Audi RS3 sedan

The roads around Cygnet and Oyster Bay, south of Hobart, are renowned in motorsport as some of the most challenging stages of the world’s great tarmac rally, Targa Tasmania.

The latter takes in an uphill, twisting climb starting just off the Channel Highway along Nicholls Rivulet Rd (C626), while the former challenges drivers along the banks of the Huon River and back over Silver Hill to Cygnet. Just the roads, then, on which to launch Audi’s new RS 3 sedan.

Some 18 months ago, it was the previous generation RS 3 Sportback which wowed us, coincidentally also in Tasmania.

That seems like only yesterday, but Audi has already moved the game on to where they claim the latest generation RS 3 sedan – priced from $84,900 MLP* – offers more ‘bang for buck’ than any other RS model before it.

The compelling argument starts with the new, lightweight iteration of Audi’s five-cylinder engine, the heritage of which harks back to the iconic Sport quattro S1 Group B rally car of the early 1980s.

It has the same 2480cc capacity as previously, but is 26kg lighter and now develops 294kW and 480Nm, making it the most potent five-cylinder in the world. It’s a unit that has been acclaimed International Engine of the Year for the past seven years.

Red Audi RS3 sedan rounding corner

An aluminium crank case counts for much of the weight saving, while dual injection, the Audi valvelift system (AVS) and a high-pressure 1.35-bar (19.6psi) turbocharger contribute to the 24kW/15Nm power/torque boost. ADR combined cycle fuel economy is rated 8.4 litres/100km.

Acceleration – at the risk of understatement – is as linear as it is fierce. Upshift through the new, lighter seven-speed dual-clutch S-tronic transmission in search of the car’s 0-100km/h time of just 4.1 seconds (0.2 faster than the earlier-mentioned RS 3 Sportback) and you won’t be disappointed.

All the while the engine’s unique 1-2-4-5-3 firing order provides a fitting soundtrack, thanks to the active baffles in the standard RS sports exhaust that can be enabled with a simple tweak when at the wheel.

Putting all that aforesaid performance to the ground is the job of Audi’s acclaimed quattro permanent all-wheel drive system. In dynamic mode, more drive – up to 100 percent – is directed to the rear wheels. With traction, grip and cornering balance thus optimised, and 235/35 R 19 rubber adding to the sure-footedness, the RS 3 carved up the twisting Targa roads with conviction.

A brief lapping session at Baskerville Raceway gave the RS 3 added opportunity to impress. Tipping the Audi into the succession of left-hander corners, the steering came alive with incisiveness and feedback. The car held its line resolutely despite cornering speeds way above what might be attempted on the road and the ‘whoa’ matched the ‘go’ thanks to the herculean stopping power of eight-pot brakes (370mm ventilated at the front and 310mm rear).

What it’s got:

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, but Audi interiors are something of a benchmark and, for all its performance focus, the RS 3 sedan lacks nothing by way of cabin plushness, smart ergonomics and quality finish.

Standard equipment includes LED headlights, Audi virtual cockpit with 12.3-inch digital display and specific RS functions, MMI Navigation plus with MMI Touch and 10GB HDD, Premium 180w 10-speaker Audi sound system, Audi Connect with in-car Wi-Fi hotspot, DAB+ digital radio, Audi parking system + rear view camera, tyre pressure monitoring system. comprehensive assistance package (side drive assist, active lane assist and rear cross traffic assist).

There’s a host of options, including a $7300 RS performance package that combines a special Audi Sport ‘rotor’ wheel design, Audi magnetic ride, 705w 14-speaker Bang & Olufsen audio system and carbon fibre interior inlays.

The A3 sedan range has been awarded a five-star safety rating by the Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP).

Summary

The Audi RS 3 sedan is the real deal. Succinctly put, it matches class-leading performance and driving dynamics with style, luxury and hi-tech.

If you like the sound of that, but would prefer a more practical body, then you will be pleased to know the new RS 3 Sportback is due to arrive in Australia later in 2017.

(*Excludes dealer delivery and government statutory charges).