Audi RS3 Saloon review
There are more spacious and practical cars to go fast in, but few sound as good, feel as high quality and offer as much sheer bang-for-buck as the Audi RS3 Saloon
What's not so good
Audi RS3 Saloon: what would you like to read next?
The Audi RS3 Saloon is a 400hp sports car you should consider if you’re looking for a fast four-door but don’t want something as large as an Audi RS 5 Mercedes C63 or BMW M3.
But don’t go thinking the Audi will be slower than these cars just because it’s smaller, however – it’ll officially leap from 0-62mph in 4.1 seconds. That’s exactly the same as the Mercedes, faster than the M3 and half a second quicker than the similarly-sized BMW M2 Competition.
Thankfully, while massively fast, the Audi RS3 Saloon is also very easy to drive. All models come with Audi’s signature quattro four-wheel-drive system that’ll help you stay in control in slippery conditions and launch you out of corners as fast as Usain Bolt’s pet greyhound.
It’s even fairly easy to drive around town. Sure, you’ll feel bumps through the seat more than in the standard A3 but it smooths out jarring thuds from potholes impressively well – especially with the optional adaptive suspension fitted, which allows you soften and stiffen the car’s suspension at the press of a button.
Unfortunately, there are a few flies in the RS3’s ointment. Its burbling turbocharged five-cylinder engine might be hugely strong and sound fantastic from the outside but its enthusiastic crackles and bangs are relatively muted from the driver’s seat. It isn’t exactly cheap to run, either – Audi claims it’ll return nearly 30mpg but you’ll be lucky to see a figure in the high twenties if you drive enthusiastically. Still, with performance this impressive, that shouldn’t really come as a surprise.
And don’t expect the RS3 Saloon to feel quite as agile or involving to drive as something like a BMW M2. Its steering isn’t quite as communicative and the BMW’s rear-wheel drive makes it more enjoyable to drive hard on the limit. The Audi counters with better grip from its all-wheel drive, ensuring reliable performance in tricky conditions, if not the last word in outright fun.
Fire up the Audi RS3 Saloon and it explodes to life with pops and bangs from its exhaust. So it’s a shame it sounds a little muted from the inside the rest of the time
Practicality is another area where the RS3 Saloon loses a few points. There’s less headroom in the back than you get in the five-door RS3 Sportback and its boot is significantly smaller, too. Even the two-door M2 Competition can carry an extra suitcase and a few more small bags than the RS3 Saloon.
Thankfully, the Audi RS3 Saloon’s cabin looks and feels fantastic. Almost every inch comes with a leather, suede-like Alcantara or soft plastic finish and plenty of brushed metallic trims and high-tech touches make sure you won’t mistake it for a 2.0-litre diesel A3.
The Virtual Cockpit digital driver’s display, for example, comes as standard on this high-performance RS model. It replaces conventional analogue dials with a futuristic configurable screen and even gets a special RS mode that displays a huge rev-counter right in your eyeline.
Audi’s MMI infotainment system features as standard, too. There’s a 7-inch screen displayed on which you’ll find Bluetooth, digital radio and sat-nav. Controlling all that is done via a rotary controller and menu shortcut buttons located between the front seats, which is easier to use when trying to drive at the same time as hitting buttons on a touchscreen.
Unfortunately, while the Audi RS3 Saloon gets plenty of equipment as standard including figure-hugging sports seats, you’ll still have to pay extra for adjustable lumbar support and automatic emergency braking – a feature that’ll help avoid low-speed collisions by braking for you if it senses an obstacle ahead.
Harder to stomach than the cost of a few optional extras is the fact that the cheaper RS3 Sportback does everything the saloon can do but has a bigger boot and more space in the back.
Still, if you rarely carry passengers and want a seriously rapid compact sports car with four doors, the Audi RS3 Saloon is well worth considering – take a look at the latest Audi RS3 Saloon deals.