Will Audi finally bring its hot wagon to America like Mercedes did with the AMG E63 Estate?
The 2016 Paris Motor Show saw plenty of fans flock to the Audi booth where the RS3 sedan was unveiled with a promise that, unlike the RS3 Sportback, the four-door would come to America where sales numbers of the BMW M2 and Mercedes-AMG CLA45 justify the import. Making things better was the fact that the new RS3 Sedan was far better than the RS3 Sportback thanks to upgraded dynamics and what Audi touts as the most powerful five-cylinder engine to date. Well, it now seems that the RS3 Sedan holds the crown no longer.
That’s because, just weeks before the 2017 Geneva Motor Show, Audi has previewed the RS3 Sportback with upgrades pulled straight off the RS3 Sedan and pasted to its wagon body. Most importantly is the fact that the Sportback now gets the same engine as the sedan, meaning it’ll make 400 horsepower and 354 lb-ft of torque out of 2.5-liters spread through five inline and transversally mounted cylinder bores with help from a turbocharger. That’s 33 more horsepower than the previous RS3 Sportback, and with an aluminum crankcase and other weight-saving features the engine pulls this off without adding weight. In fact, it's 57 pounds lighter.
This enables the Sportback to get off the line and up to 62 mph in 4.1 seconds on its way to a 155 mph top speed. Autobahn frequent flyers can ask Audi to delimit the engine to extract a juicy 174 mph out of the five-cylinder. Those speeds will drain the fuel tank in no time. Tamely piloted the RS3 Sportback can attain 28 mpg, if driven the way the European Driving Cycle tests its cars. Helping both mileage and lap times is a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission mated to Audi’s signature Quattro all-wheel-drive system, which can turn corners with even more ferocity when optioned with the RS sport suspension with active damper control. Individual modes include Comfort, Auto, and Dynamic for different handing characteristics.
Outside observers are treated to the metallic five-cylinder roar that can be varied with flaps in the exhaust, although onlookers may be too distracted by the Sportback’s new dimensions to take note. Its aggressive new look is no illusion. Audi designers widened the Sportback’s track, gave it a lower stance, and flared the wheel arches more to make it handle better and look the part. Optional carbon ceramic discs are available up front to provide additional stopping power. We’d prefer four-wheel carbon ceramics for the bragging rights, but then again we can’t have our cake or eat it in this situation. That's because, like the outgoing RS3 Sportback, this wagon will remain a Europe-only indulgence.
Curse the Europeans as they enjoy the new lap timer, boost pressure indicator, and a special RS screen to distract drivers with a G-Force meter, tire pressure gauge, and other track day gadgets. Inside it’s classic Audi, with diamond-stitched seats, ergonomic controls, Nappa leather, a flat-bottomed steering wheel, and the RS emblem stitched into the seat backs. When it goes on sale this August, it will start at €54,600 ($58,206) making it cheaper than the €55,900 ($59,592) RS3 Sedan. If you want Audi to send the RS3 Sportback here, then pray Mercedes sells enough AMG E63 Estate models for the Germans to get the point.