As good as Audi's TT-RS is, the small coupe just isn't practical as a daily driver for most people. A hot hatch would be better for hauling people and their associated cargo, but at the moment, Audi only offers its A3 and S3 with turbocharged four-cylinders. A higher spec RS 3 has been long desired by enthusiasts and has only been a fantasy -- until now.
Beginning in early 2011, Audi will start shipping the RS 3 Sportback, a faster, more developed version of the luxurious hatchback that shares its architecture with the Volkswagen Golf. While the A3 and S3 are both powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged direct injection four-cylinder, the S3 having a slightly larger turbo and intercooler, the RS 3 will get the same 2.5-liter turbocharged direct-injection five-cylinder found in the TT-RS. The five-cylinder will not only provide the appropriate rally-car roar, but roughly 340-horspower and 332 pound-feet of torque. The RS3 will pull off 0-60 mph in 4.6 seconds according to Audi, and in accordance with the infamous "gentleman's agreement," the car will be electronically limited to 155 mph.
As is to be expected from any high-performance Audi, the RS 3 is only available with quattro all-wheel drive and also in accordance with tradition lately, will only be available with the automaker's electronically actuated DSG transmission. The RS 3 will get the new 7-speed version of Audi's S tronic, which uses a rather tall seventh gear to deliver higher levels of efficiency at motorway speeds. With the low-end of torque of the turbo five-cylinder, passing still should be a non-issue.
The RS 3 Sportback will utilize the same MacPherson strut front suspension and multi-link rear as the A3. If tradition holds however, the RS 3 will have slightly different geometry optimized for its 1-inch lower ride height. Audi has another surprise in store to increase handling abilities of the ultimate hot-hatch as well. The front tires are slightly wider at the front, measuring 235/35/19 in front and 225/35/19 at the rear. The reverse staggered fitment was commonplace with European tuners in the early and mid-90s, but faded out once aesthetics became more important than performance over the past decade. The larger cross section in front helps dial out the inherent understeer found in front-engine all-wheel-drive cars and also helps maximize braking power from the 15-inch front rotors and 4-piston calipers.
The outside of the RS 3 will say all business as well. The carbon-fiber front fenders will have wider, more aggressive flares than standard A3s as well as a lower more sporting front valence. Lower side-sills, a larger roof spoiler and lower rear diffuser all combine not only to add to the aggressive look, but are functional at keeping the RS 3 on the ground at high-speed.
Base price for the dream hatch is set at 49,900 euros. Now before anyone gets in an uproar about how that it would be a $70,000-dollar car in the U.S., keep in mind prices don't translate straight from currency. The price of the RS 3 is actually about 2,000 euro less than an S4 in Germany, which has a base price $46,600 here in the States. So yes, you are still looking at almost $45,000 for hatchback, but it is a hatchback with Cayman S performance and unmatched cool-factor. No word on the RS 3 coming to the U.S. market, but given the fact that we probably aren't getting the S3, we aren't holding our collective breath.