The Audi RS range is the byword for understated power and performance. Generally less of a headline-stealer than its AMG and M-line counterparts at Mercedes and BMW, the latest RS 3 Saloon recently took its share of the limelight with some intriguing upgrades. Hot on its heels, the latest generation of the original entry-level RS machine, the RS 3 Sportback, has shown its face for the first time ahead of the Geneva Motor Show in March.
Visually, you may find yourself squinting hard in search of any major aesthetic updates on the new sportback. It’s true that Audi’s RS range has always been amongst the most discreet of the world’s most renowned performance sub-brands, at least on the design front. However, don’t be fooled by the relative lack of gaping air intakes and towering spoilers; anything bearing the RS moniker is capable of packing some serious punch.
That’s not to gloss over Audi’s subtle design tweaks. Building on recent updates for the Audi A3 range, this rocket-powered RS derivative is slightly lower in profile and gets flared front arches, larger air inlets plus optional matrix LED headlights at the front end. The rear view reveals an elongated RS roof spoiler, a diffuser insert and the RS exhaust system’s distinctive large oval tailpipes. A set of 19-inch alloy wheels frame the factory fitted 310-millimetre brake discs front and rear, whilst customers can also plump for carbon-fibre ceramic front disks if the mood takes them.
Those brakes are certain to get a good workout as the new RS 3 boasts no less than the world’s most powerful production five-cylinder engine; Audi’s the dual-injection 2.5 TFSI. The beating heart of the RS 3 Sportback now delivers 394bhp, a 32bhp hike compared to its predecessor. The petrol powerplant, now lighter than before thanks to innovative aluminium construction, catapults the newly revealed Sportback from 0-62mph in a mere 4.1 seconds up to a standard top speed of 155mph. If even that doesn’t satisfy your thirst for speed, why not ditch the limiter and fit the optional dynamic package plus. This unleashes the ultimate in RS performance, de-restricting the 2.5 TFSI to push the Sportback’s top speed up to a spine-tingling 174mph.
The RS 3’s brute force is funnelled through an S tronic seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox to all four wheels via quattro permanent all-wheel drive. Electronic Stabilisation Control with variable torque distribution keeps cornering sharp, whilst the optional RS sport suspension adds to the Sportback’s all-round attributes by offering three modes – ‘comfort’, ‘auto’ and the speed-focused ‘dynamic’ setting.
The RS 3 Sportback, much like its recently announced saloon relative, comes equipped with Audi’s virtual cockpit. Look out for bespoke RS features such as a special RS dashboard displaying readings for torque, g‑force, boost pressure as well as a lap timer. Optional RS sport seats complement the sport leather steering wheel whilst elsewhere, an infotainment touchpad can be added to the centre console from which the Bang & Olufsen stereo and myriad driver assistance systems can be controlled.
The new Audi RS 3 Sportback will join its Saloon sibling in UK showrooms later this year. Pricing for both variants will be confirmed closer to the official release date.