Review: 2018 Audi RS3 Sportback

Review: 2018 Audi RS3 Sportback
 

If you found the sedan a little too plain, a little too much of a sleeper, then the Audi RS3 Sportback is the one to get, says Thomas Falkiner

I’m so confused. What is this Audi trying to be?

Ha, so you’re not the only person flummoxed by this machine’s somewhat curious shape. From some angles it looks like an estate (think shrunken RS6) but from others the RS3 Sportback resembles a hatchback that has — like a private school rugby player — overdosed on growth hormone. Either way it never fails to attract attention or spark parking-lot debate — unusual for an Audi. Suffice to say if you found the sedan too plain, then this is the RS3 to get.

It looks bulkier than the sedan. Does it get more power to compensate?

Looks are deceiving, my friend. The Sportback’s proportions might seem heavier but it’s 5kg lighter than the sedan version we drove last year (it’s also lighter than the Mercedes-AMG A45 and BMW M2). So no, the RS3 Sportback comes shoehorned to the same 294kW/480Nm five-banger found in its sibling.

Somebody told me that RS stands for Rocket Ship. Is this true?

No, but it should do because the RS3 Sportback is ridiculously quick. I’ve driven some pretty exotic sports cars and this could easily stick with most of them, which is quite something when you consider how relatively inexpensive a base-spec RS3 actually is.

Part with a few bob over R900k and you’ve got a practical hatch-cum-wagon that can rival or even eclipse vehicles twice the price. Especially from a standing start where the Audi’s launch control, S-tronic gearbox and all-wheel-drive system allow it to take off with damn near the same enthusiasm as an American Top Fuel dragster.

Did you enjoy it when the asphalt started to snake?

Ninety percent of the time I did. The RS3 packs an enormous amount of mechanical grip. Partly because of those Pirelli P-Zero tyres but mainly because of the quattro all-wheel-drive system that ensures maximum traction in all conditions. It’s consequently a very easy and, dare I say it, forgiving car to drive on the limit.

The nose is quick to turn in and easy to place and there’s more than enough feedback to keep most drivers happy. But the RS3 does lack that dark, tyre-smoking hooligan side that makes rear-driven rivals such as the BMW M2 such a riot. The BMW wants to have fun; the Audi is maybe a little too serious too much of the time.

Will people think I’m a ‘boet’ if I buy one?

Unfortunately they will, Chyna. Over the past few years Audi RS cars (particularly the RS3 for some reason) have become the streetcars of desire to Boets and Bros the world over. Most people will assume you have a penchant for flat-caps, baggy RVCA vests and designer espadrilles — not to mention backstage tickets to Ultra. Which is all kind of unfortunate if you’re not really this way inclined.

Can you blow your profit share on extras? Asking for a friend …

Damn right you can. And you will if you want all the Audi must-haves like Virtual Cockpit and MMI Navigation Plus (a cool R3 1250). While you’re at it you’ll also want the S sport front seats and sublime Bang & Olufsen sound system — another R18 200.

In fact there are so many optional extras available you can quickly add on (as was the case in my test car) an extra R96 000 to the base asking price. But as the great Gordon Gekko once said, greed is good. So flaunt yours: spend north of a bar on a hatchback and show the little people who’s boss. – Thomas Falkiner