Audi unveiled the second-generation 2022 Audi RS3 on Monday, a car with a 5-cylinder engine that makes 401 horsepower and has a mode especially for drifting, along with all sorts of bells and whistles for track use. This track ready, gas burning, Audi hot hatch certainly feels like it could among the last of its kind.
Audi’s press release might as well be from days past when automakers fiercely competed with each other on performance gas cars. There is the horsepower figure, there is the zero-to-62-mph time (3.8 seconds), there is a top track speed (up to 180 mph depending on trim), there is talk of a flap system on the exhaust to modulate the RS3's sound, and there is a PTU type rear diff, which changes how much power is sent to each rear wheel to maximize grip, and allows for a drift mode. There are semi-slick tires that are a factory option, and an engine and transmission configuration designed specifically for them. The transmission, by the way, is a seven-speed dual-clutch.
Lap times, zero-to-62 mph times, quarter-mile times, and g-force appear in the virtual cockpit. When driving in manual mode, there is a green-to-yellow-to-red indicator to tell you when the optimal time is to shift. There are comfort and efficiency modes in addition to automatic, RS Torque Rear (for drifting), dynamic, and RS Individual, but, let’s be serious, comfort and efficiency are not the point here.
Has Audi also thought possibly too much about the suspension and steering? It sure has!
The standard RS sports suspension features newly developed shock absorbers and a valve system both specific to the RS 3. The valves ensure that the shock absorbers exhibit a particularly sensitive response as part of the rebound and compression characteristics. This allows the suspension to respond to the respective driving situation even faster and more effectively. The RS sport suspension plus with adaptive damper control is available as an option. It continuously and individually adjusts each shock absorber to the road conditions, the driving situation, and the mode selected in Audi drive select. The three characteristic curves comfortable, balanced, and sporty help to provide a clearly perceptible spread of the shock absorber characteristics.
The larger wheel camber, i.e. the wheels are angled more toward the road, results in a more precise steering response and increased cornering force. Compared to the Audi A3, the wheels on the front axle of the new RS 3 have just under one degree of additional negative camber. To achieve this, the pivot bearings were modified and the lower wishbones were equipped with stiffer bearings, subframes, and stabilizers.
A rear axle features a four-link design with separate spring/damper arrangement, subframe, and tubular stabilizer bar. The wheel carriers, which are stiffer than those of the Audi A3 and S3, help absorb the increased lateral forces generated by the torque splitter. The RS‑specific progressive steering varies the gear ratio depending on the steering angle – as the steering angle increases, the gear ratio becomes smaller and steering more direct. It also assists based on speed and can be varied via Audi drive select. The setup of the springs and shock absorbers is markedly stiff, and the body is ten millimeters lower than on the S3 and 25 millimeters lower than on the A3.
For the steering wheel itself, Europeans have three choices: one with a stripe at 12 o’clock, one that doesn’t have a stripe at 12 o’clock, and one that works with what must be an optional driver assistance system to detect the presence of a hand. You can expect this car to start at around $60,000, though Audi has not announced pricing for the U.S. yet. Deliveries are planned to begin early next year, and while Europe will be getting both a sedan and hatchback version, only the sedan will be sold in the U.S. Audi also said that, except for the horsepower number, the specs for the U.S. RS3 might be a little different, but I wouldn’t expect any radical changes.
We might as well savor these cars while they last, as the fourth-generation A3 — the RS3's sibling car, introduced in 2020, but not getting here until next year — is non-hybrid, gas-powered too. The next generation of both cars undoubtedly won’t continue like that.