The Audi RS3 has always been known for its hot hatchback credentials. Now, though, the A3 saloon has been given the RS treatment, resulting in the RS3 Saloon. AOL Cars try it to see if making it into a saloon has caused it to lose any of its original charm.
See also: Audi RS3 Hatchback review
See also: First Drive: Audi A8
What is it?
The Audi RS3 is one of the fastest hatchbacks currently on sale, packing nearly 400bhp from its 2.5-litre turbocharged engine. It is also one of the most affordable ways of getting from 0-60mph in under four seconds. We have already tried the latest RS3 in hatchback guise, so it's now time to try the saloon version.
Audi isn't known for going crazy with styling changes, which is why the main differences on the latest RS3 lie under the bonnet. While others downsize, Audi has stuck firm with its favoured 2.5-litre engine, which now produces 395bhp and 400Nm of torque. Power is sent to the wheels using a seven-speed gearbox and Audi's renowned Quattro four-wheel drive system.
Inside, the RS3 saloon has received Audi's popular Virtual Cockpit infotainment system – one of our favourite systems available, and is helping to transform what we know and think about infotainment systems.
As we have already mentioned, the RS3 saloon has a 2.5-litre turbocharged petrol engine and four-wheel-drive. The performance is incredible, as it is able to get from 0-60mph in just 3.8 seconds and onto a top speed of 155mph.
Despite its impeccable performance, the economy hasn't been hit too hard, as Audi claims the RS3 saloon will return 34mph on the combined cycle and emit 188g/km of CO2. Audi knows its customers well, so has fitted easy-to-engage launch control into the RS3 saloon so that its buyers can get the best acceleration away at traffic lights. All you have to do is stick it in dynamic mode, turn off the traction control, plant one foot on the brake and the other on the accelerator, and then let go of the brake. Expect to see one using it somewhere inappropriate in the near future.
What's it like to drive?
As soon as you drive the RS3 saloon, you realise just how perfect it if for UK driving. You get huge traction from the all-wheel drive system and its engineers have managed to rid it of a tendency to understeer, something fast Audis in the past have suffered from.
The engine provides incredible amounts of torque, giving huge acceleration from even low revs. Yet, the RS3's other party trick is its refinement. For a car that prides itself on its driver involvement, it serves as an excellent motorway cruiser, too. Even long journeys behind the wheel don't prove too difficult, as the ride seems to absorb a good amount of bumps in the road.
Unfortunately the steering does lack a bit of feel, although it is accurate and gives you a lot of confidence to throw it into bends. Its all-wheel-drive system provides huge grip allowing for fast cornering with as little fuss as possible.
How does it look?
The looks of the saloon do the RS3 a lot of favours, and actually makes it look even smarter than the hot hatch, in our opinion. The RS3 has always come as a Sportback – a hatchback to you and me – but Audi has added its RS treatment to the saloon for 2017. Noticeable differences include a large Quattro moniker at the bottom of the grille and RS3 sports suspension that lowers the ride height by 25mm. At the rear, you have two large sports exhaust pipes. The 19-inch wheels house large perforated front brakes, too. It's a menacing-looking package, and one with performance to match.
What's it like inside?
As with all Audis, the RS3's cabin is extremely well-built. Sporty touches such as the flat-bottomed steering wheel that has red stitching and aluminium 'look' gearshift paddles help lift the overall look of the cabin.
You also get Audi's fabulous Virtual Cockpit infotainment system that replaces the traditional dials you would normally have on the instrument binnacle. It displays the satellite navigation, key vehicle readouts as well as the standard speedo and rev counter. It is a fantastic system and surprisingly easy to use, too.
What's the spec like?
The RS3 comes with a good amount of standard equipment, although this is as you would hope for a car with a base price of £43,765. Key equipment that comes as standard includes Audi's Virtual Cockpit system, dual-zone climate control and full LED headlights. However, Audi's options are hugely expensive, meaning that our test car actually cost £55,335. The main options that led to such a jump in price were a full sports exhausts system (£1,000), a Bang and Olufsen sound system (£495) and a Matrix LED package (£895). Despite the vast performance on offer, £55,000 for a compact sports saloon does seem a bit steep.
The RS3 is an exceptionally capable car. It offers superb performance and, as a saloon, it looks fantastic and has one of the best-built interiors on offer, as well as Audi's fantastic infotainment system. While it does look expensive on paper, and even worse when you start ticking a few boxes, when you consider the huge amount of performance on offer, it actually starts to look quite good value.
Model: RS3 saloon
Base Price: £43,765
Engine: 2.5-litre turbocharged petrol
Max speed: 155mph
0-60mph: 3.8 seconds