FIRST DRIVE: Audi RS3

FIRST DRIVE: Audi RS3

When Mercedes-Benz decided to crash the AWD Hot Hatch party with its sensational small AMG offerings, it was always fairly certain that Audi wasn’t going to take things lying down.

After all, Audi had been doing the grunt AWD Hot Hatch thing for quite some time and isn’t the sort to go down without a fight. Plus, there was all that rally heritage …

Mercedes issued a rather shouty challenge in the form of the A45 AMG (and its related variants) with its AWD drivetrain, angry 265kW/450Nm turbo 4-cylinder engine and arsenal of scoops and bulges.

And the RS3 is Audi’s more subtle, less shouty answer. Unless you select “Dynamic” mode, then it gets rather shouty indeed.

The RS3 packs Audi’s familiar 2.5-litre five-cylinder petrol turbocharged engine that produces, predictably, just a bit more power than the AMG unit — 270kW and 465Nm — and can propel the little Audi to 100km/h in just 4.3 seconds.

The 2.5-litre engine is hooked up to a lightning-fast, slick and smooth dual-clutch transmission, while all the power is channeled to the ground via Audi’s quattro AWD system.

The RS3 lands in New Zealand as a single model that retails for $99,900, pricing it slap up against the A45 AMG.

The RS3 comes standard with a long list of equipment, including 19-inch alloy wheels, a tyre pressure monitor, RS sports suspension, an RS exhaust with switchable valves to control the noise, heated RS sport seats, magnetic ride damper control, xenon headlights, a 7-inch pop-up infotainment monitor, Bluetooth phone connectivity and audio streaming, a flat-bottomed RS multi-function leather and Alcantara steering wheel, front and rear parking sensors, a reversing camera and much more.

Available options include matte titanium or gloss black finish wheels ($1750), LED headlights ($2000), aluminium or gloss black exterior styling packs ($2000), an assistance package that includes active cruise control, autonomous emergency braking, lane assist and high beam assist ($3000), fixed-back RS racing bucket seats ($5500), a Bang and Olufsen 14-speaker audio system ($1900), panoramic glass roof ($3000) and an RS interior design package ($2500).

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