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.

This 2022 Audi RS 3 is Illegal… But It Sounds GLORIOUS!

Tuned 2022 Audi RS 3

For legal and reliability reasons, Ingolstadt left power on the table when it came to the new RS 3. This tuner just sent it.

In stock form, the 2022 Audi RS 3 is no slouch. The turbocharged 2.5-liter five-cylinder makes a robust 401 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of twist, which is enough poke to make the sprint from zero to 60 mph in just 3.6 seconds. Reviews for the diminutive performance car have been excellent, and after attending the first drive event last month, AudiWorld’s own Michael S. Palmer called it an “absolute blast on the street, track, and skidpad.”

Now as good as that sounds, the engineers at Ingolstadt obviously had to leave some power on the table, both for legal and reliability reasons. However, tuners have already been tweaking the greasy bits, and the folks at German tuning house Manhart have goosed output to almost 500 horsepower, which you’re certain to feel when you drop the hammer. But in this latest clip, we get evidence that some folks have gone even further.

This Turbo Blue RS 3 makes several pulls on the dyno, and delivers a whopping 506 horsepower to the wheels, which means it could be making as much as 20 percent more than that at the crank. And better still? Even thought the little five-pot has a pretty good exhaust note stock, this baby wails like a banshee in the upper register, and if that noise doesn’t move you? You might have to turn in your gearhead card.

Unfortunately, as I mentioned in the headline, there’s a big catch to this big power bump — and it’s not just the prospect of turning the quattro all-wheel drive system into metal shavings. Because since this RS 3 has lost its catalytic converters, it’s no longer street legal, and you can forget about keeping it registered in any area that requires emissions testing. That said, given how popular catalytic converter theft is with the methamphetamine crowd of late, you might be able to plead your way out of a ticket if you did happen to get stopped. Enjoy the video!

Photos: YouTube

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Manhart RS3 500 Upgrade Helps 2022 Audi RS3 Churn Out 493 HP

Manhart RS3 500

The Manhart RS3 500 tuning kit is available for four-door sedan and five-door hatchback versions of the 2022 Audi RS3.

Manhart Performance is a German tuner that has souped-up everything from thoroughbred Italian supercars to futuristic electric vehicles. The company recently unveiled an exciting creation based on the all-new 2022 Audi RS3. The tuner’s latest project is the all-new Manhart RS3 500, which will be available for Sportback and sedan versions of the 2022 Audi RS3.

A 2.5-liter 5-cylinder turbo motor powers the all-new RS3. The powerplant churns out 394 HP of maximum power in its euro spec, which bumps up to 401 HP in the US. Manhart RS3 500’s performance upgrades include an MHtronik Powerbox tuning module, and the new mapping allows the tuner to increase the power output up to 493 HP.

The engine now hooks up to a stainless steel exhaust system which gets electronically controlled valves. The Wuppertal-based company announced the new tuning kit via its social media channels. Unfortunately, the company has not revealed many details about the tuning kit, including the new torque figure.

Manhart RS3 500

Like the horsepower, we reckon the Manhart RS3 500 upgrade will also substantially increase the torque figures of the new RS3.

As our avid readers must already know, the new RS3 produces 369 lb-ft of peak torque in its factory tune. The Manhart RS3 500 flaunts a gorgeous gloss black paint job in the teaser images, which is offset by gold accents. RS3 500 and Manhart decals adorn the front doors. Furthermore, we also find the same badging on the trunk lid flaunting a vibrant gold finish.

The performance upgrade is available for both four-door sedan and five-door hatchback versions. As part of the Manhart treatment, this 2022 Audi RS3 also ditches its stock wheels in favor of 20-inch rims which sport golden rim stripes. Manhart’s 20-inch Concave One double-spoke alloys fit snugly in the wheel arches because of a set of lowering springs.

Pirelli high-performance tires envelop the ominous alloys. The Manhart RS3 500 also gets gold brake calipers that complement the racing stripes and decals of the ensemble. So far, we do not have any information regarding the pricing of the new tuning kit.

Image Source: Manhart Performance

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2022 Audi RS 3 Review: Audi’s Heart & Soul Reborn

2022 Audi RS 3 Review

401 ponies running through a 7-speed DTC, quattro all-wheel-drive, and the new RS Torque Splitter make the 2022 Audi RS 3 an absolute blast on the street, track, and skidpad. Well done, Audi.

There may be faster Audis. And fancier Audis. But in the brand’s modern lineup, the 2022 Audi RS 3 may have the most distinct heritage. Today, quattro (lowercase) is synonymous with all-wheel-drive performance. But back in the early 1980s, when most 4x4s were trucks, the all-wheel-drive Quattro (uppercase) was a revelation, bursting onto the scene and ultimately dominating Rallycross and Trans-Am racing.

Turns out, traction matters.

If the heart of 1980s Audi performance was quattro all-wheel-drive, its soul was the 5-cylinder engine with a unique 1-2-4-5-3 firing order — an engine configuration that evolved to power Audi’s very first RS vehicle, the RS 4 Avant — and one that remains today in the TT RS and the new 2022 RS 3, which is why we are here today.

What do YOU think about the new RS 3?
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Spring Mountain
But first, a disclosure: We gathered our first impressions and visual assets during an all-expenses-paid media trip. Audi USA flew 20 auto journalists to Spring Mountain Raceway in Pahrump, Nevada to to test the RS 3 up to and past the limit in safe, controlled environments.  While the accommodations were swanky, the provided environments — smooth & poorly maintained desert roads, a two-mile race track, and a skid-pad drifting course — allowed us to develop our own, unbiased opinion on performance. So here goes.

2022 Audi RS 3 Key Specs

2022 Audi RS 3 Turbo Blue

Tuned to 401 horsepower — more powerful than the Euro spec — the 5-cylinder RS 3 also boasts 369 lb.-ft. of peak torque, larger brakes, and a wider stance. Helping the RS achieve its Audi-quoted 3.6 second 0 to 60 run, we have a 7-speed DTC (dual-clutch transmission) that offers both a standard and sport-tuned shifting profile, launch control in specific modes, and a full manual mode. (Yes, you can bounce right off the rev limiter.)

All US-spec RS 3 sedans (sadly, there’s no Sportback here) include Dynamic Chassis Control suspension, which is Audi’s newer iteration of magnetic ride control, as well as the RS Torque Splitter rear axle differential. It’s the same one you’ll find in the Golf R, but with Audi-specific software and tuning. To over-simplify smart engineering, the RS 3’s computer analyzes a boat-load of data about how and where you’re driving to send torque to the wheel(s) where you need it most. For example, if you’re accelerating hard to the right, the RS Torque Splitter will send more torque to the outer left wheel.

There are two 19-inch wheel options as well as two standard tire options — Bridgestone Potenza and Pirelli P Zero — with 265/30-19s up front and 235/35-19s out back. Yep, they’re wider in the front. Or you can jump up to the Pirelli P Zero Trofeo R track tires which Audi cautions owners shouldn’t drive in the wet or cold. But, on track, they’re sticky as hell.

RS 3 Drive Modes

drift mode

Like most modern Audis, the RS 3 is tunable and adjustable based on the system’s Drive Modes. Here’s how they break down:

Comfort tunes the RS 3 to act most like a front-wheel-drive car. Smooth suspension. Calm throttle mapping. Standard shift mode (aka D) with leisure up and down gear changes.

Auto is the set it and forget it mode. You’re still in comfort suspension and standard shifting, but Audi tunes the car to be more balanced in its power distribution

Dynamic mode tightens up the suspension noticeably along with adding Sport (aka S) shifting, louder exhaust (if equipped), and more aggressive throttle mapping. The torque programming is also rear-biased (assuming traction’s available).

RS 3 front

RS Individual mode allows the driver to customize everything, so you could do things like blend sport throttle mapping and shifting with comfort suspension (a personal favorite of mine).

RS Performance mode is the RS 3’s track cheat code. You can still choose comfort or dyanamic suspension settings (do this based on the condition of your track), but the goal here is balance. No oversteer. No understeer. Just put the power down and go… even though some of the nannies get turned off. It’s very effective.

Last but not least, we have RS Torque Rear mode, aka drift mode. For closed courses only (#Mexico), in this mode, the nannies go bye-bye and the RS 3 sends all available torque to the back wheels. Simply turn the wheel, drop the hammer, and the back end slides out from behind you while you right-foot modulate the throttle. (More on this below.)

Launch Control & Real World 0-60 Testing

Audi RS 3 rear

The RS 3 becomes a noticeably different animal depending on drive and transmission mode. In Comfort, it accelerates like an economy car; in Dynamic and the various RS modes, more like a sports car. But there is a noticeable amount of turbo lag at tip-in.

The workaround? Launch control, of course. Put the Audi into one of the RS modes — Sport must be selected for most of the option boxes — put one foot on the brake pedal and the other on the gas, and Launch Control automatically engages.

From there, the RS 3 slams you into the back of your sport bucket seat and hurdles towards illegal speeds. Our best recorded 0 to 60 run was 4.1 seconds on an unprepared asphalt surface. This, according to our Dragy, is worth a 3.81s 0-60 run with a 1ft rollout (a metric most OEMs use for setting 0-60 times).

In short, we didn’t quite reach the advertised 3.6 seconds, but we’re not too far off. And we were running the test on a 93-degree day at 2,661 feet above see level. Regardless of the number, the butt dyno remains impressed.

2022 Audi RS 3 Pricing

Audi RS 3 side

A base, no-option 2022 Audi RS 3 will set you back right around $60 grand, including delivery. Here are the major option packages (not including paint):

  • RS Technology package – $2,750
  • RS design package – $1,500
  • Black optic plus package – $750
  • Carbon package – $2,750
  • Dynamic plus package – $5,500
  • RS sport exhaust – $1,000
  • Pirelli P Zero Trofeo R tires – $450
  • Audi side assist with rear cross traffic assist – $350

carbon ceramic brakes

We drove, essentially, two different specs over two days. The street and drift RS 3s MSRP’d between $64,845 and $65,440 as equipped with the tech and design packages as well as the RS sport exhaust. The track-spec’d RS 3s added every option, including Dynamic plus package with carbon-ceramic brakes, coming in at $72,890.

In a world where you can easily option twenty or thirty grand (if not more) over the base MRSP, Audi packs a lot of value into the base MSRP and options list. The only thing missing at this price point, I’d argue, is ventilated seats.

RS 3 Colors

Audi RS 3 First Drive Review

Audi trotted out four metallic color options for our media event. And, for a company that makes mostly  black, white, and gray vehicles, it was great to see some actual colors. Let’s break them down —

Python Yellow metallic is a showstopper. More on the highlighter spectrum than, say, school bus, we drove this model on the drift course and it’s bright enough to almost glow in the dark. Yellow isn’t for me, but it fits the car.

Kalami Green RS 3

Kyalami Green is bright and, again, almost highlighter green with very faint metallic flake. On our testers, Audi paired KG with Micromanta Green interior seat stitching and vent accents as part of the RS design package. (Alas, the design package doesn’t color-match every exterior color.) Again, I’m not a green guy, but this one looks terrific IMHO.

Turbo Blue reminds me most of Ford’s current Grabber Blue, which takes a 1970s Mustang color and updates it for the 21st Century with a touch of metallic flake. It really stands out in the desert.

Kemora Gray metallic

Kemora Gray metallic is a chameleon of a color. In most lighting situations, it appears to be a bluer take on Nardo Gray, but it’s actually more complex. Get a little closer. Let the light hit it in just the right way and there’s a touch of pink and purple dancing in the flake. Subtle, yet gorgeous.

On the Street

2022 Audi RS 3 first drive review

Cruising through the sun-soaked deserts of Nevada and California, the 2022 Audi RS 3 reveals itself to be a comfortable commuter. In Comfort mode, it might as well be the A3, but in Dynamic and RS modes, the sports car reveals itself. The suspension is tight, but forgiving with the comfort settings working well on uneven, cracked pavement. Not S8 smooth, mind you, but very livable. The only minor discomfort is road noise — Pirellis aren’t quiet. But it’s nothing the tech package’s sound system can’t overcome.

Speaking of which, the RS 3’s MMI infotainment system works quite well with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android auto as well as wireless charging. It’s basically the same one-screen system with tactile HVAC buttons as other entry-level and mid-teir Audis. Functional, easy to learn and navigate.

RS 3 pirelli tires

The 14.8″ standard slotted steel brakes — with six-piston calipers — haul the RS 3 to a stop effortlessly with great pedal feel. The exhaust note is classic 5-cylinder, but could be a little louder for my tastes.

In short, on the street, the Audi RS 3 can be whatever you want and need. Stuck in traffic with fine Napa leather and great tunes? Not a bad place to be. Or how about a 400 horsepower launch machine that, other journalists allege, races all the way up to the standard 155mph speed limiter (180mph with the Dynamic plus package)? Hell yeah, brother.

On Track

Pirelli P Zero Trofeo R tires

The 2022 Audi RS 3 isn’t going to shock horsepower junkies in the way that the R8 or RS6 provide more brutality. But as a package, it’s the right size and chassis and power to slap a smile all over your face. Tucking into the two-mile east course at Spring Mountain Raceway, RS Performance mode engaged, Trofeo R tires warmed up, hands wrapped around an Alcantara steering wheel, the car roars forwards, brakes easily, and hugs each corner. Where the street tires would squeal when pushed, the Trefeo Rs felt glued to the ground. When tossed into a hot corner, the RS 3 rotates nicely with no hint of understeer.

To be clear, I’m no track regular. But this quattro system with 401 ponies, the 7-speed DTC, an RS torque converter and these tires made me feel like I was at home. It’s a car that can be driven at a full ten-tenths without the sense that you’re going to kill yourself.

RS 3 design package interior

Negatives? The seats could be a little better bolstered. And, with the carbon-ceramic brakes, I experience a little more pedal travel than on the steel brakes. Was this because the brakes hadn’t fully bedded (these cars effectively came straight from Germany to this event)? Or was the system in need of a fluid change after three days of desert hot-lapping? I’m not sure. The brakes were never soft in a dangerous way. But as with any track toy, extra maintenance is a good idea.

Speaking of which, our track RS 3s all needed new tires by their third full day of hot lapping. By then most of the sidewalls developed bubbles. Not a criticism, mind you. Just worth noting because track time ain’t a cheap hobby.

Still, the rugged resilience on display was admirable.

We beat the ever-living hell out of these RS 3s and with a new set of tires and a few fluid flushes, they’d be ready to go next weekend (after a week of taking you to the office).

Drift Mode

RS 3 drifting

Last, but not least, drifting the RS 3 is an absolute joy thanks to RS Torque Rear mode. I’m inexperienced in this vehicular art form, outside of growing up in a place where snow encouraged spirited driving. And so I was terrified to drift the RS 3 in front of more talented drivers on a course set up to, I kid you not, spell out the letters R and S.

But I tried anyway and, while I wouldn’t claim to have done a great job, the RS 3 made the experience feel effortless, much like its dedicated track mode. The RS 3’s back end steps out effortlessly and remains easy to modulate with the throttle. I suspect the long, flat turbo-enhanced torque curve helps, but if you’ve ever wanted to live out a Fast n’ Furious fever dream, this might be the car to get.

2022 Audi RS 3 Final Thoughts

RS 3 in the desert

Sure, I’d add ventilated front seats with a little extra bolster. And the rear seats aren’t great for adults. But, overall, the 2022 Audi RS 3 is an absolute blast. A driver’s car for enthusiasts who want something small, sporty, and luxurious. Balanced, nimble, and quick, it’s a vehicle born from the essence of Audi racing heritage. And it’s as comfortable cruising along crumbling roads as it is hot-lapping (literally) all day long.

Over the course of three days, 20 auto journalists, along with several pros and techs, beat the absolute piss out of the first dozen RS 3s to hit North America in 100-degree desert heat. Quite simply, they performed flawlessly. (Although the track cars needed new tires and a few fluids flushed.) And so it is with ZERO sense of hype or marketing glee that I say the RS 3 is well worth your consideration if it fits your lifestyle and means.

Should I Upgrade if I Own the Previous Generation RS 3?

RS 3 badge

Maybe. The power upgrade isn’t dramatic. But the new RS torque splitter adds a lot to the driving dynamics. Especially if you’re the type who tracks or auto-crosses. More specifically, where the previous generation could understeer at the limit, the 2022 RS 3 is more balanced and will even drift.

In short, the new RS 3 is the best one ever… but outside of the most extreme ten-tenths driving, I wouldn’t upgrade unless one’s lease is up.

Alternate Cars to Consider

2022 Audi RS 3 Review: Audi's Heart & Soul Reborn

For those looking for a more analog experience, check out the Cadillac CT4-V Blackwing. The interior isn’t as nice. And there’s no all-wheel-drive. But it boasts a six-speed manual gearbox, ventilated front seats, a better infotainment system, Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires, and a little more rear passenger and trunk space.

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.