Audi Sport has fired a warning shot at archrival Mercedes-AMG, confirming that its third-generation RS3 will not only offer a drift mode for the first time, but will crucially also be quicker and faster than the competing A45 S.
While the new RS3’s full reveal is expected to take place in the coming weeks, Audi Sport has now confirmed a bunch of details, including the retention of the famous 2.5-litre turbo-petrol five-cylinder engine, although it has been tweaked.
Peak power is the same as before, at 294kW, but it now comes on tap 250rpm earlier, at 5600rpm, while on the way to a 7000rpm redline. Meanwhile, maximum torque is up 20Nm, to 500Nm, with it delivered from 2250-5600rpm.
Read more about the Audi RS3
In combination with a revised seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, the latest RS3 sprints from a standstill to 100km/h in a scant 3.8 seconds (-0.3s), making it 0.1s quicker to triple digits than the A45 S, no matter the body-style (hatchback or sedan).
Better yet, the fresh RS3’s top speed can be optionally raised to a staggering 290km/h, which is 20km/h faster than the A45 S can travel. Of note, its terminal velocity is electronically limited to 250km/h as standard, while there’s also a 280km/h option.
And what of the drift mode? Well, the new RS3 has moved on from its predecessor’s front-biased Haldex version of Audi Sport’s signature quattro all-wheel-drive system, with it instead embracing a Magna-supplied RS Torque Splitter rear axle.
This set-up features a mechanical differential with independent electronically controlled multi-plate clutches for each driveshaft, allowing it to direct up to 100 per cent of drive to either of the rear wheels when the RS Torque Steer (read: drift) mode is activated.
There’s also an RS Performance setting, which is an even sharper version of the long-standing Dynamic mode. It’s optimised for serious racetrack driving, putting the emphasis on balanced handling while reducing understeer.
Other highlights of the latest RS3 include the now fully variable exhaust system, adaptive dampers (in place of the preceding magnetic items), optional carbon-ceramic brakes, increased negative camber, available Pirelli P Zero Trofeo R semi-slick tyres and wider tracks.
As mentioned, we’ll have to wait a little longer for a proper look at the fresh RS3, including its interior, but for now, enjoy these images of a camouflaged hatchback, one of which is a little… smoky.