf could be an even better purchase, as its track records show.
Verdict: 
 Published on 16 Nov 2012 All rights reserved. 
A3 Sportback

A romantic name can't hide the fact that it is a conventional 5-door hatch...


Audi uses the term "Sportback" to represent what we normally call "5-door hatch" as it believes the latter does not sound very upmarket. This name, in addition to the chromed roof rails and larger rear quarter windows, give the car a false impression of a sport wagon. In fact, if you inspect its technical data you will find the A3 Sportback is every bit a conventional 5-door hatchback. Audi said its wheelbase is stretched by 35 mm from the 3-door version, but the resultant 2636 mm is no different to its 5-door cousins Volkswagen Golf VII and Seat Leon Mk3 which we have reviewed recently. This mean its rear accommodation is more generous than the 3-door A3 but not more so than its cousins. The same goes for the boot, which has been boosted to 380 liters and matches exactly those cars.

We can also question how "Sport" it is. Carrying an extra 30 kg, sharing the same powertrains and suspensions, the A3 Sportback is definitely no more sporting than its 3-door alternative. In fact, it seems to understeer a tad more than the 3-door, while the longer wheelbase improves ride quality a little bit. If you avoid the optional sport suspension and large-diameter wheels, it is a perfect companion on all sorts of surfaces, something cannot be said to the old car. However, driving thrill is not its strength.


Driving thrill is not its strength...


Like Seat Leon FR, the A3 is available with the new 184 hp version of 2.0 TDI diesel motor. Its strong mid-range torque provides extra thrills and the capability of 0-60 mph in 7 seconds. However, the 150 hp version 2.0 TDI suits the car better because of its smoother power delivery.

Is the A3 Sportback a better car than Golf and Leon? Objectively it is not, but if you don't mind to spend more money for a premium badge and classier interior, it won't disappoint you.
Verdict:
 Published on 6 Jul 2013 All rights reserved. 
A3 Saloon

The borderline between A3 and A4 gets mushier with the new A3 Saloon...


There is a clear borderline between Audi A3 and A4. One is a family hatch built on a mainstream FF platform, whereas another is genuinely a premium saloon. Now with the launch of A3 Saloon, this borderline is getting mushier. At the first glance, the A3 Saloon looks more like an evolution of the last generation A4. It has the graceful proportion of the old car and even shares much the same external dimensions – save shorter overhangs. Underneath the skin, however, it is the same MQB platform as other A3s, Volkswagen Golf, Seat Leon and Skoda Octavia. In particular, it rides on the same 2636 mm wheelbase as A3 Sportback. In this way, Audi succeeded to build a premium-feeling car without resorting to a really premium platform, saving a great deal of money and guaranteeing a good profit margin.

The A3 Saloon does not have many rivals. Mercedes CLA-class, which beats it to the market by just a couple of months, is the only direct competitor at the moment. BMW is still considering whether to build a saloon version of 1-Series, so it won't come in the near term. Compare with CLA, the Audi is a lot more conservative in design, but it strikes back with a much higher quality interior, which is shared with other A3s. The materials as well as fit and finish are good enough to be used in A6. Audi has long been peerless in this respect. This car is no exception.

As expected, the baby saloon is not going to threaten A4 for cabin space. A couple of 6-footers can barely squeeze into the back seat with no headroom and legroom to spare. Compare with A3 Sportback, its curvier roofline sacrifices 11 mm headroom. On the flip side, the trunk can swallow 425 liters of luggage, 45 more than the Sportback. Moreover, the rear seat can be folded to expand luggage space.


Compared with Sportback, its curvier roofline sacrifices 11mm headroom, but the boot gains 45 liters.


While the packaging is absolutely premium, the dynamics is less impressive. Audi offers it with some good engines, such as the 140 hp 1.4 TFSI with cylinder deactivation, 150 hp 2.0 TDI and 180 hp 1.8 TFSI dual-injection. The 6-speed manual and twin-clutch gearbox are also world-class. However, you can enjoy the same on a cheaper Volkswagen Golf or Seat Leon – that is the inevitable downside of platform sharing. If you want a performance edge, you will need to wait for the S3 saloon with 300 hp 2.0 TFSI engine and Haldex 4-wheel-drive system, but that will be another story. The A3 saloon does not have any response to Mercedes CLA250 or BMW 125i.

Even if it had a more powerful engine, I suspect its chassis is not good enough to match. Like any typical Audis, its handling is safe and predictable, while ride quality biases towards the firm side. It doesn't feel especially agile or interactive. The FF layout leads to more understeer than desired. The steering is precise but lack of feel. Competent its chassis might be, it fails to inspire driving excitement. Not even the optional Audi Drive Select control or adaptive dampers can change its nature.

That said, the Audi is not as flawed as Mercedes CLA. It is worth recommending to those not particularly demanding on driving thrills, or the majority of car buyers. If you demand more, then you had better to look elsewhere. BMW 1-Series and Mercedes A-class are sportier, while the new Golf GTI is an even smarter choice if you can sacrifice the Audi's badge and upmarket looks.
Verdict:

 Published on 14 Apr 2013 All rights reserved. 
Audi S3

New EA888 engine is versatile: powerful, smooth, linear and light on turbo lag.


BMW set the standard high with M135i last year. It unusually combines six-cylinder turbo power and rear-drive handling to provide the most satisfying driving experience in the class. Audi S3 is relatively conventional. A 2.0 turbo four is mounted transversely up front and drives primarily the front wheels. When computer detects the front slips, the rear axle is engaged by a Haldex electrohydraulic multi-plate clutch to share the duty of providing traction. In other words, it has the same format as the last S3 as well as Volkswagen Golf R.

However, there are plenty of refinements from the old car. First of all, the new EA888 engine is made stronger yet 5 kg lighter, although its cylinder block is still made of cast-iron. It tilts to the back by 12 degrees to improve weight distribution a little bit. Now it gets variable valve timing at both camshafts and "Valvelift" mechanical (a 2-stage variable valve lift) at the exhaust cam. Twin-balancer shafts ensure a smooth running which is also crucial to its high-end performance. The FSI direct injection system now adds port injection (like Toyota's D4-S) which mixes fuel and air more effectively than direct injection at partial load. A large turbocharger pumps 1.2 bar of boost into combustion chambers through an air-to-air intercooler. As a result, the new engine produces 300 horsepower and 280 lbft of torque, more than even the 280 hp Opel Astra OPC. That is to say it is the most powerful 2-liter hot hatch now, although the upcoming Mercedes A45 AMG will easily trump it with 360 hp.


It can sprint from standstill to 60 mph in merely 4.6 seconds when paired with the super-responsive S tronic gearbox.


The AMG might be a lot more powerful, but I suspect its power delivery won't be as smooth and flexible as the S3. For a high-performance motor, the EA888's turbo lag is mild, whereas its power delivery has no special kick, so it spins linearly from very low rev right to the 6800 rpm cut-out. Such a friendly and versatile manner is impossible on the less sophisticated engines offered by OPC, Renaultsport or Ford. Only the larger BMW six-cylinder can better it. The sound it produces is also quite delicious, thanks to a valve in the exhaust system which opens up to a bassy soundtrack at higher rev. If not enough, the audio system will be able to play an artificial engine note through speakers to deceive the passengers that they were being propelled by a six-cylinder motor.

Undoubtedly, the S3 is a very fast machine. In straight line, it can sprint from standstill to 60 mph in merely 4.6 seconds when paired with the super-responsive S tronic twin-clutch gearbox, and easily storm to the 155 mph limit. In the twisty, its Quattro system shows an advantage in offering better traction out of corner (especially on wet surface) as well as keeping torque steer to the minimum, so it is faster than its FWD rivals on an unfamiliar road.


The ride is now so good that you might find the optional magnetorheological adaptive dampers superfluous...


Compared to the old car, its handling is definitely better. The MQB platform makes it 60 kg lighter than its predecessor. Aluminum bonnet, front fenders, front subframe and suspension bearings save 17 kg from the front axle, which has been moved forward by 42 mm to improve weight distribution. In addition to a new variable-ratio steering, which turns faster with more lock, the new S3 feels more agile in the twisty. Its turn-in gets sharper, if not ultimately as sharp as the better balanced M135i or the sportier setting Renault Megane RS265. Although its suspension is set 25 mm lower than the regular A3, its stiffness is a sensible balance between handling and ride comfort. In fact, the ride is now so good that you might find the optional magnetorheological adaptive dampers (previously reserved to TT) superfluous. This might be a surprise to those familiar with any S-badge Audis.

However, the all-round ability is accompanied with a typical drawback of Audi – lack of communication and character. Its steering is undeniably direct, but even by the standard of electrical power steering its feedback is poor, failing to connect the driver to the road. Meanwhile, the oh-so-good manner of its engine, suspension and traction result in little drama in the driving. Even if you dial the new Audi Drive Select control system to the sportiest mode, it still refuses to oversteer like M135i or Megane RS265. Consequently, it delivers an effective rather than entertaining drive. For a high-performance hot hatch, this is not good enough. Lastly but not least, the S3's exterior design is too dull, too conservative to ignite excitement. Can't understand why the same company that produced the TT could accept this lukewarm styling.
Verdict:
 Published on 13 Dec 2013 All rights reserved. 
Audi S3 Saloon

Classier looking body adds appeal to S3.


A compact sedan with 4-wheel drive and a 300-horsepower 2-liter turbo engine. 0-60 is accomplished in 4.7 seconds. All sound like a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo or Subaru Impreza STi, yet its interpretation is so different. Calmer, more civilized and more restrained. Much better built and more refined. This is the Audi S3 sedan.

The sedan body shell looks more graceful and better proportioned than the S3 Sportback with which it shares wheelbase and all the mechanicals. It doesn't catch attention like the radical Mercedes CLA, but that understated image is exactly what many buyers prefer. While the CLA drives less well than its look suggested, the S3 never disappoints. It has all the traditional strengths of fast Audis, such as excellent traction and grip and very strong performance. Meanwhile, it doesn't carry over the traditional weakness of Audi, i.e. a harsh ride. With the adaptive damping set to Comfort mode, it actually rides pretty good. The body control, the precision of steering, the engine sound and the gearshift are all up to the job. The only thing we wish it can do better is driver interaction. It would be good if it could deliver more steering feel and its tail could be more adjustable on throttle. You can't get them because the Quattro system implemented by Haldex multi-plate clutch is front-biased most of the time and never sends the majority of power to the rear axle. Another small complaint is some turbo lag presented below 2000 rpm, something won't happen on a BMW M135i.

That BMW is really a headache to the Audi. It is slightly quicker yet feels more relaxed to do so. It has a classier motor and a true sports car layout yet it costs less to buy. Unless you can't live without the high quality cabin of Audi, it won't be too sensible to choose it instead of the BMW.
Verdict:
 Published on 3 Nov 2014
All rights reserved. 
Audi A3 Cabriolet

A switch from hatchback to 3-box body makes the new A3 Cabriolet more upmarket.


Having switched from hatchback body to 3-box body, the new A3 Cabriolet looks more upmarket than the last generation. You might not notice that it actually shares the short wheelbase with A3 3-door hatch, but you do appreciate the elegant trunk, the lack of rollover bars as well as the heavy use of chrome on its windscreen pillar and shoulder line… all these make it more like the late A4 Cabriolet. As before, the heavily modified structure means it could not be built on the same line as the regular A3, so its production takes place at the Gyor plant in Hungary, just beside the production of TT.

Its new MQB platform employs more high-strength and ultra-high strength steel, an aluminum bonnet, aluminum front subframe and bumper beam such that its body is 30 kg lighter than before. Its soft top has a lightweight frame made of magnesium and steel. Its power mechanism is brilliant, capable of opening or closing in 18 seconds and work at speed up to 50 km/h (31 mph). Unfortunately, when it is opened, you do notice a lot of wind buffeting, especially for those at the rear seat. They also suffer from limited legroom, so don’t expect to take adults at the back unless for a very short trip. On the plus side, the longer trunk contributes to 60 liters more luggage space, now measures 287 liters with the roof stowed or 320 liters with the roof up.


Dynamically, it is competent rather than exceptional...


On the road, the A3 Cabriolet is generally refined. Sometimes on poorer roads you can feel some body flexes or vibrations from the steering column, but that is to be expected for a compact cabriolet. The optional acoustic roof does a great job to silent the interior. The engines and S Tronic gearbox are expectedly refined. Even the steering is muted in Audi’s fashion. Don’t expect it to be an Alfa Romeo Spider. The Audi offers neither sharp feedback nor sweet soundtrack, nor its boxy exterior as sexy in real metal. Its dynamics is competent rather than exceptional. The forthcoming BMW 2-Series Convertible has a good chance to beat it.

It is not short of performance though. You are served with 5 engine choices: 110 hp 1.6 TDI, 150 hp 2.0 TDI, 140 hp 1.4 TFSI ACT, 180 hp 1.8 TFSI and 300 hp 2.0 TFSI – the latter is reserved for S3 Cabriolet and is mandatory with Quattro. All cars are claimed to have unusually high top speeds thanks to the drag coefficient of 0.30, which is actually lower than the A3 hatchback. I would like to see the addition of 220 hp 2.0 TFSI (Golf GTI) engine, but it seems that the open top chassis is not good enough to take on that option without resorting to 4-wheel drive. Overall speaking, the new A3 Cabriolet is a credible choice in the niche segment, but not especially memorable.
Verdict:
 Published on 23 Apr 2015
All rights reserved. 
Audi RS3

The 5-cylinder engine achieves V8 level of output and a distinctive 5-pot rhythm...


We buy hot hatches because they are fast, nimble, fun to drive yet practical and affordable. If the definition of hot hatch is stretched beyond these qualities, is it still a hot hatch? Audi RS3 always falls into such confusion. Because of the presence of S3, the range-topping RS3 has to offer more in every way. Most notably is the engine. While most others employ 2.0-liter turbo fours, the super Audi runs a 2.5 TFSI 5-cylinder motor. Codenamed EA855, it is modified from the last generation RS3. Thanks to its extra cylinder and displacement, it needs no more than 1.3 bar of turbo boost pressure to achieve V8 level of output, i.e. 367 hp and 343 lbft. Mind you, that overshadows Mercedes A45 AMG to be the most powerful car in the hot hatch crowd. Milder turbo boost explains why its power delivery is noticeably more linear and more accessible low down than the AMG motor, although the latter does feel more exciting. Its peak torque is available across a very wide band, from 1625 to 5550 rpm, while peak power does not dip until 6800 rpm. The distinctive five-pot rhythm is also quite delicious.

The 174 mph top speed easily beats the best effort of new Honda Civic Type R (167 mph), yet it is still regulated electronically. More relevant to real-world performance is the 0-60 mph time of 4.1 seconds, which qualifies to be a junior supercar. Nevertheless, part of that is attributed to the flawless response of its 7-speed twin-clutch gearbox (with one more ratio than lesser S3) and Haldex 5 Quattro system. In the real world, some said it doesn’t feel as quick as A45 AMG. In fact, not much quicker than a VW Golf R.

The story of excess engineering and equipment does not end there. The new RS3 has massive rubbers measuring 235/35ZR19, or even wider 255/30ZR19 front tires if you take the option (the rears remain the same). Its standard steel brakes are already large (370 mm discs and 8-piston calipers up front; 310 mm discs and single-pot calipers at the rear), but Audi recommends those taking the car to race track to opt for ceramic brakes, something absolutely unique to the hot hatch class. The suspension is not forgotten. It is stiffened and lowered by 25 mm compared with standard A3. The front track is widened by 24 mm, while the front pivot bearings are converted to aluminum to save weight. Magnetorheological adaptive dampers, which are optional on the S3, are made standard here. All told, this is the classiest hot hatch we have ever seen, more so than the last generation RS3.


With a heavier nose, it doesn’t steer as sharp or as eagerly as the lighter Golf R.


Unfortunately, it also makes the car unnecessarily complicated and expensive. Its £40,000 starting price is already out of the reach of most people who would consider hot hatches (well, except those AMG buyers). Adding the must-have options, such as the adaptive dampers (otherwise the ride is too hard), loud exhaust, sports bucket seats and satellite navigation and you will get the world’s first £50K hot hatch. Wouldn’t it be wiser to buy a mid-engined Porsche or BMW M3?

However, giving the RS3 the biggest threats or embarrassment should be its close cousin, Golf R. The simpler, less engine, less powerful Golf is lighter and feels more agile. While the new RS3 is already 55 kg lighter than its predecessor (thanks to MQB), it is at least 100 kg heavier than Golf R. Moreover, its iron-block 5-cylinder motor hanging beyond the front axle doesn’t help agility. This means, although it does understeer much less than before – thanks to the Haldex 5 which sends power to the rear wheels more quickly – it still doesn’t steer as sharp or as eagerly as the lighter Golf R. Neither does the dull steering engage its driver as it should be at this level of competition. Once again, the Audi has superb traction, lateral grip, braking and even a quick steering rack, but its inadequate tuning just fail to put all things together and realize a dream driving experience. If you want to steer by throttle, you will be disappointed with its reluctance to react. This robs the fun to drive on track and renders the ceramic brakes useless.

The lack of interactive chassis might matter less on public roads, but then you will find the ride quality is always on the firm side, lacking the compliancy of most rivals. In the end, the best assets of RS3 remain to be its weather-proof handling and its superb powertrain. That’s not good enough to be worth so much money.
Verdict:
 Published on 17 Mar 2017
All rights reserved. 
Audi RS3 (400hp)

Can 400hp make a new hot hatch king?


Finally, the “400hp hot hatch” is born! We have been anticipating this since Ford Focus RS500 lifted the bar to 350 horsepower in 2010, and the feeling got stronger again in 2015 when Mercedes-AMG improved its A45 to 381 horses. Although Audi RS3 still trails the AMG for specific output – the latter’s engine is a cylinder and half a liter down, remember – being the first hot hatch to reach the 400-horsepower milestone is still something worth celebration. Back in 1984, this is the horsepower produced by the world’s most exotic supercar, Ferrari 288GTO. The GTO achieved that level with 8 cylinders and twin-turbocharging, whereas the Audi needs only 5 cylinders and one turbo, yet it shows less turbo lag and offers a much flatter torque curve – the 343 lbft of peak torque is available from just 1700 rpm and keeps flatting out for the next 4150 rpm. Technology has really moved on a lot in the past 3 decades.

Compared with the RS3 introduced 2 years ago, the 2017 update differs in a number of areas. The 2.5-liter five-cylinder motor is taken straight from TT RS. This means it has various improvements, such as dual-mode injection, Valvelift (on the exhaust side), higher boost pressure (up from 1.3 to 1.4 bar) and an aluminum cylinder block. The latter saves 26 kg and, crucially, makes the RS3 less nose-heavy. The chassis has received appropriate modifications, too. The tracks get slightly wider (by 20 and 14mm front and rear respectively), the suspension setting is stiffer, and the ESP software is retuned. Outside, the car received a facelift like the rest of the A3 range, in particular a sharper hexagonal grille, headlights and intakes. All combined to make the RS3 looks more aggressive, if not more tasteful. Oh yes, the RS3 is finally available in saloon form, so America and China will be happy.


Thanks to the lighter nose and retuned suspension, the RS3 is no longer default to understeer...


On the road, both versions drive virtually the same (why not? they are only 5 kg apart). Both are very quick, capable of 0-60 mph sprint in 4 seconds flat, if not as quick as the lighter TT RS. The new engine still displays some turbo lag low down, but it gets really strong from 2500 rpm and it doesn’t stop revving until 7000 rpm. The 5-cylinder motor is smoother and sounds more characterful than the 4-cylinder engines you normally find in this class, although I reckon the straight-six of BMW M2 is even better. The M2’s Getrag twin-clutch gearbox is also slightly better than Audi’s S tronic, whose gearshift is less incisive and consistent. Anyway, in straight line the Audi is just as quick as the BMW. In corners, it might even have a slight advantage, thanks to the Quattro traction.

What really differs it from the old car is handling. Thanks to the lighter nose and retuned suspension, the RS3 is no longer default to understeer. Its turn-in is sharper, and the balance is more neutral. The Quattro system seems to be keener to send torque to the rear. As a result, it feels more agile and less nose-led, although still not quite as agile as a rear-drive machine like the M2. On winding roads, it is definitely more entertaining to drive than the old car.

If you push the car hard into corner and lift off abruptly mid-corner, you can even induce a bit of oversteer, something not possible on the old car. That said, the power slide it affords is relatively subtle. Unlike an M2 or Ford Focus RS, which is benefited with GKN Twinster device, you won’t be able to hold the power slide at large attack angles. So while the car is more entertaining to drive than before, it is not quite the last word in the hot hatch crowd. In fact, far from it. Its steering is precise but a tad light and numb. The ride is stiff so you need to opt for magnetic adaptive dampers to deal with B-roads. As a hot hatch, its talent is still too one-dimensional, placing too much weight on power.

Another weakness is price. Entry price has risen by 5 grand to £45,000. Add a boot and adaptive dampers and it will be a £50,000 purchase, which sounds nonsense to me despite the unusual straight line performance it offers.
Verdict:
Specifications





Year
Layout
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Length / width / height
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Capacity
Valve gears
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Tires
Kerb weight
Top speed
0-60 mph (sec)
0-100 mph (sec)
A3 1.4TFSI 140hp
2012
Front-engined, FWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4237 / 1777 / 1421 mm
2601 mm
Inline-4
1395 cc
DOHC 16 valves, DVVT
Turbo
DI, cylinder deactivation
140 hp
184 lbft
6-speed manual
F: strut
R: multi-link
-
225/45R17
1180 kg (est)
132 mph (c)
7.8 (est)
-
A3 1.8TFSI
2012
Front-engined, FWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4237 / 1777 / 1421 mm
2601 mm
Inline-4
1798 cc
DOHC 16 valves, VVT, VVL
Turbo
DI
180 hp
184 lbft
7-speed twin-clutch
F: strut
R: multi-link
-
225/45R17
1250 kg
144 mph (c)
6.8 (c)
-
A3 Sportback 2.0TDI
2012
Front-engined, FWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4310 / 1785 / 1425 mm
2636 mm
Inline-4, diesel
1968 cc
DOHC 16 valves
VTG turbo
CDI
184 hp
280 lbft
6-speed manual
F: strut
R: multi-link
-
225/45R17
1310 kg
145 mph (est)
7.0 (c)
-




Performance tested by: -





Year
Layout
Chassis
Body
Length / width / height
Wheelbase
Engine
Capacity
Valve gears
Induction
Other engine features
Max power
Max torque
Transmission
Suspension layout

Suspension features
Tires
Kerb weight
Top speed
0-60 mph (sec)
0-100 mph (sec)
S3
2013 (2016)
Front-engined, 4WD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4254 / 1777 / 1401 mm
2596 mm
Inline-4
1984 cc
DOHC 16 valves, DVVT, VVL
Turbo
DI
300 hp (310 hp)
280 lbft (295 lbft)
6-spd (7-spd) twin-clutch
F: strut
R: multi-link
Adaptive damping
225/40ZR18
1415 kg
155 mph (limited)
4.6 (c) (4.2 (c))
-
S3 Sportback
2013 (2016)
Front-engined, 4WD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4324 / 1785 / 1404 mm
2631 mm
Inline-4
1984 cc
DOHC 16 valves, DVVT, VVL
Turbo
DI
300 hp (310 hp)
280 lbft (295 lbft)
6-spd (7-spd) twin-clutch
F: strut
R: multi-link
Adaptive damping
225/40ZR18
1445 kg (1425 kg)
155 mph (limited)
4.8 (c) / 4.6*** (4.4 (c))
10.9***
S3 Saloon
2013 (2016)
Front-engined, 4WD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4496 / 1796 / 1392 mm
2631 mm
Inline-4
1984 cc
DOHC 16 valves, DVVT, VVL
Turbo
DI
300 hp (310 hp)
280 lbft (295 lbft)
6-spd (7-spd) twin-clutch
F: strut
R: multi-link
Adaptive damping
225/40ZR18
1450 kg
155 mph (limited)
4.7 (c) / 4.6* / 4.8** (4.4 (c))
12.0* / 11.5**




Performance tested by: *C&D, **AMS, ***Auto Zeitung





Year
Layout
Chassis
Body
Length / width / height
Wheelbase
Engine
Capacity
Valve gears
Induction
Other engine features
Max power
Max torque
Transmission
Suspension layout

Suspension features
Tires
Kerb weight
Top speed
0-60 mph (sec)
0-100 mph (sec)
A3 Saloon 2.0TFSI Quattro
2014
Front-engined, 4WD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4456 / 1796 / 1416 mm
2636 mm
Inline-4
1984 cc
DOHC 16 valves, DVVT, VVL
Turbo
DI
220 hp
258 lbft
6-speed twin-clutch
F: strut
R: multi-link
-
225/40ZR18
1525 kg
155 mph (limited)
5.4*
14.0*
A3 Cabriolet 1.8TFSI
2014
Front-engined, FWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4421 / 1793 / 1409 mm
2595 mm
Inline-4
1798 cc
DOHC 16 valves, VVT, VVL
Turbo
DI
180 hp
184 lbft
7-speed twin-clutch
F: strut
R: multi-link
-
225/45R17
1430 kg
150 mph (c)
7.4 (c)
-



























Performance tested by: *C&D





Year
Layout
Chassis
Body
Length / width / height
Wheelbase
Engine
Capacity
Valve gears
Induction
Other engine features
Max power
Max torque
Transmission
Suspension layout

Suspension features
Tires
Kerb weight
Top speed
0-60 mph (sec)
0-100 mph (sec)
RS3 Sportback
2015
Front-engined, 4WD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4324 / 1785 / 1400 mm
2631 mm
Inline-5
2480 cc
DOHC 20 valves, DVVT
Turbo
DI
367 hp / 5550-6800 rpm
343 lbft / 1625-5550 rpm
7-speed twin-clutch
F: strut
R: multi-link
Adaptive damping
235/35ZR19
1520 kg
174 mph (limited)
4.1 (c) / 4.1*
10.3*
RS3 Sportback (400hp)
2017
Front-engined, 4WD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4335 / 1800 / 1411 mm
2631 mm
Inline-5
2480 cc
DOHC 20 valves, DVVT
Turbo
DI
400 hp / 5850-7000 rpm
354 lbft / 1700-5850 rpm
7-speed twin-clutch
F: strut
R: multi-link
Adaptive damping
235/35ZR19
1510 kg
174 mph (limited)
4.0 (c) / 3.9*
9.7*
RS3 Saloon (400hp)
2017
Front-engined, 4WD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4479 / 1802 / 1397 mm
2631 mm
Inline-5
2480 cc
DOHC 20 valves, DVVT
Turbo
DI
400 hp / 5850-7000 rpm
354 lbft / 1700-5850 rpm
7-speed twin-clutch
F: strut
R: multi-link
Adaptive damping
235/35ZR19
1515 kg
174 mph (limited)
4.0 (c) / 3.5** / 3.7***
8.7** / 9.2***




Performance tested by: *Autocar, **C&D, ***R&T





AutoZine Rating

A3


A3 Sportback

A3 Saloon

S3

RS3


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