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To hell with business cases

Pahrump, Nev. – The Audi RS 3 is a type of efficiency fashions that feels extra like a ardour mission than a calculated enterprise case. Now that the TT-RS has bowed out of the market, Audi’s track-tuned compact sedan is the one automobile presently offered in North America that’s motivated by a five-cylinder energy plant. Provided that, it might’ve made sense for the second-generation RS 3 to have transitioned to a hopped up four-cylinder borrowed from the Volkswagen Group components bin – in any case, the S3 already will get its grunt from a 2.0-liter that’s similar to the Golf R’s. Ratcheting up the efficiency of a extensively used engine for a high-performance software is a standard strategy within the business, and that’s ostensibly what Mercedes-AMG did to develop the 4 pot within the RS 3’s closest rival, the CLA 45.

However Audi has rightfully recognized that there’s worth in being the oddball, particularly when these traits join on an emotional degree. The five-cylinder configuration got here to epitomize Audi efficiency in the course of the automaker’s varied motorsports efforts all through the Nineteen Eighties, and the 1-2-4-5-3 firing order produces an immediately recognizable soundtrack that’s nonetheless carefully related to the model right now. The newest iteration of the RS 3’s turbocharged 2.5-liter scores an output bump of seven horsepower and 15 pound-feet of torque over the outgoing mill for a grand whole of 401 hp and 369 lb-ft. The 0-to-60 dash falls by three tenths to three.6 seconds. Whereas these are astonishing numbers for a subcompact sedan, they’re hardly transformative. However they’re mixed with the engineering work that Audi has performed elsewhere within the platform, it ends in a extremely succesful efficiency machine that surprises on a number of fronts and delivers on the promise of a genuinely distinctive driving expertise.

There’s a brand new aesthetic to go together with it, too. Purposeful vents within the flared fenders up entrance are a delicate homage to the Quattro S1 E2 utilized in Group B rally racing, whereas larger air intakes, a wider entrance monitor, and extra aggressive aero parts give the brand new RS 3 a much more purposeful look than its predecessor. Audi additionally included a small contact that provides to the sense of event by means of the Matrix-design LED headlights, which greet you by spelling out R-S-3 every time the automobile is unlocked. 

On the chassis entrance, the brand new RS 3 boasts larger brakes with improved warmth administration because of these bigger entrance air intakes and the flexibility to evacuate scorching air by the fender vents. The magnetic dampers outfitted on the outgoing RS 3 have been ditched in favor of the adaptive Dynamic Chassis Management setup discovered on different A3-based fashions, a transfer that Audi instructed us was made to supply a higher vary of damping adjustability. There’s additionally the requisite RS-tuned springs, dampers, and sway bars, together with a experience peak that’s 10 mm decrease than the S3 and 25 mm or practically a full inch decrease than the A3. The large information, nonetheless, is the brand new RS Torque Splitter: two electronically managed multi-plate clutches, one for every of the rear-drive shafts, that enables for absolutely variable torque distribution between the rear wheels.

That in flip has yielded two new drive modes: RS Efficiency, which is designed to attenuate understeer throughout onerous cornering by sending torque to the surface wheel, and RS Torque Rear, which strategically distributes the facility between the entrance wheels and the surface rear wheel to assist induce managed oversteer. Yeah, this one’s received a drift mode. 

Our first stint behind the wheel of the brand new RS 3 was on the street course at Spring Mountain Motorsports Ranch, about an hour west of Las Vegas. It’s a demanding circuit with a shocking quantity of elevation change, and this specific configuration included a quick sweeper that allowed the RS 3 to place its Torque Splitter tech by its paces. The check automobiles used for monitor work had been outfitted with the carbon ceramic brakes that come as a part of the Dynamic Plus Package deal in addition to the non-obligatory, ultra-sticky Pirelli P Zero Trofeo R tires that had been used to set the Nürburgring compact manufacturing automobile lap report final summer season.

The latter present a shocking quantity of grip; the onboard telemetry registered lateral forces exceeded 1.26G in each braking and cornering on quite a few events as soon as we received comfy with the automobile and the monitor structure. The RS 3 does a exceptional impression of a rear-drive automobile within the RS Efficiency drive mode – understeer was just about non-existent, solely briefly showing when gradual corners had been overcooked. That’s simply physics. On the few events once we got here by that sweeper a bit too scorching, it was the again finish that stepped out first, but it surely instantly got here again consistent with zero drama by merely dialing again the throttle. The steering is fairly mild whatever the drive mode that’s set, and there’s not a lot in the best way of helpful suggestions, however the ratio is fast and it’s correct sufficient to position the automobile proper the place you need it lap after lap. In that sense it doesn’t actually add to the monitor driving expertise, but it surely additionally doesn’t take away from it.

The carbon ceramic brakes are much less forgivable, although. Whereas they remained fade-free all through repeated lapping classes, they provided little or no preliminary chew even when the pads had been recent, and the pedal mainly needed to be stood upon to get all the obtainable stopping energy from them. Audi’s Pre Sense security system hated it when that was performed and beeped its displeasure every time we went into the braking zone for the monitor’s huge hairpin, however to its credit score, it by no means intervened past flashing warning messages on the Digital Cockpit show.

After we’d had our fill of the monitor we headed out for a two-hour drive by the desert to get a greater sense of what the RS 3 is like in on a regular basis use. There’s a little bit of turbo lag when accelerating from idle, however there’s no scarcity of grunt when the enhance is available in. It’s additionally type of onerous to remain mad at this engine when its exhaust word retains reminding you of the R8’s naturally aspirated V10 at decrease revs.

Audi’s determination to swap out the magnetic dampers for extra typical items got here as a little bit of a shock, however out on the street it was onerous to argue with the outcomes, because the RS 3 was remarkably compliant on each the sunbaked pavement round city and the undulating stretches of freeway close to Loss of life Valley Junction. In additional spirited sections of the drive, urgent the RS button on the steering wheel switched the automobile from Consolation to the RS Efficiency drive mode in an effort to stiffen the suspension and improve physique management because the tempo ramped up, but it surely by no means felt abusively stiff no matter how briskly or gradual we had been going. Our check automobile was outfitted with the RS Know-how Package deal, which features a properly balanced Bang & Olufsen audio system and sharp head-up show which are value springing for.

Returning to Spring Mountain, it was time to don helmets as soon as once more, this time on a skidpad autocross Audi set as much as absolutely show the RS Torque Rear drive mode. Anybody who has ever tried to float a strong rear-drive automobile is aware of that a lot of studying course of entails terminal understeer or spinning out – or perhaps a mixture of the 2 throughout the identical try – however the Torque Splitter system within the RS 3 is a reliable sport changer. Managed drifts usually require a really measured strategy with the throttle, and in the event you’re reacting to what the automobile is doing slightly than anticipating it, you’ve most likely already misplaced it. Not so with the brand new RS 3. Flip in, pin the throttle to the ground, dial in some reverse lock, and alter as needed alongside the best way. With the system serving to to distribute energy the place it must be in an effort to maintain the automobile energy sliding with out letting the again finish come round utterly, it mainly seems like a cheat code. It’s additionally very addictive, so be sure to put aside a tire finances.

You might argue the RS Torque Rear trick serves no sensible objective in a lot the identical manner that you possibly can argue that producing a singular five-cylinder engine for a low quantity automobile is pointless, and therein lies the brilliance of the RS 3. That is simply as a lot about celebrating heritage and the sheer pleasure of driving as it’s about hitting numbers on the Nordschleife and injecting some character into your day by day commute. When automakers make impassioned choices like these, all of us win.

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