2018 Audi RS3 First Drive: As Potent As Performance Compacts Get

– Lime Rock, Connecticut

After bombing around a race track in the Audi TT RS, will the RS3 sedan feel tame and boring in comparison? Yes, it has the same powertrain, brakes, and suspension as the TT, but the A3-based RS model is saddled with an extra 287 pounds and two more doors. And it’s a sedan, after all.

Then again, the TT RS is the closest competitor the new RS3 has today. More affordable small performance cars have much less power and tend to be boy-racer hatchbacks – Focus RS, Civic Type R, for instance. Yet you’ll have to pay a lot more to find another car with as much power and the same type of performance stats as the RS3. It’s also a big step up from the existing Audi S3: 108 extra horsepower, $12,000 more expensive to start. So, yes, my mind keeps drifting back to that saucy TT RS as the closest rival to – and slightly sportier version of – this sedan.

2018 Audi RS3: Second Drive
2018 Audi RS3: Second Drive
2018 Audi RS3: Second Drive
2018 Audi RS3: Second Drive

The turbocharged inline-five engine pulls hard through the gears with a nice vocal snarl.

Yet as I hurry around Lime Rock Park, there’s no doubt the RS3 is just as much fun as its coupe sibling. The turbocharged inline-five engine pulls hard through the gears with a nice vocal snarl. Sixty miles per hour arrives in 3.9 seconds, three-tenths slower than the TT RS but still fantastic for a car like this. I can put that power down early in turns, too, as the Quattro all-wheel-drive system diverts power to the appropriate tires.

Diving into turns is huge fun, thanks to the quick ramp-up in steering response o...