3 Reasons a Base RS 3 is the Best Audi Sport Model in 2023

3 Reasons a Base Audi RS 3 is the Best Audi Sport Model

When trying to pick the best Audi Sport model for 2023, we considered balance, performance, value, and heritage. 

What is Audi Sport? And what is the best Audi Sport model here in 2023? Two questions I ask myself every time an Audi loaner arrives in my driveway for review. For the former, I’d argue an Audi Sport — aka Audi RS — can be corralled by three main categories.

  • Enhanced design — wider hips, more aggressive lines
  • Elevated performance — upgraded engines, suspensions, and tires
  • Track toughness — extra cooling and braking

In short, take a standard Audi and make it faster, meaner, and robust enough to be driven harder for longer.

Plus red brake calipers!

Audi RS 3 brakes

When the 2022 Audi RS 3 debuted, AudiWorld tested it on track, around a drift course, and in the scorching heat of Death Valley. It was a marketing experience designed to demonstrate Audi’s halo compact sports sedan in several extreme environments. And, wow, we came away a little more than impressed.

But what’s it really like to LIVE with an Audi RS 3 in a city with imperfect roads? To run errands and pick up the kids? To mix and match the mundane in something capable of extraordinary?

For this experiment, Audi sent over the following…

3 Reasons a Base Audi RS 3 is the Best Audi Sport Model in 2023

The Base Performance Spec

Outfitted with the Technology Package, Black Optics Package, and Sport Exhaust, this particular RS 3 MSRPs for $65,400. Let’s call this option set the base performance spec. The one you’d want for the street. Turbo 5-cylinder engine making 401 horsepower. 7-speed dual-clutch transmission. Audi quattro all-wheel-drive. RS torque splitter. Dynamic Chassis Control. Sporty leather seats. Steel brakes with red brake calipers. And performance tires.

It’s pretty much all most folks will need

However, if you have track days in mind, you could spend about $10,000 more to snag an RS 3 that adds the Dynamic Plus Package, Carbon Package, and Design Package. Same power with more premium materials, a faster top speed, and carbon ceramic brakes.

RS 3 logo

After a week of living with a street-spec Audi RS 3, I’d argue one doesn’t need to spend $75 grand to get a great RS 3 experience. In fact, the RS 3 wows even more in the real world than it does in carefully monitored off-street environments. It’s not just a track car with street tires. It’s a daily driver with track toughness that’s also reasonably affordable.

In short, as much as the RS 6 Avant will always have my heart, this base RS 3 may just be the best Audi Sport Model, and best all-around Audi, on sale here in 2023. Here are three reasons why:


Audi RS 3 in python yellow

Auto manufacturers love to tell the world they build track-ready street cars. This dates back to the days when there were more homologation requirements. Race on Sunday, sell on Monday, as they say. But most trackable street cars usually end up taking one of two paths. They’re either too track-focused, making on-road driving uncomfortable or even dangerous with the wrong tires. Or you get a street car that can hang out for a lap or two on a track before overheating and suffering brake fade.

The Audi RS 3, in contrast, is perfectly balanced between the two. In its comfort suspension and drive modes, you might as well be driving an Audi A3 or S3. It’s just a plush little compact sedan with sporty seats. And it makes driving around crumbling, pot-holey Los Angeles bearable.

Jump into the RS 3’s RS modes and everything changes. Quicker shifts. Tighter suspension. And shove-you-back-in-your-seat acceleration. To be fair, you probably do want better tires and the optional carbon ceramic brakes for frequent track day abuses. But I’ve seen these cars survive 100-degree weather while being beat-on by dozens of journalists. These cars were made to be driven with excitement in mind.

RS 3

In addition to street/track balance, let’s talk about literal balance. The RS torque splitter and tunning involved are remarkable. You can set the car to have absolutely zero under or oversteer. Or you can set it to drift. And, yet, even with the rear end whipping around, everything feels, again, balanced. This amount of grip and cornering and power feels perfect for this chassis.

It’s truly a car that can be enjoyed on the street and in closed environments, and you could really use it to push one’s driving skills and racing acumen.


audi rs 3 in python yellow side view

Cheapest and best don’t usually go together. But look at these stunning figures for the RS 3, as tested by MotorTrend

  • 401 horsepower
  • 0-60 mph: 3.6-seconds
  • Quarter Mile: 12.1 sec @ 113.9 mph
  • 60-0 Braking: 108 ft
  • 3,589 lbs

All in a vehicle that costs around $65 grand.

Audi RS 3 interior

Now step up to the RS 5, which will typically specs out in the $80-90,000 range. It’s larger, which is lovely. And a little fancier. But the performance metrics are similar. Next to up to the 4.0L V8 trio — the RS 6 Avant, RS 7, and RS Q8. They’re a few tenths quicker and much nicer inside, but all cost well over $100,000. And lastly, the RS e-tron GT. Some folks have measured a sub-3-second 0-60 time, but most folks experience something closer to 3.3 or 3.6 seconds, in car that starts in the mid-$140s.

All of this to say is that the RS 3 maybe not be the best on paper. But in the real world, it hangs out with every other RS model while costing significantly less. And just like every other RS model, save for the RS e-tron GT which loses power over the life of its charge, you can beat the snot out of the RS 3 for hours and hours and hours and it’ll just keep on going.

Heritage & Drivetrain Uniqueness

audi rs 3 rear

Looking back at Audi performance and racing over the last 40 years, you’re likely to find a turbo 5-cylinder engine involved with many of the company’s greatest accomplishments. Here, in the 2022 Audi RS 3, we are likely seeing the very last Audi 5-banger before the company evolves into an all-electric automaker. In that sense, this 2.5L 5-cylinder feels historic. Like the final chapter of your favorite novel.

More important, it’s just a ripper of a motor that sounds unlike anything else on the market today.

Yes, even with the Sport Exhaust package, it’s a little too quiet for my subjective tastes. But, pedal to the floor, the RS 3 absolutely HOWLS invoking its Rallycross heritage and drawing out one’s inner child. In contrast, the other RS models feel a little more cookie-cutter. Yes, they’re often quicker and fancier. But without a bespoke engine, are they as unique? I’d argue they are not (even if I love them all for different reasons).

The RS 3 Sounds Great! (What’s the Catch?)

3 Reasons a Base Audi RS 3 is the Best Audi Sport Model in 2023 -- Audi RS 3 3/4 front view

Of course, no vehicle is perfect. Especially when mixing subjective opinions with objective testing. And, when dealing with a luxury performance brand like Audi, one can’t expect to get the fanciest and fastest car from their most-affordable Audi Sport model. So, if the Audi engineers asked me how to perfect the RS 3, I would ask for —

  • Less turbo lag off the line (the RS 3 doesn’t allow brake torquing in most modes)
  • Ventilated front seats
  • An extra inch of rear-seat legroom
  • A louder sport exhaust

I would also note that the steel brakes, while offering a firmer pedal feel, are noisier and dirtier than the carbon ceramics. But overall it’s hard to find fault with this little rocket of a compact sports sedan. It’s just too darn fun.

Best Audi Sport Model – Audi RS 3 Image Gallery

Father. Writer. Photographer. Auto enthusiast.
Current Stable: 2013 Ford Mustang Boss 302, 2013 Cadillac ATS-4 3.6, LS3-Swapped 1992 Buick Roadmaster Wagon, 1987 Mercury Cougar XR-7, and usually a Press Loaner.

Insane RS 7, Audi TT Turns 25, RS 3 vs Huracan STO & More! | AudiWorld Driven

Audi TTAudiWorld Driven series. Once again, we rounded up the hottest Audi news, reviews, videos, and AudiWorld forum discussions from the past week just for you. This week incudes a look back at the game changing Audi TT that turns 25-years old this year. Speaking of milestones, how about a 1973 Audi 100 that has been with the same owner since new? It is up for sale right now. The folks over a Consumer Reports do not think too highly of the Audi Q5. And Audi may have just revealed what EV charging will be like in the future. There is a lot to cover this week so let’s jump in with all four wheels.

Happy Birthday Audi TT!


Must Watch Video: Custom Audi RS 7 is a Matte Black Masterpiece

The Audi RS 7 is a great looking car. And this is the best-looking RS 7 you will ever see. And with the Akrapovic exhaust, it is the best-sounding as well. We know your time is precious and in the digital world of today there are a million things competing for your attention. But trust us, set aside eight minutes and thirty-nine seconds, and watch this video.

Forum Thread of the Week: Consumer Reports Ranks Q5 Nearly Dead Last

Audi Q5HERE.

Original-Owner 1973 Audi 100 LS 4-Speed Being Sold at Auction

Audi 100HERE.

Must Watch Video: Lamborghini Supercar Struggles to Stay Ahead of RS 3

The Audi RS 3 is a terrific machine. And this video is just the latest proof. This time the mighty RS 3 is up against a fire breathing Lamborghini Huracan STO. The Lambo is not just a little bit more expensive than the Audi. It is not double the price. It is not triple the price. That Huracan STO is more than five times more expensive than the RS 3. It is a two-seat full bore supercar. Against a tiny Audi performance sedan? Well, look away Lambo fans. Yes, at the end of the day the expensive Italian put down a quicker lap time. But it was less than 1 second faster than the Audi. And you can complain about different tires and drivers and other factors making a difference. But the RS 3 hung right in there, and it punches far above its weight class.

Audi Cubes Offer Glimpse into Future of EV Charging


Images: Audi; Bring a Trailer; Autoweek

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Audi 2022 Sales Down, Dakar Disaster, Driving an S1 Rally Car & More! | AudiWorld Driven

Audi e-tronAudiWorld Driven series. Just in case you missed it last week this is our new feature where we round up the hottest Audi news, reviews, videos, and AudiWorld forum discussions from the past week just for you. Last week we featured a story about what it is like to take an e-tron on a long road trip. This week we have a similar road trip story but this time it is in an old-fashioned gasoline powered A8. There is some rather unfortunate news coming from the Audi Dakar rally team. A test of the most iconic five-cylinder Audis in history. And virtual reality will become your new in-car entertainment. A lot happened this week so let’s get into it.

Audi BEV Sales Soar by 47 Percent in 2022

Audi SalesHERE.

Must Watch Video: Audi Quattro MEGA Test, Flat Out in S1 Group B Monster

If you watch just one video this week, make it this one. One of the most iconic Audi cars in history is the Walter Rohl Group B rally car. And any chance to see it rip around a racetrack is a treat. That is exactly what we get with this video posted recently on the Auto Express YouTube channel. And as amazing as that is, there is much more to this video as it walks through the history of the five-cylinder Audi’s. Turn the volume up and enjoy.

Forum Thread of the Week: 2,200 Mile A8 Road Trip

Audi A8HERE.

Carlos Sainz Receives Medical Treatment After Crashing Out of Dakar Rally

Dakar CrashHERE for the story as reported by Autosport.

Must Watch Video: Audi RS 3 Owns BMW M240i in Drag Race

In our first video above, you got to see a glimpse of the mighty RS 3. In this video the RS 3 is the star of the show as it goes up against the BMW M240i xDrive in a drag race. The Audi runs the quarter mile in 12 seconds flat. The BMW is .4 seconds behind. Although to be fair it was less than a stellar start by the BMW driver. However, the BMW driver had no impact on the RS 3 time and 12 seconds flat is a solid performance. For some perspective a first generation R8 took about a half second longer.

Holoride Brings Virtual Reality to your Audi


Images: Audi; CoinDesk; Autosport; AudiWorld forum

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Schnell on Wheels: The Audi RS 3 Performance Edition Will Be the Fastest RS 3 Ever

Audi RS 3 Performance EditionRS 3 Performance Edition with more power and a higher top speed. Only 300 of these special cars will be made. The bad news is that none of the 300 RS 3 Performance Edition cars will be sold in the U.S. The good news is that we kinda already have it. The RS 3 Performance Edition will pack 401 horsepower. For those of you paying attention you may think that is not news as the RS 3 already makes 401 horsepower. Yes, it does here in the U.S., but the regular European-spec RS 3 has to make do with only 394 horsepower. So, the Performance Edition does offer a slight bump for our European friends but is no more powerful than the U.S.-spec car.

However, the RS 3 Performance Edition does have a couple of goodies that we can’t get here in the land of the free. Probably the top goodie we would love to have is the Sportback version of the car. In Europe the RS 3 and the RS 3 Performance Edition are available in a fantastic hatchback body style. We get only the sedan. But before we get too sad about that, let’s take a closer look at what makes the Performance Edition special.

Lucky 300

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Opinion: The RS 3 is The Ultimate Expression of Audi

Audi RS3 and Ur-Quattro

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.

RS3 and Ur-Quattro

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.

2022 RS3

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

2022 Audi RS3 Drift

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.

I disagree.

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

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Mark Webb is fascinated by anything automotive and particularly loves cars that are unusual or have a good story. He’s owned a variety of cars from 60’s muscle, Japanese imports, and oddities like a VW Thing and Porsche 924. After 20 years in the automotive and tech industries, he’s a walking encyclopedia of car info and is always on the lookout for his next project or a good road trip.