The next-gen Audi RS3 is nearly upon us. We know it’ll have the proper engine, as the company not-so-subtly teased by inscribing the firing order of the RS3's turbocharged five-cylinder on the side of its camouflaged wrap. While Audi’s not quite ready to spill all the beans on its next compact sport sedan (or wagon for lucky customers outside the U.S.), it is offering a sneak peek into a major component: the RS Torque Splitter.
First, let’s confirm those engine stats. The RS3's 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine once again delivers 394 horsepower, though that peak power is available for a wider chunk of the rev range, from 5,600 to 7,000 rpm. There’s also slightly more torque on offer, jumping from about 354 lb-ft in the outgoing RS3 to 369 lb-ft in the new one. Once again, it’s connected to a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission.
The result is a sprint to 62 mph from a standstill that’s about three tenths of a second quicker, at 3.8 seconds, on the way to a top speed of 180 mph provided the RS Dynamic package and its ceramic brakes are optioned. An “entry-level” compact sedan that hits 60 in under four seconds — you couldn’t dream of that 15 years ago.
But that’s not what Audi appears to be most excited about with the new RS3. The company detailed the RS Torque Splitter that sits on the sport sedan’s rear axle in a presentation to media last week. The new system replaces the old rear differential, opting for electronically controlled clutches on each half shaft. These handle torque vectoring, sending power to the inner or outer rear wheels depending on cornering scenarios and slip. Here’s a deeper explanation, courtesy of Audi:
The exact distribution of drive torque always depends on the mode selected in Audi drive select and the respective driving situation. Each of the two multiple disc clutches has its own control unit, which use the electronic stabilization control’s wheel speed sensors to measure the wheel speeds. Other influencing factors include longitudinal and lateral acceleration, the steering angle, the position of the gas pedal, the selected gear, and the yaw angle, i.e. the rotational movement around the vertical axis. In addition, the torque splitter is connected to the modular vehicle dynamics controller as a higher-level entity.
As you’d expect, the Torque Splitter factors into the RS3's various drive modes, and there are two in particular that are especially relevant: RS Performance and RS Torque Rear. RS Performance is your optimal mode for peak grip in all conditions, aiming to strike that mythical balance between understeer and oversteer. Meanwhile, RS Torque Rear — which Audi has nicknamed “Drift Mode” and cautions is only intended for use on a closed course — sends all the power straight back, and up to 790 lb-ft of torque to either rear wheel.
The car’s Electronic Stabilization Control system has been tuned to account for the Torque Splitter and can still be turned off, for those who think they know better than stinkin’ computers. The suspension touts new shock absorbers, exclusive to the RS3, and an upgrade with adaptive dampers is available, too. For the first time, Audi will let buyers choose Pirelli P Zero Trofeo R semi-slicks from the factory if they like.
The result of all of these enhancements is “enormously” increased performance, according to Audi — though you’d figure the tires alone would make for a pretty appreciable leap. We’ll be able to share more on the RS3 in the coming weeks; until then, enjoy these pictures of the sedan and its forbidden Sportback cousin drifting all over the dang place.