"Entry level" now means around 400 horsepower. Nice.
Germany's luxury automakers are in the midst of a blitzkrieg-style lineup expansion. They are going after both the high and low ends of the price spectrum by offering luxury cars to compete with Bentley and Rolls-Royce while extending cheaper offerings to take customers from Toyota and Honda. BMW has the 2 Series, Mercedes the CLA, and Audi has the A3. Unfortunately for Audi fans, both the BMW and the Merc can blow the its car out of the water when they are factory tuned and become the CLA45 AMG and M2, respectively.
Audi won't have that. So to topple the reign of these two cars it will be joining the horsepower parade by debuting the new RS3 in America. The RS3 is already offered in Europe as a four-door hatchback, but an inside source from Audi told Car and Driver that the RS3 will cross the Atlantic and land in US dealerships by 2017 as a 2018 sedan. Like the Euro-spec RS3, the US version should produce close to 400 horsepower via a 2.5-liter turbocharged inline-five. A seven-speed dual-clutch automatic should feed all four tires healthy helpings of power and enable the small sedan to hit 60 mph from standstill in about 4.0 seconds. With a 3,300-pound frame and Quattro all-wheel drive, the RS3 should be good for some timed laps as well.
Since the Audi S3 starts at the $40,000 mark, expect the RS3 to launch at around $50,000 like it's other German competitors. Speaking of which, we can't wait for the RS3 to hit the track and set a lap time against the BMW M2 and the CLA45 AMG. As German sports cars like the M3 and C63 AMG have gotten bigger and more technical, it's nice to see high-horsepower engines trickle downstream to keep the competition fierce and available to the masses. Even though the BMW M2 will be the only one of the bunch retaining driver-friendly rear-wheel drive, the Europe-only RS3 Sportback has a four-wheel-drive system that's liberal with how much it spins the rear wheels.