The new Audi RS3 Sportback, launched together with an RS3 Sedan variant for the first time, comes with Audi's legendary 5 cylinder engine, delivering 500Nm of torque, 394 bhp, and a century sprint time of 3.8 seconds - which is faster than a certain Mercedes AMG model sitting in the same segment. Impressive as this may be for Audi's pocket rocket, the main party trick of the RS3 is a variety of RS performance drive modes, one of which is Audi's torque rear mode, which essentially activates the RS torque splitter, giving you the ability channel torque to your rear wheels, allowing you to drive through walls! - I mean, drift round corners. With a top speed of 250km/h and the ability to drift an all wheel drive Audi, the RS3 might truly be one of the hidden gems of 2022. Aside from the Python Yellow paint job on our test car, the RS3 comes with the full shebang - RS3 specific rims, seats, bodykit, wheels, and brake callipers. The test car even includes the RS3 rear roof spoiler which totally completes the package, but we are told this is an optional extra. Either way, let's see how the Audi RS3 Sportback cracks on.
Truth be told, we tested the RS3's sedan version about a month back, and I loved the way the sedan could be so riotous yet so practical for day to day use. Sure - the ride was a little bit harsh in its performance modes, especially on Singapore's scar tissued asphalt, but for all intents and purposes, the sedan was a car that you could let loose when you so desired, but was tame and well behaved enough in comfort mode for you to placate a reasonably judgemental wife. This all rounded theme continues to the RS3 sedan's image, which in the test car's Kyalami Green paint job, does a pretty good job at getting noticed. Meanwhile, the 4 doors, 4 seats with 2 ISOFIX points, properly sized boot, and traditional sedan shape doesn't make you look like you're going through a mid life crisis, or that you have no regard for your family's needs (essentially a bad father).
You might have noticed that most of the other automotive media outlets may have reviewed both the sedan and the sportback together in the same review. After all, same car, two different body styles right? I'd agree that's true to an extent, but I think the cars are quite different value propositions that send very different messages to the people within your sphere. On one hand, the sedan feels like it's owned by a car enthusiast who wants to ensure that his automotive interests don't compromise the comfort of this wife and children. On the other hand, the sportback feels like a younger person's car - one that perhaps isn't too burdened with the practicality demands of a family vehicle.
By extension, the sportback also feels like it has more "Ah Beng" potential - and in a world where lawyers have full sleeved tattoos and coffeeshop owners drive Lamborghinis, this depiction is meant as a compliment. This Ah Beng potential is perhaps also further emphasised in the Python Yellow paint job on the test car - which looks like this quirky mix between the flesh of a Mao Shan Wang durian and a D24 durian of yesteryear. I leave that to you to decide if that sounds appetising. I'm a durian fan, so what I've just described sounds good to me.
On the road, the sportback does indeed feel quite similar to the sedan, and the car feels very easy to handle, and is exceptionally planted for a car that isn't very large. The result is a confidence inducing drive where the RS3 responds quickly to your inputs and doing what you ask of the car. Just like the sedan, you don't actually have to drive very quickly or aggressively to have fun in the car. Even at lower speeds and moderate acceleration, so long as you keep the acceleration focussed and consistent, the RS3's wonderful 5 cylinder pulls beautifully, with a soundtrack to match. The exhaust gurgling with each upshift is a personal favourite of mine. It is subtle, yet very satisfying and is something that will put a smile on your face.
One area where the sportback differs from the sedan though, is the volume of the exhaust notes while you are driving the car. Because of its hatchback design and wider boot aperture in the rear, you somehow hear more and feel more of the exhaust's character when you open up your throttle - depending on how you see this, the sportback is either not as well insulated, or the sportback is a whole lot more fun. I lean towards the latter, as during my entire media test drive, I didn't even listen to one bit of music, as I wanted to hear every bit of the exhaust. The result, and probably a bit of a fail on my part, is that I can't comment on how good or bad the sound system is - I didn't use it! Honestly though, if you're like me and you appreciate a good exhaust note when you hear one, then the RS3 is definitely a contender. If you consider that you're likely to have to pay much more for another car that sounds similar, the RS3 suddenly also feels like a good bargain.
So where does this leave us? I think the sportback is the louder car image wise, and like i said, looks more Ah Beng, and generally just has a lot of character. One should also remember that the original format of the RS3 is also that of a hatchback - and I think purists can appreciate this fact. That said, the RS3 sedan is a beautiful car that looks wonderfully proportionate, and looks very premium for its size. Although I was not able to turn on the torque rear mode on public roads during the media test drive, in theory, the sedan should drift more easily than the sportback, - which is more fun, although the shorter frame of the sportback would hint that the sportback might just be a tad quicker around a track than the sedan. Specific to Singapore though, where performance cars are just as much about the prestige factor as they are about their performance, I think the sedan will sell better in Singapore, simply because it looks and feels more premium as a vehicle. However, if you can't be bothered about what people think of you, then I think the sportback would provide a more organic and authentic RS3 driving experience.