Bigger is not always better when it comes to sports cars, as anyone who drove the outgoing version of Audi’s miniature hot-rod would know. The Audi RS 3 is the most compact car from the motorsport-minded folks at Audi Sport. A few years ago, on a closed-course somewhere in the high hills of Oman, the outgoing RS 3 cemented its place in our minds as an all-time great by swinging its rear-tires around every hairpin bend. It could’ve been a scene straight out of Tokyo Drift.
News of an all-new 2022 Audi RS 3, then, has piqued our interest. Here’s why we think it’ll be a firecracker.
Five cylinders good
The five-cylinder turbocharged engine is back. This unusual motor goes back to the golden era of rally-racing, where a five-cylinder Audi quattro absolutely demolished the competition. So, these engines also powered fearsome Group-B racers and helped Walter Rohrl win the deadly Pikes Peak Hill Climb. Audi’s current five-cylinder won the Oscars of engine building – the “International Engine of the Year” awards – nine times in a row beginning in 2010. The motor’s unique 1‑2‑4‑5-3 firing sequence gives it a unmistakable sound too.
RS Torque rear (aka drift mode)
Yes, the new RS 3 has quattro all-wheel drive, but not like you’ve seen it before. And the car has what is essentially a drift mode, officially labelled RS Torque Rear mode. Its reason for being is to provide the ultimate in sideways fun – on a closed course, naturally. It’s made possible by a clever new electronically-controlled multi-clutch differential that can send all of the engine’s prodigious torque to just one of the rear wheels. When that happens, the tire could be made of glue and the rear wheel would still slide. Audi says the new RS Torque Splitter will also significantly reduce any tendency for the car to understeer.
Control is nothing without power. And the 2.5-litre five-cylinder is no slouch there, delivering 369 lb-ft of torque over a broad area in the heart of the engine’s rev range. It’s rated at 401 horsepower. In such a compact car, that should be quite entertaining. The sprint from 0-100 km/h takes just 3.8 seconds.
Mean green machine
The stance of the RS 3, the way it’s hunkered down over lovely 19-inch wheels is just perfect. Clearly, Audi didn’t cut corners here. The car’s not just lower; the suspension components have also been beefed up to cope with the added power and the stress of drift mode. The front wheels are pushed out by 33 mm, necessitating those big flared wheel arches. With the roof painted black and that new Kyalami green paint, it doesn’t not look like The Hulk. We should find out early next year what it’s like to drive this little beast.