THE gargling thrum of a five-cylinder turbocharged Audi engine is among the things I’ll miss when the automotive sector finally transitions wholly to electric vehicles (EV).
The pops and plosive flutters from the exhaust as you lean heavily on the new RS 3 Saloon’s impressive six-piston brakes and down shift through the seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox is one of motoring’s smile-inducing joys.
Nine times in a row the German brand’s 2.5 TFSI power unit has won the “International Engine of the Year” award and in the latest version of its most compact RS it has found a very happy bedfellow.
Prices started at a whisker under £52,000 at launch and we got behind the wheel of the limited-run Launch Edition version.
Around 100 of these will be built, with black body detailing, adaptive suspension, sports exhausts, a head-up instrument display, B&O sound system and panoramic sunroof among the additions which differentiate it from the standard car.
In its distinctive Python Yellow paint, the car you see here came in at £61,460.
That is a big chunk of cash for a car that is based on a C-segment hatchback, but it is clear that the RS 3 represents the result of years of evolution of the Audi RS formula.
That five-cylinder engine delivers 400PS and 500Nm of torque through all four wheels via the most advanced version of the quattro system to date.
Where performance Audis I have driven in the past have felt keen to wash into understeer, a new RS Torque Splitter replaces the mechanical differential that used to meter power to the rear wheels with an electronically controlled multiple disc clutch on each of the drive shafts.
Sounds technical, yes? It doesn't matter. The result is an RS 3 which, Audi proudly proclaims, is optimised to drift where conditions allow.
Don’t fancy this? That is fine, because in less audacious driving the result is a car that simply feels keener to turn-in to a corner and drive out with a more reassuring and accurate rear-biased power delivery.
Greater camber applied to the new RS 3’s wheels and suspension lowered 10mm over the S3 and 25mm on the standard A3 also help ensure steadfast traction for what is a relatively small car endowed with serious performance.
The result is a greater sense of poise, accuracy and agility which ultimately delivers the confidence you need to have fun behind the wheel.
And the RS 3 is fun. The only issue being that it is almost too fast to enjoy without fear of serious repercussions.
Audi’s official performance statistics communicate that the RS 3 Saloon will reach 62mph in 3.8 seconds and, with the raised limiter of the Launch Edition version, a top speed of 174mph. It feels every bit that quick and more besides.
This remans a premium small saloon at heart, though, and the Audi drive select system’s comfort, auto, dynamic, RS Individual, and efficiency settings mean that the RS 3 Saloon is no baying, rabid beast at all times.
The latter of those settings should help drivers exceed Audi's claimed fuel efficiency of 31.4mpg, delivered alongside 204g/km CO2 emissions.
Quilted leather seats and a cockpit that feels sculpted around the driver by virtue of the higher tier of vents that flank the stunningly colourful Audi Virtual Cockpit instrument display define a high-quality cabin whose architecture is dramatically angled and sharp edged. It feels a daring and dramatic place to be but is, of course, largely based on standard A3 fayre.
Whether you consider the blistering performance, impressive engineering and engaging dynamics of the RS 3 enough to justify its hefty price tag will ultimately lie in your life priorities and, more likely, a matter for your bank manager.
But it is hard not to walk away from such a car and marvel at the evolution of technology that’s been with us for almost 150 years, whether designed to carry multiple passengers huge distances in comfort, complete daily trips at minimal cost or entertain, amaze and get the hairs standing up on the back of your neck.
Let’s hope it doesn’t take that long to develop a similar appreciation of a new generation of EVs with designs on entertaining and engaging in a similar way…