Audi RS3 Sportback: Epic Comes In Any Size

The Audi RS3 Sportback, the latest member of the RS performance lineup, proves a small family car can still be awesome. Provided it's got a 340 HP 2.5-liter five-cylinder turbo gas engine and a wagon for an ass.

Although we didn't expect today to become Maximum Wagon Day, it's certainly turning out that way thanks to the embargo dropping last night on our first drive of the Cadillac CTS-V Sport Wagon and today's release of this — the Audi RS3 Sportback.

Yup, the performance version of Audi's itty-bitty powerback is finally here and certainly looks explosive at first glance. The new top-of-the-A3-line gets xenon headlights, a dramatic front apron, a single-frame anthracite grille and huge air intakes. The body of the RS3 Sportback is also, thanks to the sports suspension, lower to the ground by 0.98 inches compared with the A3.

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And oh yes, it doesn't just look explosive — it actually is explosive. Thanks to a launch control system designed to minimize tire slip, the little city-car-that-could has a 0-to-62 mph acceleration of just 4.6 seconds. The RS3 manages an electronically-limited top speed of 155.34 MPH. Heck, it even displays an attempt at higher fuel economy thanks to the sweet little turbo five-cylinder engine being mated to a seven-speed S tronic shifter with a very tall seventh gear.

And actually, I shouldn't say "attempt" as the fuel economy isn't too shabby — Audi's talking about a 25.85 MPG fuel economy. Hell, I'd take that in a second.

The seven-speed S tronic transmits power from the five-cylinder engine via three shafts: one drive shaft and two output shafts. Like all dual-clutch transmissions, it comprises two transmission structures with the shifting process taking place in hundredths of a second as the clutches switch.

The driver can operate the seven-gear S tronic in two automatic modes and one manual mode with gears shifted using flappy-paddles on the steering wheel or the selector lever.

We're told that the RS3 has one seriously stiff body and four-link rear suspension -– with a track measuring 60.16 inches –- anchored to a subframe and high-strength-steel control arms to allow it to handle longitudinal and lateral forces separately.

The front track's been widened to 61.57 inches and features a McPherson strut suspension, also with its own separate subframe. Aluminum und shteel abound.

Frankly, the RS3 Sportback's everything we could ever want in a small package. Except, you know, for the fact that we're not getting it.

Deliveries of the RS 3 Sportback will begin in early 2011. The base price in Germany will be 49,900 euros.

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