The revered RS badge is about to adorn a compact Audi for the first time as the new RS 3 Sportback waits in the wings with spectacular performance and an evocative five-cylinder soundtrack for a spring 2011 debut.
However, US enthusiasts are unlikely to see the car in local dealerships thanks to the high price and unpopular hatchback layout. Priced at the equivalent of $62,250, even a subsidized price for the US market is going to make this a hard sell for Audi North America.
As a result, Us RS fans will be missing out on an engine that pays tribute to the classic quattros of the '80s with its turbocharged five-cylinder engine that employs 21st Century TFSI turbocharging and direct-injection technology.
First seen in the TT RS, the all-new engine fills the cabin with a rich, bassy five-cylinder tone as it channels 340hp and 330 lb-ft of torque to the road through a seven-speed S tronic twin-clutch transmission and quattro all-wheel drive.
A flap in the exhaust intensifies the sound when the driver presses the Sport button, which also varies throttle response. Maximum torque is readily available at the low end of the rev range, from around 1600rpm, and remains constant up to 5300rpm, making for excellent flexibility and response.
The large turbocharger generates up to 1.2 bar of boost pressure, and downstream of it is an intercooler, which achieves an efficiency flow rate of more than 80 per cent.
The combination of the latest forced induction technology with FSI direct injection facilitates a high compression ratio of 10.0:1. Flaps in the intake tract mix the air as it enters. The camshafts, each adjustable by 42 degrees of crankshaft rotation, also enhance the efficiency of the mixture formation.
As befits an RS model, the output is reflected in an exceptional 0-62mph sprint time of just 4.6 seconds and an electronically governed 155mph top speed. Yet less predictably, this rapidity doesn't rule out the potential for up to 26mpg US according to the European combined cycle test.
The efficiency of the RS 3 Sportback is aided by a delivery-on-demand oil pump and a regenerative system that recovers energy as the car decelerates. Furthermore, it is also facilitated by weight-saving measures including the use of vermicular graphite for the engine block and carbon fiber-reinforced plastic (CFRP) for the front fenders. These help to keep the curb weight of the new RS 3 to 3472 lb.
The performance is exploited by a chassis that lowers the RS 3 Sportback by 25mm compared to the standard A3, and comprises McPherson struts up front and a four-link rear set-up.
Balance and composure are boosted by a widened track, and grip by 19" wheels shod with 235/35 tires.
The standard wheel finish is a machine-polished titanium look, but a black finish with red inserts is also available as an option in Europe.
An electro-mechanical rack-and-pinion steering rack provides a direct gear ratio of 16.2:1 for turn-in, while 370mm front rotors and 310mm rears are clamped by four-piston fixed calipers painted a high-gloss black and bearing RS logos.
The electronic stability program (ESP) features a Sport mode that activates later intervention of the braking and acceleration retardation functions to enable greater adjustability. It can be switched off entirely for circuit use.
The quattro permanent all-wheel drive system oversees proceedings. Its central component is an electronically-controlled multi-plate clutch, mounted at the end of the driveshaft to achieve a favorable axle load distribution. Located in its interior is a plate package bathed in oil.
Thanks to quattro, the propulsive power can be distributed to each axle as needed. Whenever slip occurs at one of the axles, an electric pump intervenes to increase the oil pressure. The pump presses the clutch plates together, thereby permitting the torque to be redirected accordingly. Thanks to a powerful accumulator, this process takes just a few milliseconds.
The performance potential of the RS 3 is conveyed at the front end by a deeper front apron that incorporates enlarged air intakes, an anthracite-colored single-frame grille with diamond-patterned styling and xenon plus headlamps.
The side view is dominated by the flared front fenders, prominent sill panels, mirror casings in matte aluminum-look and a large roof spoiler. A high-gloss black diffuser and two elliptical exhaust tailpipes accentuate the styling at the rear.
Inside, sports seats are upholstered in Nappa leather with silver contrasting stitching, and inlays are finished in Piano black or the new Aluminum Race look. A flat-bottomed RS steering wheel and an exclusive design for the instruments and S tronic selector lever also highlight this car's status, as does a specially configured Driver's Information System, which displays boost pressure and oil temperature and doubles as a lap timer.
The array of standard equipment also includes the Sport button, acoustic rear parking sensors, electronic climate control, DVD-based satellite navigation with MMI (Multi Media Interface) functionality and xenon plus headlights with LED daytime running lights. Optional features include front bucket seats, roof rails in matte aluminum look and styling packages in black or matte aluminum. Five exterior colors are available, plus an unlimited selection of custom paint finishes.