The Audi RS 3 ties the company’s present back to its roots, producing small sedans and hatches with giant-killing performance.
I’ll admit to getting sentimental occasionally about my old Audi 4000S. Part of that is because it entered my life at a pivotal moment. But part of it is that it was a genuinely good car that I greatly enjoyed.
It doesn’t help that auto manufacturers have practically stopped making coupes and sedans. We live in the era of the crossover and while the CUV may be a practical mode of transportation, I won’t ever buy one for the sake of it being fun to drive. As for the practical aspect, I’ve hauled a 20-foot extension ladder sticking out of the sunroof of a Porsche 924. The convertible I currently own was pressed into impromptu service to carry a tree and four boxwood bushes home from Costco.
I don’t need or want a crossover. What I want is a small sedan or hot hatch, something that slays Ford Mustangs for breakfast and lunches on BMW M cars. Something that makes a good noise, fun, and makes every drive an opportunity for mischief. There’s no way I’m getting that in a Porsche Macan or Audi SQ5. But fortunately, Audi does make what I’m talking about in the form of the RS 3.
The RS 3 Takes Audi Back to Its Roots
Audi started out making staid sedans like the Audi 100 and Audi 80/Fox. They were good, solid if unremarkable cars that sold well and gave Audi a foothold in the U.S. market. Then an Audi engineer by the name of Jörg Bensinger got the idea to fit the 80 with the four-wheel drive from a VW Iltis. From there the Quattro was born and Audi was literally off to the races.
The success of the Ur-Quattro led Audi to produce all-wheel drive sedans and hatches like the 4000S. From there it’s a direct line to the Audi 80/90 and A4. As Audi and the A4 moved upmarket into the luxury segment, they launched the A3. In fact, both the Audi 4000 and A3 are similar in size with their dimensions being within a few inches of one another. And while the A4 is a direct descendent of the Ur-Quattro and 4000S, the A3 better captures the essence of the original cars and the RS 3 takes the fun to a whole new level.
Today’s RS 3 keeps Audi firmly connected to its roots. Other vehicles in Audi’s lineup may sell in higher volumes and cars like the Audi TT, and R8 may get more attention but the RS 3 is at the core of Audi’s identity. No other car in their lineup combines Quattro all-wheel drive with the inline-five cylinder so well. And no other Audi sedan has the same terrier-like personality that will eagerly chase supercars around the Nurburgring. It’s a supercar in a small sedan body, one that’s sculpted like a welterweight boxer and punches above its weight class. But what makes it genuinely appealing is the ridiculous levels of fun.
We Need More Cars Like the Audi RS 3
We hear all the time about the perils of distracted driving. People on cell phones, texting, and fiddling with complicated infotainment screens. Some cars even let you play video games on their built-in displays and until recently would let you do so while driving. Many safety advocates say we need more automation and self-driving capabilities.
What we need is more fun in our driving. People like to be entertained and the bar for that entertainment is set pretty low. If we can spend hours playing Mario Kart on our phones, there’s no reason we can’t enjoy driving. But to enjoy driving we need cars that are enjoyable to drive. We need cars like the Audi RS 3.
Photos: Audi USA