Audi tackles road and racetrack with new RS3 models
Amid all the electric launches at the Paris Motor Show, there was still room for a few old-fashioned petrol-powered sports cars. Audi used the 2016 Mondial l'Automobile to launch a new RS3 sedan, which eschews a trendy downsized four-cylinder engine for a raucous five-cylinder, and the race-ready RS3 LMS.
In road-going guise, the RS3 sedan is powered by a 294 kW (395 hp) five-cylinder turbo engine. That's 25 kW more than the hatch made when it launched in 2014, and 14 kW more than the recently-refreshed Mercedes A45 AMG can muster from its its heavily turbocharged four-cylinder.
That's also more than the cheaper Ford Focus RS offers, and the quick-shifting dual-clutch automatic gearbox in the Audi means its 4.1 second 100 km/h (62 mph) dash from standstill is 0.6 seconds faster than the Ford's time. Top speed is limited to 250 km/h (155 mph), but an optional package will boost that to 280 km/h (174 mph).
Putting outright performance aside, Audi is also promising the RS3 sedan will offer an engaging drive. Along with the Quattro all-wheel drive system, which can quickly punt power to the rear axle on corner exit, the stability control can brake the inside wheels to cut down on understeer. Just like the hatch there's even a mode for controlled drifting, but if it's anything like previous fast Audis you'll need to be driving like a playful rebel on sheet ice to really get sideways.
The front track is 20 mm (0.8 in) wider than the track on a regular A3 at the front, and the rear track has been expanded by 14 mm (0.6 in). Braking is handled by 370-mm (14.6-in) discs up front and 310-mm (12.2-in) discs at the rear, although carbon ceramics are also on the option list.
Opening a door reveals the RS3 sedan's interior is standard Audi, which means all the materials are of the highest possible quality, and the quilted seats manage to perfectly combine comfort and figure-hugging grabbiness. All the buttons and knobs that we poked and prodded in Paris felt perfectly damped and rock solid.
The road-going RS3 might be luxurious, but the LMS launched alongside it in Paris is anything but. Designed as a reasonably-priced entry point to the world of professional racing, the LMS drops the five-cylinder in favor of a four-cylinder motor pumping out 243 kW (330 hp).
Sure, it's 0.4 seconds slower to 100 km/h (62 mph) than the road car, but the FIA-approved fuel tank, racing safety cell, safety bucket seat and roof-mounted release hatch all mean it's completely ready to take on TCR racing in 2017.
Pricing for the road-going RS3 Sedan hasn't been announced yet, but expect to pay around US$50,000 when it lands in showrooms mid-2017. Meanwhile, the LMS will cost €99,000 (US$111,200) in club racer spec, or €129,000 ($144,900) in TCR spec with a sequential gearbox.