The era of the mega-hatch is upon us.
In unveiling the new Audi RS3 Sportback with a reworked 362-hp 2.5-liter five-cylinder unit and a BMW M3-equalling 0-62 mph time of 4.3 seconds, Ingolstadt's latest hot hatch is taking the fight directly to the Mercedes A45 AMG in a bid to become class champion. All that power, along with 343 lb-ft of torque, is mated to a seven-speed S tronic dual clutch box offering both manual and automatic shifting, along with Quattro four-wheel-drive and launch control.
To help drivers with a penchant for going sideways, Audi has created custom software specifically for the new RS3's 4WD system that combines with a multi-plate clutch to send between 50 and 100 percent of the torque to the rear axle depending on conditions. Built on a new MQB platform, using high-strength steel and a body shell with an aluminum hood, Audi has stripped 55 kg from the RS3, which now comes in at 1,520 kg. Chassis upgrades include a wider front track, an RS sport suspension that drops the height by 25 mm, 19-inch five-spoke rims, optional magnetic adaptive damping, and massive high-performance brakes. Optional carbon ceramics are worth considering for buyers that request top speed be unlimited to 174 mph.
Distinguishing the RS3 from its lesser A3 siblings is an aggressive front end with a unique high-gloss black grille and prominent bumper with large air inlets, while a distinctive spoiler above the tailgate and integrated diffuser sit at the rear with a pair of large oval exhaust pipes. There's also plenty of matte aluminum trim and widened side sills. Inside, Nappa leather sport seats (optional RS buckets), a leather and Alcantara-wrapped flat-bottomed steering wheel, unique instrument graphics, a leather/aluminum trimmed gear shifter, stainless-steel pedals, and Alcantara door trim, all combine to create a high-quality cabin. After debuting at the 2015 Geneva Motor Show, the new RS3 Sportback will hit European showrooms in the summer.