2018 Audi RS 3
The RS 3 is the fastest and most powerful version of the Audi A3. Designed by Audi Sport, the company's go-fast division that brought us the R8, it looks, sounds, and goes like no A3 before it.
The Mercedes-AMG CLA45 uses a 2.0-liter turbo four. The BMW M2 receives a turbocharged 3.0-liter straight-six. The RS 3 falls right in the middle with a 2.5-liter turbocharged five-cylinder tuned to produce 400 horsepower from 5,850 to 7,000 rpm and 354 pound-feet of torque between 1,700 and 5,850 rpm.
After exiting the five-cylinder, the power and torque flow to all four wheels via a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. It can be left in drive or shifted manually using steering wheel-mounted paddles. Bigger brakes all around help the driver make the most of the five-cylinder's output on and off the track.
The 3,593-pound RS 3 hits 60 mph from a stop in 3.9 seconds and goes on to a top speed of 155 mph, though customers with a real need for speed can pay extra to increase that figure to 174 mph. Fuel economy checks in at 19 mpg in the city, 28 mpg on the highway, and 22 mpg in a combined cycle.
It takes a well-trained eye to tell the RS 3 sits a little bit lower than the standard A3 thanks in part to a revised suspension system. Look closely and you'll also notice a model-specific front bumper with air vents on either side and a sizable "quattro" emblem on the bottom part of the grille.
Out back, there is a spoiler on the trunk lid but it's small and discreet -- Audi designers didn't want to end up with a scaled-down DTM car. The RS also wears a model-specific air diffuser with a pair of oval exhaust tips. Finally, the 19-inch alloy wheels add a finishing touch to the low-key look.
Standard and Optional Features
The RS 3 is a mono-spec model. The list of standard features includes a 180-watt sound system that plays through 10 speakers, HD Radio, Bluetooth connectivity, front and rear parking sensors, key-less entry and start, sport seats for the front passengers, split-folding rear seats, dual-zone automatic A/C, a multi-function steering wheel, a panoramic sunroof, stainless steel pedal caps, automatic LED headlights, 19-inch alloy wheels, mirrors that are auto-dimming, power-folding, and heated.
Want more? The list of standalone options includes special paint colors from Audi Exclusive, carbon fiber trim inside, and rear side airbags.
Buyers also have over half a dozen option packages to choose from, including the Dynamic Package which bundles special wheels wrapped by summer tires, a sport exhaust, and red brake calipers. The Driver Assistant package brings adaptive cruise control, active lane assist, and high beam assist.
The RS 3 boasts front, knee, side, and curtain airbag, electronic stability control, traction control, an electromechanical parking brake, and an alarm.
With 395 horsepower on tap, the Audi RS 3 trumps all of its main rivals in the power department. Buyers can also look at the Mercedes-AMG CLA, with is more style-oriented, and the BMW M2, which is rear-wheel drive and only offered with two doors.