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2018 Audi RS3 Sportback track review

By Scott Newman, 23 Jul 2018 Best Value Performance Cars

Grunt-packed hyper hatch fails to overpower the podium

2018 Audi RS3 Sportback track review BFYB18

If you’re going to be the most expensive entrant in the Bang For Your Bucks contest, you’re going to want to be extremely quick to have any chance of a decent result. And boy is the updated Audi RS3 Sportback quick.

This track review was carried out in conjunction with MOTOR's Bang For Your Bucks 2018

It dominated the drag strip, setting the fastest figures ever recorded at BFYB, jetting to 100km/h in 4.01sec and blitzing the quarter mile in 12.18sec at 186.57km/h, while 80-120km/h takes just 2.4sec. Nothing else came close.

The new all-alloy 2.5-litre turbo five-pot has shaved a couple of tenths off its predecessor’s acceleration times and has thankfully retained the RS3’s signature warble. It provides a great accompaniment to hot laps around Winton, but of greater importance to its dynamics is the 16kg weight loss the engine’s new, lighter construction provides.

The RS3 has always felt more at home on the road than the racetrack, and despite the lighter nose, understeer is the predominant handling trait at the limit. However, crucially, there’s just enough chassis adjustability to prevent hot laps being an exercise in frustration.

Carry the brakes gently on turn-in and the rear will edge out slightly, relieving the front tyres of some stress and allowing a straighter exit – from there the monster engine takes over once more and rockets you in fast forward to the next bend.

Push hard and Audi’s five-pot hottie starts to get a bit sooky: the gearbox won’t accept early downshifts making it hard to slow the car sufficiently, at which point the nose runs wide of the apex. The RS3’s Haldex-based all-wheel drive system works a treat at getting all the power to the ground, but can’t divert enough power to the rear to really help steer the car.

In fact, the RS3 now almost feels a little overpowered, the front pulling wide if you get greedy with the throttle on corner exit – the VW Golf R is certainly the better balanced, more rewarding tool, a fact reflected in every judge placing the slower, less powerful car ahead on their scorecards. 

It’s a feeling backed up by the stopwatch: for all its power and acceleration, the RS3 only lapped 1.4sec faster than the Golf R, which itself wasn’t particularly brisk, and trailed the Peugeot 308 GTi 270 by 0.2sec. The culprit is its mediocre corner speed, its 77.2km/h average in the same league as the Suzuki Swift Sport and Skoda Octavia RS245 rather than taking it to the Ford Focus RS or Honda Civic Type R.

But who needs corner speed when you have a hot hatch that sounds like a baby supercar, can pin your body into the seat under acceleration and has a top-notch interior? By playing to its strengths, the RS3 nabs fourth place, missing the podium by a whisker.

More go for your dough at Bang For Your Bucks 2018

Audi RS3 Sportback BFYB 2018 Results - 4th place

0-100km/h: 4.01sec (1st)
0-400m: 12.18sec @ 186.57km/h (1st)

Lap Time: 1:38.40sec (5th)

Price: $84,480

Bang Index: 189.2

Bucks Index: 59.5

BFYB Index: 130.8

Judges' Comments

Warren Luff - 8th
“The RS3 is a car that promises so much. It looks and sounds good and it’s a beautiful car to drive on the road, but in a racetrack environment it is a real let-down. It’s a point and squirt car and it’s got chronic understeer. It feels very heavy over the nose so you’re always struggling to try and slow it up enough so you can turn it and rotate it and then use the power out of the corners. The RS3 is not a car that you want to jump back in when you’re at a track.”

David Morley - 4th
“Light blue touch paper and retire to the nearest ditch”

Dylan Campbell - 7th
“Lovely engine warble. Less-lovely understeer. Better on the road”

Scott Newman - 7th
“Mucho motor and just enough playfulness to prevent frustration”

Louis Cordony - 9th
“What it offers in acceleration it lacks in dynamic character”

FAST FACTS 
2018 AUDI RS3 SPORTBACK

BODY: 5-door, 5-seat hatch
DRIVE: all
-wheel
ENGINE: 2480cc inline-5, DOHC, 20v, turbo
BORE/STROKE: 82.5mm x 92.8mm
COMPRESSION RATIO: 10.1:1
POWER: 294kW @ 5850-7000rpm
TORQUE: 480Nm @ 1700-5850rpm
WEIGHT: 1510kg
POWER-TO-WEIGHT: 195kW/tonne
TRANSMISSION: 7-speed dual-clutch
SUSPENSION: struts, coils springs, adaptive dampers (f); multi-links, coil springs, adaptive dampers, anti-roll bar (r)
BRAKES: 370mm ventilated discs, 8-piston calipers (f); 310mm ventilated discs, single-piston calipers (r)
WHEELS: 19.0 x 8.5in (f); 19.0 x 8.0in (r)
TYRES: Pirelli P Zero; 255/30 R19 (f); 235/35 R19 (r) 
PRICE: $84,480

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