The awesome Mercedes-AMG CLA45 is finally getting a proper competitor to play with

The Audi A3 Sedan was launched in 2013, just one year after the German brand introduced the third-generation A3. Offered for the first time alongside the hatchback and convertible models, the four-door shares almost everything with its siblings. It is identical styling-wise except for the deck lid, while the interior is basically the same save for a few changes in the rear compartment. Built on the same MQB platform shared with the Volkswagen Golf, the A3 Sedan also borrows its engine lineup form the A3 Sportback, including the 1.2- to 2.0-liter gasoline units and both the 1.6- and 2.0-liter diesels. Much like any other Audi model, the A3 also spawned S- and RS-badged performance models.

In 2017, the A3 family will grow to include yet another member. Having already launched the S3 Sedan, Audi is now rolling out its most powerful compact sedan yet, the RS3. Caught testing under heavy camouflage as well as on the Nurburgring track since 2015, the beefed-up compact four-door made its global debut at the 2016 Paris Motor Show. As expected, the RS3 is more menacing version of the S3, sharing styling cues with the larger RS4 and the award-winning, 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine with RS versions of the Audi Q3 and TT.

The sedan is reportedly set to cross the pond to the U.S. in August 2017 for the 2018 model year. Until that happens, let’s have a closer look at what Audi’s rival for the Mercedes-AMG CLA45.

Updated 04/06/2017: Audi announced prices for the 2018 RS3 sedan which will make its North American debut at the New York International Auto Show.

Continue reading to learn more about the 2018 Audi RS3 Sedan.

  • 2018 Audi RS3 Sedan
  • Year:
    2018
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Model:
  • 0-60 time:
    4 sec. (Est.)
  • Top Speed:
    155 mph (Est.)
  • Price:
    65000
  • car segment:
  • body style:
  • Overall:
    8.8/10

Exterior

2018 Audi RS3 Sedan High Resolution Exterior
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2018 Audi RS3 Sedan High Resolution Exterior
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2018 Audi RS3 Sedan High Resolution Exterior
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Although this is the first-ever RS3 sedan, its design is more than familiar. Essentially an RS3 Sportback with a trunk, the RS3 sedan is almost identical to the hatchback model. The front end is highlighted by Audi’s new styling language with sharper lines and RS elements such as the "Singleframe" grille with honeycomb mesh and Quattro logo at the bottom and the black blade just above the splitter. The latter showed up on RS models a couple of years back and extends across the entire width of the fascia into the side air inlets. The new LED headlamps include the distinctive RS daytime running light signature, but Matrix LED units are also available.

The front end is highlighted by Audi's new styling language with sharper lines and RS elements.

Onto the sides, you’ll spot more features previously seen on RS-badged models. There’s flared from wheel arches, which made the sedan 20mm (0.8 inches) wider than the standard A3, beefier side skirts, blacked-out window trim, black side mirrors, machined rims, and larger brake calipers with "RS" logos. Around back, the sedan showcases a trunk lid spoiler and a big diffuser with vertical fins for enhanced aerodynamics, as well as a pair of oval tailpipes. The sporty look is enhanced by the "RS3" badge below the left taillight and the 14mm (0.55-inch) wider rear track.

On top of these extra features, the RS3 Sedan also gets the RS-exclusive Nardo Gray and Catalunya Red exterior colors.

All told, this is the most aggressive A3 Sedan ever produced and a four-door worthy of the RS badge. And even though it looks like a shrunken RS4 for the most part, it has a few unique features of its own.

Interior

2018 Audi RS3 Sedan High Resolution Interior
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2018 Audi RS3 Sedan High Resolution Interior
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2018 Audi RS3 Sedan High Resolution Interior
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Inside the RS3, you will find pretty much the same design layout as in the S3, but with the extra goodies that come with the "RS" badge. For instance, the front seats feature the heavier bolstering that comes with the "RS" badge, while the steering wheel has a sportier, flat-bottom design. Both are wrapped in black Nappa leather and come with "RS" logos, while the instrument panel and door panels feature RS-specific inlays. Customers looking to take the sedan at the track can select the optional, more contoured seats with integrated head restraints and diamond upholstery pattern.

The front seats feature the heavier bolstering that comes with the "RS" badge, while the steering wheel has a sportier, flat-bottom design.

The RS3 Sedan also benefits from Audi’s latest virtual cockpit, which includes a 12.3-inch TFT screen instead of the mechanical gauge cluster. When using in the standard setting, it displays the usual speedo/tach combo, while the infotainment mode allows the screen to display navigation, phone, and audio system information. The MMI also enables the driver to choose between three display modes. They include a special RS screen that moves the tachometer to the center, with tire pressure, torque and g‑forces on the left and right. When the transmission is operating in manual mode, a scale with a color background signals the driver to use the steering wheel paddle or selector lever to upshift when approaching maximum revs.

Moving over to the infotainment system, the main control element is the rotary/push-button control on the center console. It also includes a touchpad for scrolling, zooming and writing, and functions such as a text search feature that automatically completes the user’s input after entering just a few letters. The sedan is also equipped with an LTE module with Audi Connect, which includes navigation with Google Earth and Google Street View, as well as information on fuel prices, the weather, travel and traffic. Inductive charging for phones and a Bang & Olufsen sound system with 705 watts 14 speakers are also standard.

Drivetrain

2018 Audi RS3 Sedan High Resolution Drivetrain
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As expected, the RS3 Sedan gets its juice from a version of the 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine that Audi initially developed for the current TT-RS. The turbocharged mill generates 400 horsepower and 354 pound-feet of torque, just like in the TT-RS. The compact sedan needs 4.1 seconds to sprint from 0 to 62 mph, which makes it as quick as the AMG CLA45, and tops out at 155 mph. On request, Audi will increase the electronically limited top speed to 174 mph, something you can’t get from Mercedes-Benz.

As expected, the RS3 Sedan gets its juice from a version of the 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine that Audi initially developed for the current TT-RS.

Featuring a light-alloy crankcase, the engine is also 57 pounds lighter than its predecessor. Thanks to its dual injection into the intake manifold and combustion chambers, as well as a valvelift system for variable control of the exhaust valves, the unit also delivers optimal power development at a reduced consumption level. At least that’s what Audi claims, as we’re still waiting for official fuel economy figures.

The five-cylinder mates to an S Tronic, seven-speed dual-clutch transmission that sends the power to all four corners through Audi’s already familial Quattro all-wheel-drive system. The torque is distributed variably between the axles, with a large share sent to the rear wheel under spirited driving.

The sedan also comes with wheel-selective torque control, progressive steering, four-link rear axle, and a suspension setup that 25mm (one-inch) lower than the standard model. Stopping power comes from 14.6-inch discs with eight-piston calipers at the front and 12.2-inch discs to the rear. Optionally, Audi supplies carbon-ceramic front disc brakes.

Safety

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In the safety department, the new RS3 gets a slew of new driver assistance features, including active lane assist, pre-sense front warning, pedestrian monitor, and rear-cross traffic warning. Traffic jam assist with the adaptive cruise control, Stop&Go, and emergency braking will also be offered as options.

Prices

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The Audi RS3 Sedan starts from $54,900, which is a whopping, $12,000 premium over the S3. This makes the RS3 the most expensive vehicle in its niche. Find out how much the competition costs below.

Competitors

Mercedes-AMG CLA45

2017 Mercedes-AMG CLA45
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Currently the only performance car in this small niche, the AMG CLA45 is finally getting the competitor it’s been waiting for since 2013. Styling-wise, the CLA 45 has the advantage of receiving AMG-inspired styling, highlighted by an AMG "twin blade" radiator grille and cross strut in the AMG front apron. AMG also added larger side skirts and a menacing rear diffuser, giving the CLA 45 AMG a real identity that the RS3 Sedan should be very wary of. The AMG CLA45 lugs around an AMG-built, 2.0-liter turbo engine that produces 375 horsepower. This peppy four-pot combines with an AMG 4Matic all-wheel-drive system to help the CLA45 hit 60 mph in just 4.1 seconds to go with a top speed of 155 mph. Pricing for the CLA45 starts from $49,500, which makes it significantly more affordable than the Audi.

Find out more about the Mercedes-AMG CLA45 here.

BMW M2

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Until BMW launches a sedan based on the 1 Series and adds an M performance model to the lineup, the two-door M2 remains the company’s only competitor for the Audi RS3. Although it lacks a proper four-door layout and it’s probably a bit cramped in the rear compartment, the M2 has everything it needs to give the RS3 a run for its money. It looks downright aggressive, it has a well-equipped cabin with BMW’s latest technology, and a beefed-up, 3.0-liter six-cylinder engine good for 365 horsepower and 343 pound-feet of twist. Charging from 0 to 60 mph takes 4.2 seconds with the dual-clutch automatic and 4.4 seconds with the manual. Granted, it’s not as quick as the RS3, but at least you can have it with a stick and a clutch pedal. Pricing starts from $51,700, a bit less than what I expect the RS3 to cost.

Read more about the BMW M2 here.

Conclusion

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Arguably one of the most anticipated RS products of the decade, the RS3 Sedan is finally making its way into Audi’s lineup. And, needless to say, the A3 family desperately needs a high-performance sedan to compete against the bonkers Mercedes-AMG CLA45. Given the drivetrain and the technology behind it, RS3 Sedan will definitely be an awesome compact with great potential on the race track. Maybe the beefed-up four-door will also bring a new record to the Nurburgring, which would be a great start against the popular AMG CLA45.

  • Leave it
    • * Tough competition from Mercedes-Benz
    • * Likely more expensive than competitors

Update History

Updated 10/03/2016: We added all the official details on the new RS3 sedan, plus a series of images taken during the car’s official debut at the 2016 Paris Auto Show.

Updated 07/12/2016: Our spy photographers caught the upcoming RS3 sedan out for a testing session at the famous Nurburgring race track.

Spy Shots

July 12, 2016 - Audi RS3 sedan caught testing at Nurburgring

2018 Audi RS3 Sedan Exterior Spyshots
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2018 Audi RS3 Sedan Exterior Spyshots
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2018 Audi RS3 Sedan Exterior Spyshots
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Rendering

2018 Audi RS3 Sedan Exterior Exclusive Renderings Computer Renderings and Photoshop
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Press Release

Photo Credit: Audi

Audi will be presenting the most dynamic model of the A3 model series, the Audi RS 3 sedan at this year’s Motor Show in Paris*. With a 400 hp five-cylinder engine, groundbreaking efficiency and an even sharper look, it is the first compact Audi sedan to bear the RS label.

The new 2.5 TFSI outputs 294 kW (400 hp) – 33 hp more than its predecessor. That makes it the most powerful five-cylinder engine on the world market. Its 480 Nm (354.0 lb-ft) of torque is available at engine speeds between 1,700 and 5,850 revolutions per minute for outstanding tractive power. The compact RS model sprints from 0 to 100 km/h (62.1 mph) in just 4.1 seconds. It can attain a maximum speed of 250 km/h (155.3 mph); on request Audi will increase the electronically limited top speed to 280 km/h (174.0 mph). The unique sound of the five-cylinder unit intensifies an already emotionally charged driving experience. Its sound comes from having the ignition alternate between directly adjacent cylinders and widely spaced ones. The sound can be modified via Audi drive select.

With its light-alloy crankcase, the five-cylinder engine is 26 kilograms (57.3 lb) lighter than its predecessor. It employs a dual injection into the intake manifold and into the combustion chambers, as well as the Audi valvelift system for variable control of the exhaust valves. The result is optimal power development at a reduced consumption level.

Sportiness, top traction and driving safety
With lightning-fast shifting, the S tronic seven-speed dual clutch transmission transmits the power of the 2.5 TFSI to the quattro permanent all-wheel drive. Its electro-hydraulic multi-plate clutch distributes the drive torque variably between the axles. The electronic control combines superior stability with a high level of driving pleasure. The sportier the driving, the faster and more often will a large share of the torque reach the rear axle. The result: especially agile driving characteristics.

quattro management is integrated as a standard feature in the Audi drive select dynamic handling system, as are the steering, S tronic, engine management and the adjustable exhaust flaps. The driver can individually vary the operation of these components between the three modes comfort, auto and dynamic. The same is true for the optional RS sport suspension plus with adaptive damper control.

Wheel-selective torque control, an intelligent software feature of the Electronic Stabilization Control (ESC), rounds off the work of the all-wheel drive. In fast cornering it slightly brakes the inside wheels, which are under a reduced load. In this way it can transmit greater lateral power, making handling more fluid and stable. In addition, the RS-specifically tuned ESC comes with a sport mode for controlled drifting. The ESC can also be fully deactivated for especially sporty driving characteristics.

Progressive steering, four-link rear axle, a tight setup and lowered by 25 millimeters (1.0 in) relative to the standard model – the chassis of the RS 3 sedan is the perfect partner for the powerful drive system. From its stable center position, the RS 3 sedan spontaneously steers into curves and follows through with superior precision. The front brake disks have a diameter of
370 millimeters (14.6 in), while eight-piston calipers with large-area linings provide optimal deceleration. Alternatively, Audi supplies carbon-fiber ceramic disks in front. At the rear axle there are brake disks with a diameter of 310 millimeters (12.2 in). Standard on the RS 3 sedan are 19-inch wheels and 235/35 tires. 255/30 tires are optionally available in front.

Distinctive RS design outside and inside
The new top athlete in the compact segment also expresses its sporty character visually. The Singleframe with its three-dimensional honeycomb grille bears the quattro logo along the bottom. Underneath, a blade extends across the entire width of the front into the side air inlets, where it forms narrow funnels for better air flow through the wheel arches. LED headlights with their distinctive daytime running light signature are standard; Audi also offers matrix LED headlights as an option. Compared with an A3, the front track of the RS 3 sedan is wider by 20 millimeters (0.8 in) – the front wheel arches are accordingly wider flared as well. At the rear axle the wheels are spaced 14 millimeters (0.6 in) further apart compared with the basic model.

A fixed spoiler lip on the luggage compartment lid improves the separation of air flow. A distinctive diffusor insert with vertical struts and the large oval tailpipes of the RS exhaust system terminate the rear. Audi exclusively offers the RS-specific paint colors Nardo gray and Catalunya red as options.

The dark-toned interior welcomes the driver and passengers with illuminated door sills bearing the RS 3 logos as a standard feature. Black fine Nappa leather sport seats with RS logos on the backrests are standard. Optionally available are more contoured RS sport seats with integrated head restraints. Their covers are also diamond patterned and color-perforated. The RS sport leather steering wheel is flattened at the bottom. Inlays at the instrument panel and at the doors complete the atmosphere of sporty elegance.

Intuitive operation and high-definition displays
The flat hierarchies and intelligently linked context menus make operation of the Audi RS 3 sedan intuitive and ergonomic. The main control element is the rotary/push-button control on the console of the center tunnel. With the top infotainment system MMI navigation plus with MMI touch, the terminal includes a touchpad for scrolling, zooming and writing. Additionally included is a free text search feature that automatically completes the user’s input after entering just a few letters. The voice control processes questions and commands formulated in ordinary language.

Standard is an electrically extending MMI screen with a 7-inch diagonal. The two circular instrument dials are black with red needles and white scales. The centrally positioned driver information system includes a boost pressure indicator, an oil thermometer and a lap timer. The fully digital Audi virtual cockpit is optionally available. On its high-resolution 12.3-inch monitor the driver can choose between three display modes. They include a special RS screen that moves the tachometer to the center. On the left and right information appears on tire pressure, torque and g‑forces. When the transmission is operating in manual mode, a scale with a color background prompts the driver to use the steering wheel paddle or selector lever to upshift when approaching maximum revs.

Always online with Audi connect and Audi smartphone interface
An LTE module gets the Audi RS 3 sedan online. It brings on board the various services of Audi connect, including navigation with Google Earth and Google Street View, as well as information on fuel prices, the weather, travel and traffic. The information is displayed directly in the MMI, and operation is by way of the standard-equipped RS multifunction steering wheel, the rotary/push-button control and touchpad or by spoken command. Data is transmitted via the new Audi connect SIM, which is factory-installed in the car. With the corresponding data flat rate the customer can immediately use the services for up to three years free of charge – even in other European countries. In addition, the navigation systems include a Wi-Fi hotspot enabling passengers to surf the web with their tablets, smartphones and other mobile devices.

The free Audi MMI connect app offers many other features, such as transferring your smartphone’s calendar to the MMI. Through Aupeo! and Napster it affords access to countless music tracks and audio books. Destinations from Google Maps, points of interest (POIs) and the entries from the “Travel” service can be transferred from your smartphone to your car’s navigation system using the app. The Audi smartphone interface brings Apple Car Play and Android Auto into the car.

Selected apps for the phone, navigation and streaming services, for example, are then directly displayed on the MMI screen. The driver can control the apps using the various operating options in the car.

Attractive supplementary components complete the infotainment line. The Audi phone box inductively charges the smartphone according to the Qi standard and connects it to the car antenna via near-field coupling for optimal reception quality. The Bang & Olufsen Sound System produces an excellent sound experience with 705 watts of power and 14 speakers.

Arrive safe and relaxed at your destination thanks to new assistance systems
The RS 3 sedan is also the top of its class when it comes to driver assistance systems. They keep the car at the desired distance from the vehicle in front, assist the driver when changing lanes and staying within the given lane, detect traffic signs and help avoid rear-end collisions and pedestrian accidents.

New are the traffic jam assist, which briefly takes over the steering in slow-moving traffic up to 65 km/h (40.4 mph), the emergency assist, which automatically stops the car if required, and cross traffic assist rear. The latter system looks out for crossing vehicles when pulling out of a parking space.

The compact RS model will be launched in China and the USA from summer 2017 under the “Audi Sport” label.

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