2018 Audi RS3 review with video

The basics:
Base price: $62,900 + tax
As tested: $62,900 + tax
Average fuel economy over a week: 10.1 L/100 kms (23 US MPG)
Competitors: BMW M2, Mercedes CLA 45, Subaru WRX STI, etc.

Audi’s nutty RS division has a new offering for North Americans and, by a country mile, it’s the most affordable car ever offered by the company’s performance vehicle team. But don’t think for one second that because of its petite size or more attainable price tag that the RS3 is any less bonkers than its sport tuned siblings! Glenmore Audi in Calgary sets us loose on this little pocket rocket for the week and here’s what we found.

– The RS3 cranks out 400 horses, 354 ft lbs of torque and officially a 0-60 mph time of 3.9 seconds. And it’s all thanks to perhaps the most unusual, charming stand-out in this car – its 5 cylinder engine. It’s not the most efficient choice. It’s not the most refined choice. It’s certainly not the quietest choice. But this engine harkens back to Audi’s rally heritage. It’s raw. It’s fun. And the noise is unique and special
– And while the 5 cylinder isn’t new for Audi, it has been overhauled for 2018. It now uses an aluminium block – which is lighter, can handle more abuse, it revs higher and brings a different engine note to the table
– But to tame this car’s nuts factor a little, the drive mode select system allows you to toggle between comfort and dynamic modes. That changes the shift patterns, the throttle response – which also makes this car surprisingly fuel efficient when you’re not pinning it from light to light – and it also adjusts the ride as well thanks to the mag ride suspension. This can soften or stiffen it up depending on the sort of driving you’re doing.
– If you want the most possible performance out of this car, there’s the sport package. For $1750, you get an increased top speed from 250 to 280 kms/hr and Audi’s RS fixed suspension. This makes it firmer but it’s no longer adjustable. So unless you’re planning on taking this car to the track all the time, I’d do your organs a favour and stick with the regular system. Because in comfort mode, it is decently liveable for a performance focussed car
– Brakes-wise, we have some huge, totally new Brembo-developed brakes up front. They soak up something like 85% of the braking demands for this car. Then out back, you’ll find the same discs as you’d find in the lesser S3. It makes for a really sharp braking – experience, even without the optional carbon ceramics that you can buy
– Speaking of the wheel set-up, here is something very curious about the RS3 – you can get it with a staggered tire size. Audi puts a 20 mm wider tracked tire up front than in the back to help negate the understeer you see in some Audis because of its all wheel drive
– And yes, the RS3 has one of the best winter-slaying, gravel road taming systems out there – Audi Quattro. It’s more performance oriented than we see in lower-tiered Audis and is adjustable, too. In dynamic mode, for example, around 85% of power is going to the rear. Meanwhile, in comfort mode, it’s more FWD biassed
– Now, if you live up here in Canada, it seems like we’re getting a plum deal here with the RS3. If you make the currency conversion, the US models of this car are almost $9000 more expensive and they don’t have quite as many features. Up in Canada, nappa leather, heated seats, a panorama sunroof, magnetic ride suspension, smartphone connectivity with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, navigation, parking sensors, a rear back-up camera, blindspot monitoring, LED headlights, Bang and Oluffson speakers and Audi’s top tier, totally customizable virtual cockpit all come with the price of admission
– Here’s something that might surprise you: the S4 and the RS3 have very similar second row dimensions. Just half an inch more legroom in the S4. Now, it’s still pretty tight – especially if there are tall people up front – but it’s not as bad as I thought it would be. And you can make a go of it with both front and rear facing car seats


– If you’re looking for a quiet ride, even when this car is put into comfort mode for cruising – the RS3… isn’t it. Those vibrations and the rawness of the 5 cylinder have given it a fairly noisy 69 db at 100 kms/hr rating over our week of testing
– It’s disappointing to see that Audi opted for an electric e-brake rather than the more traditional lever style – something that, even just from aesthetic perspective, would harken back to the RS3’s rally roots a bit more
– And speaking of analog, if you’re wondering where the manual transmission option is in this car – Audi says no dice. This 7 speed dual clutch is going to shift way faster than us mere mortals – and probably help save some expensive shop bills down the road, too. But there are paddle shifters mounted on the steering wheel
– While this is a generally well-equipped car, one bit of kit that should come on the RS3 that isn’t available at all from the factory is a remote starter. Because this car is so performance oriented, it needs a good amount of time to warm up. In fact, the digital rev counter adjusts the redline to around 5,500 RPM and warns you not to really gun it until this car’s warmed up. And on chilly days like we’ve been having lately, that takes a good while – so it seems like the perfect candidate for remote start
– Also, the Recaro-designed sport seats are all manually adjustable. Now, you can get the power seat package – but at that point, you’re losing this higher grade nappa leather and some pretty epic diamond stitching
– The seats, by the way, are firm for long haul drives. If you’ve got a bad back, take the RS3 for a good, long test drive to make sure it’s going to work for you
– My big issue with these seats though, is that the headrests aren’t adjustable at all – and for a tall guy like me at 6’2, I’m not getting the support I need both for comfort and safety
– While interior fit and finish is generally very good, the air vents are surprisingly flimsy feeling and I’d like a bit more heft out of the paddle shifters as well – they just don’t feel as meaty as they should in a car like this
– Now, while I’d love to see this car available as a hatch in Canada, I would NOT hold your breath. The verdict from Audi is that there just wouldn’t be enough of them sold (particularly in the US) to justify bringing it over. So this little sedan’s trunk has 315 litres of capacity. That’s definitely on on the smaller side, but we still managed to squeeze our standardized trunk test into it
– While legroom in the back is better than expected, headroom is the limiting factor for taller adults
– And while there are five seat belts, the middle position in the second row is going to be a hard sell. There’s a big hump in the middle that will make it a squeeze for just about anyone

Family Wheels report card:

Family Wheels driver comfort score: 3.5/5
Family Wheels interior layout score: 4/5
Family Wheels infotainment system score: 4/5
Family Wheels interior noise score: 3/5 (69 dB at 100 kms/h)
Family Wheels performance score: 4.5/5
Family Wheels rear passenger score: 3.5/5
Family Wheels trunk test score: 3/5
Family Wheels fuel economy score: 3.5/5
Family Wheels build quality score: 4.5/5
Family Wheels value score: 4/5

Family Wheels overall score: 38.5/50= 77%

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