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Dublin: 11 °C Wednesday 20 February, 2019
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Review: The roaring Audi RS 3 feels like a supercar (and I didn't want to give the keys back)

So. Much. Want.

Image: Max Earey

BY THE TIME you are reading this I will have reluctantly handed back the keys to the Audi RS 3. No doubt Audi Ireland will have prised the keys out of my hand and probably threatened me with legal action to get me out of the car.

If you’re not too au fait with your Audi models, you might not know what sets the RS 3 apart from the more regular A3 Saloon. But the difference is around 280hp and nearly €40,000.

Shoehorned into that engine bay is a 2.5-litre turbocharged five-cylinder engine. Peak power is 400hp and 480Nm, which see it hit 100km/h from a standing start in 4.1 seconds. Although, I’m telling you, it feels a lot quicker than that.

Further setting this beast apart from the regular A3 saloon is a black honeycomb grille, with ‘quattro’ emblazoned across its base and a more aggressive body kit, which adds to the visuals but isn’t brash.  I absolutely love the distinctive ‘Nardo Grey’ paintwork. It’s stealthy. Although, walk around the back and two huge exhaust pipes give the game away a little easier.

Source: Max Earey

This was the other advantage of the RS 3 that I really liked – it doesn’t stand out all that much on the street. Although I did get plenty of admiring looks and nods from those in the know.

Aside from those numbers that ensure your head is firmly planted to the sporty headrest, the RS 3 gets some tasteful interior upgrades. The sports steering wheel is swathed in Alcantara and feels gorgeous to the touch and the sports seats look the business but they also hold you in place through the bends. Audi has deservedly earned a reputation for doing interiors very well, and this car is no exception. (Then again, with a starting price of close to €70,000, I’d expect it to be nice inside.)

Source: Max Earey

But for me it wasn’t the looks that made me not want to give it keys back. It was how the car drove and how it made me feel behind the wheel. Out on mountain roads those exhausts start to wail as the revs rise. The engine sounds fantastic, and its power delivery is phenomenal. It actually made me giddy and my heart beat a little faster. I felt like I was in charge of the car I was driving, not that it was driving me. I felt engaged with the steering and the feedback was lovely. It made me want to keep going and not turn the engine off. I haven’t felt that way in a while testing a car.

Source: Max Earey

The combination of the quattro all-wheel drive and the seven-speed S tronic automatic transmission makes for vast levels of traction with each gear shift happening in split-second time. You can shift gears manually either via the lever itself or the small paddles on the back of the steering wheel, though I wish these didn’t feel so cheap to the touch. I would have liked them to be all metal not plastic.

Even in the wet and icy weather that we have been experiencing, the RS 3 never tests your confidence. It feels very surefooted even on some of the country’s worst road surfaces. Is there nothing this car can’t do?

As for everyday, run-of-the-mill driving, back in city and town traffic the RS 3 soon becomes as docile as you would like it to be, making for a relaxing drive even in rush-hour.

Source: Max Earey

As for the price. The Audi RS 3 Saloon is priced from €69,550 but my test car with all the bells and whistles cost €89,432.

When you consider that Audi’s supercar, the R8, with its 5.2-litre V10 produces 540hp, the RS 3 isn’t all that far behind in the performance stakes and it’s only a third of the price. Furthermore, you can bring four of your friends along for the ride instead of just one and with this baby in the driveway you’ll never be short of driving companions. So, overall, the Audi RS 3 is one super saloon that feels every bit like a supercar.

READ: 12 tips for reducing back pain whilst driving >

READ: Review: The Opel Grandland X is a stylish SUV with on-board WiFi >

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About the author:

Melanie May  / http://www.melaniemay.com

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