Make: Audi
Model: A3
Variant: RS 
Engine / Transmission: 2.5 litre turbo – 7 Speed S-tronic
Manufacturer Claimed Fuel Economy: 8.3L/100km combined 
Price: From $104,748 on road

First impressions:

EV this, EV that, blah, blah, blah. Every now and then you just want to get behind the wheel of an old skool ICE (Internal Combustion Engine). And when you do, you could do a lot worse than get your carbon fix from Audi’s spectacular RS3. With a five cylinder, direct injection turbo pumping out 294Kw and 500 Nm in a fat, fat torque curve from 2250 rpm to 5600 rpm, the RS3 is seriously quick. In fact, the RS3 holds the record in its category for a hot-lap of the Nurburgring.

Tech inside:

The RS3 is loaded! Audi’s incredible Matrix LED headlights make an appearance and give you a little light show on start up and shut down. Customisable drive modes are a blessing, allowing for a fruity exhaust and more responsive steering while employing regular gear changes, for example. Double hitting the RS button gets you the full monty RS Mode, including holding every gear until well up near the red line! It would be a committed owner that sees many miles travelled in full RS mode – it’s just too much.

Like all high-end Audis, Virtual Cockpit allows you to configure the 12.3″ colour screen to your preference. Despite all this great tech, it is the little touches that are to die for. The quality of the plastics, carpet and epic suede covered wheel make every drive a pleasure.

Most impressive:

Perhaps most impressive is the way the RS3 blends performance with quality and luxury. I’m on record as claiming that the S3 is the pick of the smaller Audis and I stand by that claim but the added performance offered up by the RS is certainly tempting. Of course, it does come at a price – around $30k over the S3.

Not so impressive:

And this is the real kicker with the RS3. It’s a great car – an awesome car, in fact – but I’m not convinced that it is $30k better than the S3. Let’s run some numbers – $30k gets you another cylinder, 496cc of capacity, 66 kilowatts, 100 newton metres, and 1 second less from standstill to 100kph. The smart money will always be with the S3. Despite all this, if it were my money and I was already in the hole for $75k, I’d cough up the extra. Just make mine in Kyalami Green with the ceramic brakes and recalibrated 290kph top speed!

On a test drive:

The RS3’s most direct competitor comes from Benz’s CLA 45 if you prefer a boot or A45 if you prefer a hatch. The little Benz really does deserve your consideration, even though I think Audi does a better job at blending performance, quality and comfort. On the used market, this kind of money will see you in an RS4 or C63 with a year or two under its belt. As a left-field alternative, SKODA’s Octavia RS provides a similar driving experience at day to day pace at a fraction of the price of the RS3. The RS3’s extraordinary depth of ability is really only seen once the pace picks up, leaving the Octavia well and truely eating Ingolstadtian dust.