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Audi RS3 Sportback review (2011 onwards)
Model: Audi RS3 Sportback
Bodystyle: Five-door hatch
Engine: 2.5-litre turbo petrol
Transmission: seven-speed S tronic dual-clutch automatic
GALLERY: Audi RS3 Sportback
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What is it?
First the bad news: if you want an Audi RS3, you're out of luck. All 500 RS3s destined for the UK have already been sold.
Audi UK may bring more in but this is still to be confirmed, and it looks unlikely with a new Audi A3 just around the corner.
So, just what are you missing out on?
Where does it fit in?
The RS models are well documented for their bonkers pace. They tend to arrive towards the end of a model's life-span and, with the current-shape A3 on the way out, Audi has launched a last hurrah by taking the mechanicals from the spicy TT RS and slotting them into the five-door Sportback.
Why not a three-door? Well, this would probably cannibalise sales of the TT RS. Plus, I reckon Audi is being very canny when you look at what this car is locking horns with; BMW's 1 Series M Coupé is a three-door only while the Porsche Cayman R is a dieted two-seater that doesn't even get a stereo.
The RS3 then is the super-hatch for the family. But with a nod to practicality, does it therefore lose out to these rivals when it comes to the driving experience?
Is it for you?
At £39,930, it undercuts both the BMW and the Porsche. However, with four-wheel drive, a seven-speed gearbox and five doors, this is an altogether sort of go-faster animal.
Those who remember the loony RS2 will appreciate the 'estate' proportions and there's no doubt this is one of the most practical hot hatches (if you could call it that) on sale.
Yet, for real petrolheads the RS3 might leave you feeling lukewarm. If anything, its real problem is that it is far too easy to drive - and for people who want an edgy, hardcore, seat-of-your-pants experience, you might feel the Audi doesn't excite.
What does it do well?
There are a few ways in which it will still raise your pulse. With the TT RS's 2.5-litre five-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine putting out 340hp and 332 lb/ft of torque to all four wheels, this is a very quick way to get from A-to-B.
Sixty two is taken care of in 4.6 seconds, making the RS3 quicker off the line that the 1 Series M and the Cayman R. Better still, next time you see an R8 (4.2 V8) owner, let him know that your car is as quick to 62mph - because it is. That's sure to get some debate going with your mates down the Greasy Beertap.
The RS3 is as deserving as any RS car to ever wear the hallowed badge and as quick as you could ever need to go. There is no let up in acceleration, nor any noticeable turbo lag.
Pop it into Sport mode and it turns into even more of a thriller, with the exhaust opening up to create a deep warble and delicious downshifts and sharpening the throttle response further still.
Within the ESP system there is even launch control to allow you to tramp off the line without wheelspin and, when you knock the gearbox into manual mode, it won't change up for you giving you full control.
What doesn't it do well?
The problem with the RS3 is it's too easy to drive very fast, whatever the conditions. You might think this is a good thing, but really it isn't because you'll forever live in fear of your driving licence.
The ride quality is also firm but on smooth Austrian roads never uncomfortable and it holds the road like an eagle carrying a fish.
However, the steering isn't sharp enough to live with the handling; you don't get enough feedback to feel engaged with the road, nor does the RS3 feel agile enough through bends.
What's it like to live with?
If you hold on to your licence for long enough, you will relish the five-door practicality and big boot, which offers between 302 and 1,032 litres.
The RS3 also comes with a ton of standard equipment to help justify that £40k price tag. In there you will find sat-nav, Bluetooth and a plush stereo in addition to the usual refinements.
Also, Audis are known for their exquisite build quality inside and out and the RS3 is no exception, with a finely crafted cabin finished with top-notch materials.
RS3 models are set apart from other A3 models with new-look alloy wheels, plenty of RS badges and the option of bucket seats. But as a performance model, Audi hasn't overcooked it, so you won't feel like a baseball-cap wearing boy racer.
How green is it?
Driven carefully you should see 31mpg combined and exhale 212g/km of carbon emissions. This is actually rather noble for a car with such capability and better than all its rivals.
Would we buy it?
If we could, we would. It isn't as thrilling as a BMW 1 Series M Coupé or Porsche Cayman R, but it does offer everyday supercar performance with family usefulness. However, if you're a proper wheelsman, you won't find it exciting enough.
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