I have been fortunate enough to have had seat time in all three generations of the Audi RS 3, and S3 models. This also extends to some of the bigger RS models, which has led me to fall in love with what Audi Sport – the brand’s performance wing of vorsprung – can achieve. Some RS models have not always been consistent with their power output figures, with some going back down after going up, like the RS 6. Others like the RS 4 have not kept up with their peers in recent times. But this has not hampered their research and development in improving the RS driving experience.

The third-generation RS 3 Sportback (hatch) and second-generation RS 3 sedan have been launched in Mzansi after their predecessors found huge favour locally. The pair represent the second-best selling RS cars in the world, with 5 733 units since they were launched. The margins between Sportback and sedan are ever so slightly getting closer. I’m confident that by 2023 it will be an equal split.

Now about the new arrival, after some supply delays due to COVID-19 and the ever-present semiconductor shortages, some of us were starting to doubt these cars would arrive at all. The e-tron launch assault further convinced us that the brand has gone into the future and all internal combustion engines were done away with. Thank goodness the old petrol head is still very much catered for by the four rings.

The array of colours available is like something out of a Smarties box, with the Black Styling Package as standard. It easily adds a hue of darkness that breaks the bright colours nicely at the front and rear bumper. Those honeycomb grilles and RS lettering in black are a visual gem. The front end is expectedly quite menacing.

Our launch convoy of RS 3s leaving OR Tambo International Airport in Gauteng was a marvel to watch. As a driver or passenger, seeing the car in the rear view mirror just commands you to move over. Among them was a unit in Aluminium Styling Package Plus, while personally I prefer the optional Black Styling Package Plus with added black trim on key parts of the car. The side profile is enhanced by bigger wheel arches housing 265 mm wide rubber rolling on 19-inch alloy wheels up front, while rear ones are 245mm wide. That has been an RS 3 trait since the first-generation (250kW).

The front fenders have bulges that may be mistaken for a design flaw but they actually work. The rear boasts the standard RS gloss black oval tail pipes on either side of the bumper. These now have active flaps for a more pronounced sound, depending on the drive mode selected from the 7 options available at the touch of a button. An optional carbon boot spoiler enhances both shapes of the newcomer, with a black roof option being available should the buyer wish to add more of the black knight vibes. It certainly does look mighty fine.

The interior could be described as sporty elegance, with a dose of practical intuition. Features include a 25.4cm touch screen on the centre console for the infotainment system. I found the touch points and feel to be premium. The flat-bottomed steering wheel in optional Alcantara with a centre marker, and black leather diamond stitched sports seats shout race pedigree. The cabin is typical Audi, with superb design flow and high quality feel materials. The hyper hatch is available with some colourful interior insert options at a cost. Personally I prefer the standard black fitment.

The RS 3 surges forwards thanks to the nine-time World Engine of the Year Award-winning 5-potter generating an unchanged 294kW of power from 5 600rpm to 7 000rpm and a 20Nm increase from its predecessor at 500Nm between 2 250rpm and 5 600rpm. Paired to it is a quick shifting 7-speed automatic gearbox performs magic, sending power to all four wheels through the quattro AWD system. Audi claims a quick 0 – 100km/h time of 3.8 seconds. And while top speed is electronically limited to 250km/h, it can be optionally increased to 290km/h.

However probable these two former figures are, the claimed average fuel consumption figure of 9 litres per 100km seems implausible. Let’s see how it goes when we get the car on the normal test cycle. The RS 3 has always been a great car, now Audi Sport have tweaked it to be a better allround package, thanks to a torque splitter for better high speed precision driving.

For example, when turning to the left in a sweeping curve, the right rear wheel gets the most power. Up to three times the torque in fact, for a better exit. It then responds better to steering input. The new RS 3 can go sideways – that is, drift – thanks to a Torque rear RS drive mode. This mode sends most of the power to the rear wheels via a hydraulic clutch system. It’s quite fun but takes some time to get the hang of its functionality. Naturally when cars oversteer we immediately counter steer; it’s instinctive. In the new RS 3 one must gently steer in the opposite direction while flattening the throttle. It’s utterly amazing. The launch route allowed us to sample the car in various settings as it had varying surface changes on our way to Zwartkops Raceway in Tshwane. This is where we could fully experience these abilities to the core.

The new RS 3 is a now an accomplished driver’s car with daily driving abilities to match. I was quite sceptical about the fact that it carries the same amount of power as its predecessor, especially when the most direct rival is already over the 300kW mark. Now I understand that the power can be fully utilised with the new tech wizardry. All in all it’s a proper piece of kit!

Audi RS 3 Prices

Sportback – R1 215 000

Sedan – R1 245 000

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