Review – Audi RS3 Sportback (2023) at Circuit Zandvoort – The Last of the Mohicans
Hot hatchback on the decline?
In the 1980s, as a car brand you really couldn’t do without a so-called hot hatchback in your offerings. Almost every self-respecting manufacturer had one. Meanwhile, the hot hatchback is on its way out considerably. Besides the already declining demand in the truly sporty segment, increasingly stringent emissions standards are definitely killing such cars. Audi was relatively late to the game in 1999 with the S3, and the first “thoroughbred” Audi RS3 did not even appear until 2011. On the other hand, though, Audi is also one of the few brands that still deliver a thoroughbred hot hatchback anno 2023. Today I get to enjoy that again for a while, on a racetrack still.
Audi RS3 Sportback – the specs
The most special feature of the Audi RS3 Sportback can be found under the hood: the 2.5-liter five-cylinder turbocharged gasoline engine, which is almost iconic for the brand. In its most current form, it delivers as much as 294 kW (400 hp), with, if possible, an even higher torque of 500 Nm. In this hot hatchback, drive not only goes to the front wheels, but to all four. The 100 km/h is reached in just 3.8 seconds and the top speed is capped at the “standard” 250 km/h.
Time for experience
However, I did not come here to spoon-feed dry figures. I want to experience them. For that, Audi invited us to Circuit Zandvoort. I ride behind an instructor, but he keeps a good pace. The Audi RS3 quickly won me over. The distinctive sound of the five-cylinder is ear-pleasing and invites you to accelerate to the next corner.
The character of a front-wheel-drive car
Speaking of cornering, despite its all-wheel drive, the Audi RS3 does have the character of a front-wheel-drive car. Enter a corner too fast or on the gas too early and it looks for the outside of the track. In that respect, it is much more important to get your braking point right with the RS3 than with the Audi RS e-tron GT and Audi R8 V10, which I drove just before the RS3 Sportback. Whereas the first two are quite forgiving, with the RS3 it’s a bit more of a challenge to stay on the ideal line well.
What is also noticeable is that the body of the Audi RS3 is much more agile than the other Audi’s mentioned. This is especially noticeable when braking for a corner. That may take some getting used to, but with some practice you can use that to “set” the RS3 up a bit before the turn, so you dive into the corner better. However, I don’t have that many laps on the track, so just when that “setting” starts to work a bit and I can follow the ideal line well, I already have to seek the pits again.
Very nice soundtrack
Well, I didn’t manage to get the most out of the Audi RS3. For that, I lack track experience, but that wasn’t the point of this track day either. It was now about enjoying the fact that hot hatchbacks still exist and this particular one did an excellent job of doing just that. We threw ourselves playfully into the curves, and meanwhile the five-cylinder provided a very nice soundtrack.
Want to drive an Audi RS3 Sportback yourself?
Want to experience the Audi RS3 Sportback for yourself sometime? You can with the Audi Driving Experience. There are several variations of that. We participated in the Sportscar Experience, where you get to drive the Audi RS3 Sportback, Audi R8 V10 and Audi RS e-tron GT. Besides at Circuit Zandvoort, this experience can also be booked at the Spa-Francorchamps racetracks, the Nürburgring, Bilster Berg Drive Resort and the Red Bull Ring. That would include hotel stays. Prices start at 1,295 euros for the experience at Circuit Zandvoort. So not cheap, but you get an unforgettable experience in return.