For Audi nerds, the arrival of the RS 3 on U.S. shores is a big deal. This fire-breathing compact sedan has until now been forbidden fruit, with sales limited to overseas markets. The first handful of RS 3s arriving will bear a 2017 model designation and is identical to the 2018 model.
The RS 3 is what happens when you fortify Audi's class-leading A3 entry-level luxury sedan with a 400-horsepower turbocharged five-cylinder engine. Naturally, the brakes and suspension have been upgraded to match, and most of the A3 and S3's optional equipment has been made standard on the RS 3.
It's Audi's answer to the Mercedes-Benz AMG CLA 45 and the terrific BMW M2; both potent performers in their own rights. The RS 3 is philosophically much closer to the Benz, with its transverse engine layout and all-wheel drive, while the BMW takes a more classic rear-drive approach. One thing's for sure — this is the kind of rivalry we can get behind.
The 2018 Audi RS 3 is a high-performance variant of the A3 and S3 sedans. It is available in a single trim level and is powered by a turbocharged 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine (400 hp, 354 lb-ft). A seven-speed, dual-clutch automatic transmission sends power to all four wheels.
Standard features include 19-inch alloy wheels with summer performance tires, automatic LED headlights, heated and power-folding mirrors, automatic wipers, a panoramic sunroof, front and rear parking sensors, keyless entry and ignition, adaptive suspension dampers, selectable drive modes, dual-zone automatic climate control, auto-dimming mirrors, leather upholstery, heated eight-way manual sport seats with power lumbar adjustment, and 40/20/40-split folding rear seats. Electronic features include Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, a rearview camera, and a 10-speaker audio system with HD and satellite radio and a USB port.
Most of the RS 3's options are offered in packages. The Technology package includes a Wi-Fi hotspot, smartphone vehicle monitoring and control, navigation, an expanded digital instrument cluster display (Virtual Cockpit) and a Bang & Olufsen premium audio system. There's also the Dynamic package (wider front wheels and tires, a sport exhaust and red brake calipers) and the Dynamic Plus package (a higher top speed, a carbon-fiber engine cover, individual tire pressure monitors, front ceramic brake rotors and a fixed sport suspension). Driver assistance features are bundled into a package, and there are two more packages that largely consist of cosmetic items.
Stand-alone options are limited to carbon-fiber interior trim, rear-seat side airbags and premium vinyl-covered armrests and kneepads.