Audi’s upcoming rival to the Mercedes-AMG A45 S has been spotted undergoing tests at the Nurburgring again. According to a report, the hyper hatch is “in the final stages of assessment” and its turbocharged 2.5-litre 5-cylinder mill will produce at least 310 kW...
Picture credit: S. Baldauf/SB-Medien. We have paid for these photos and at the photographer's request, have watermarked them.
As we look forward to the arrival of the new-generation A3 Sportback on the local market in early 2021 – when it will resume its premium hatchback rivalry with the BMW 1 Series and Mercedes-Benz A-Class – we also anticipate the unveiling of its RS3 flagship.
The previous-generation model was powered by a 2.5-litre 5-cylinder turbopetrol motor that produced 294 kW and 480 Nm of torque (in hatchback as well as sedan guise), and many enthusiasts hoped that having reportedly blocked sister brand Volkswagen from appropriating the charismatic 5-pot engine for the R derivative of the Golf 8 range, Audi would carry over its charismatic powerplant to the new 4th-generation A3 Sportback (Typ 8Y).
In an era of muffled forced-induction engine notes, the 2.5-litre 5-cylinder emits an evocative soundtrack.
In this era of ever-stricter emissions standards, however, the continuation of the sonorous 5-cylinder engine was never guaranteed. The inline-5 (then mounted longitudinally) was introduced by Audi in the Eighties and underpinned much of the brand’s rallying and track racing success in that era. After a 12-year hiatus, the cylinder-configuration returned in 2009 to Audi’s engine line-up (it debuted in the previous generation TT RS) and in 2016, the RS3’s motor was updated to a 26-kg lighter unit with an all-alloy block, higher-pressure dual-injection system and beefed-up turbocharger.
Fortunately, Audi is determined not to put its multiple Engine of the Year category winner to pasture, because the marque regards the 5-cylinder mill as integral to the RS3 package.
The RS3 prototype has a lowered suspension and bigger brakes. Note the outlets in the front fenders and the large oval tailpipes.
Audi Sport sales and marketing head Frank Michl told Autoexpress the RS3 was “one of the success stories of the brand” mainly due to its 5-cylinder powertrain. “The RS3 is one of the most emotional Audi Sport cars and a major part of the brand’s DNA,” he added.
The British site’s report suggests that in a bid to counter the Mercedes-AMG A45 S’ peak outputs of 310 kW and 500 Nm, the Audi’s 2.5-litre engine will be tuned to produce identical outputs to the 2.0-litre 4-cylinder with its twin-scroll turbo produced in Affalterbach. And, don’t forget BMW is understood to be readying an M2 Gran Coupe, which will feature a 2.0-litre turbopetrol allied with all-wheel drive (M xDrive).
WATCH: Track Race Audi RS3 vs Mercedes-AMG A45
Just how Audi will realise those heady outputs while remaining on the right side of Euro 7 remains a mystery. Audi Sport could make the 5-cylinder meet stricter regulations by implementing the Volkswagen Group’s 48V mild-hybrid system (as it did in the Golf 8) while adopting cylinder deactivation technology or a belt-driven starter/generator.
Power will be directed to all four wheels by Quattro all-wheel drive via a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. As in other RS models, the newcomer will feature adjustable dampers, a torque-vectoring system and adaptive electronic power steering.
The test car spied in the latest images wears less camouflage than previous prototypes, but it’s instantly recognisable as an RS3 by virtue of its purposeful body kit. Note the sculpted front bumper with enlarged air inlets and vents behind the front wheel arches. The rear features a large spoiler, an extended diffuser and large-bore oval exhaust ends.
Drag Race: Audi RS3 vs Mercedes-AMG A45
As for the interior execution, expect Audi’s newcomer to feature a sports steering wheel and firmly-bolstered front seats clad in a mixture of leather and Alcantara, matched with aluminium pedals. Autoexpress anticipates a range of RS-specific displays for the car’s 10.1-inch infotainment system and Virtual Cockpit digital instrument binnacle.
It’s not inconceivable that the new RS3 will be revealed internationally (in the metal, or perhaps digitally) before the end of the year, with sales commencing in 2021.