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Audi RS3 2022: Can the new Mercedes-AMG A45 S rival compete in the hyper hatch market?

Audi's new-generation RS3 will hit Australian showrooms in 2022, powered by a 298kW/500Nm engine.

The humble hot hatch is no longer humble.

The modern hot hatch is a very different beast to the original Mini Cooper S or Volkswagen Golf GTI, with the latest creations from Audi Sport and Mercedes-AMG packing sports car levels of power, viscous acceleration and the ability to drift.

The Audi RS3 is set to raise the bar when it arrives in 2022, featuring an overhauled powertrain that ditches the model’s long-time all-wheel-drive system in favour of an all-new ‘torque splitter’ that allows for improved handling and a ‘drift mode’.

But it will need everything Audi Sport can throw at it to take on its arch-rival, the Mercedes-AMG A45 S because the two line up incredibly even on paper.

Under the bonnet the RS3 uses an updated version of the brand’s iconic 2.5-litre five-cylinder turbo engine, making 298kW/500Nm. That compares to the AMG’s 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo that pumps out 310kW/500Nm.

That power means there’s literally only a fraction of a second between the pair on the zero to 100km/h acceleration, with the RS3 running a claimed 3.8 seconds to the 3.9s AMG claims for the A45. Beating the A45 was clearly a goal for Audi Sport’s engineers, with the company making a specific note during its presentation of the new model as “top in class” in terms of acceleration.

Both are all-wheel drive but the Audi is now fitted with the ‘RS torque splitter’, replacing the Haldex part-time all-wheel-drive system of previous RS3 model. The torque splitter features a pair of multi-disc clutches on each rear driveshaft, which Audi claims allows for active, full variable torque vectoring between the rear wheels. The idea behind the new set-up is to reduce understeer when cornering, because it allows for more drive to be sent to the outside wheel when needed.

The bonus of the torque splitter is its ability to send extra power to an individual rear wheel which will allow drivers to drift it. Again, though, it was no accident from Audi’s engineers because the A45 had already introduced ‘drift mode’ on the latest model. The AMG uses a similar multi-disc clutch on the rear axle to what Audi Sport has employed.

Pricing for the new RS3, which will be available as a sedan and Sportback (five-door hatch), is yet to be revealed. The outgoing model undercuts the current A45, starting at $83,436 before on-road costs for the RS3 Sportback and $86,136 for the RS3 Sedan; compared to the $93,976 asking price for the A45 S hatch.

Mercedes doesn’t offer the A45 powertrain in the A-Class sedan to line-up directly against the RS3 Sedan, but it does have the CLA45 starting at $111,876.

 Audi RS3Mercedes-AMG A45 S
Engine2.5-litre five-cylinder turbo petrol2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol
Power/torque298kW/500Nm310kW/500Nm
TransmissionSeven-speed dual-clutch automaticEight-speed dual-clutch automatic
DriveAll-wheel driveAll-wheel drive
0-100km/h time3.8 seconds3.9 seconds