Behind the impressive performance of the Audi RS3 Sportback is the world’s most powerful production 5-cylinder engine, the 2.5 TFSI. It delivers 400bhp – 33bhp more than its predecessor – and is 26kg lighter thanks to its aluminium crankcase, among other features. Its maximum torque of 480Nm is available from just 1700rpm and remains at the driver’s disposal right through to 5850rpm.
This wide tract of torque facilitates an exhilarating 4.1-second 0-100km/h sprint time, the effect of which is heightened by the 5-cylinder unit’s unmistakably full-bodied and characterful sound. Top speed is limited to 250km/h, but if the optional dynamic package plus is specified, a de-restriction to 280km/h is among the extra performance features it brings.
The proven channels for the mighty engine’s output are the S tronic 7-speed dual-clutch transmission and quattro permanent all-wheel-drive based on an electro-hydraulic multi-plate clutch, which distributes the drive torque variably between the axles. The share it allocates to the rear axle automatically varies depending on speed and cornering forces, but its bias can also be influenced by the driver using the standard Audi drive select system, which can also influence the response of the steering, transmission, engine management, adjustable exhaust flaps and optional RS sport suspension with adaptive damper control (three modes – comfort, auto and dynamic). Cornering attitude is also further enhanced by the Electronic Stabilisation Control (ESC) with wheel-selective torque control and a sport mode specially tuned for the RS.
With its standard progressive steering and sophisticated multi-link suspension with wider front track positioning the stocky body 25mm lower than the A3, the RS3 Sportback is set up to deliver compelling grip and adjustability with extraordinary poise. 19-inch alloy wheels framing 310mm brake discs front and rear are factory-fitted, and as an alternative, customers will be able to choose carbon-ceramic front discs.
Externally, the flared front arches that evocatively link the RS3 Sportback with its ’80s Quattro coupé forebears continue to lend just the right air of power and purpose to the latest car, while subtle styling revisions based on the recent updates made across the A3 range also lift its look.
In the equally focused cabin, the two circular instrument dials with their black faces, white scales and red needles sit either side of a driver information system that includes a boost pressure indicator, an oil thermometer and a lap timer.
In the latest update, this configuration can now be replaced by the fully digital Audi virtual cockpit which is newly available. A special RS screen shifts the tachometer to the centre, displaying on either side the readings for torque, g‑forces and tyre pressure. When the S tronic transmission is operating in manual mode, a scale with a colour background prompts the driver to use the steering wheel paddle or selector lever to upshift when approaching maximum rpm.
Sport seats with RS seatback emblems in black fine Nappa leather are standard, and for even greater support, RS sport seats with more contoured profiles and integrated head restraints for the driver and front passenger are available as options. The RS sport leather steering wheel is flat-bottomed and features buttons for operating the infotainment system.
The 367bhp Audi RS3 Sportback is the 2016 ST-Torque Awards winner for Best Hot Hatch.