Audi RS3 2015 review
Joshua Dowling road tests and reviews the 2015 Audi RS3 at its Australian launch with specs, fuel consumption and verdict.
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Two, Right, Up. In rally co-driver speak this means the second tightest corner imaginable, heading right, with an uphill exit.
Roadside advisory speed signs generally suggest 25km/h for such a manoeuvre. Using both sides of the road and the immense grip of the new BMW M2, this figure can be at least doubled; selecting second gear would seem logical but we're in third.
A naturally aspirated 3.0-litre engine would probably pull from the corner smoothly — but the boosted M2 simply rockets out as if it's secretly grabbed second for you.
Ordinarily using both sides of the road would be suicidal and borderline homicidal but this week the closed roads of the 25th running of the Targa Tasmania tarmac rally allowed the Bavarian brand to introduce its new cheapest M model to Australia.
The legendary event includes some of Australia's best driving roads and even in the non-competitive Targa Tour category, we're guaranteed to get the best out of the new pocket rocket that undercuts the M3 by a full $50,000.
Under the bonnet is an updated version of the M235i's turbo straight six, producing 272kW/450Nm thanks to internals from the M3/M4 and an extra transmission cooler and second radiator behind the corners of the aggressive front bumper.
Helping it deal with all the extra twist and grip is a cocktail of M3/M4, 2 Series Convertible and bespoke structural changes to the front, floor and rear end.
Australia is unique in receiving the M2 in two distinct trim levels, though they are identical externally. The $89,900 base M2 Pure matches the mechanical spec of the $98,900 upper grade but is manual only and pares back the luxuries ever so slightly.
The top-spec has either transmission at the same price and packages common options such as electric adjustment and heating for the front seats, proximity keys, adaptive headlights and Harmon Kardon surround audio.
In the Targa Tour category, helmets and rollcages are not necessary. There is a strict, 130km/h limit — but the abundance of 2 and 3 grade corners in the pace notes puts on a smorgasbord of opportunities to assess the M2's slow speed dynamics.
Helping to maximise our pace through the bends is Australia's hottest new gravel rally talent Harry Bates, proving he's just as handy calling pace notes as twirling the wheel of his S2000 Corolla Australian Rally Championship racer.
Holding the auto's third gear manually keeps us at the legal speed. We need second only on the tightest 1 grade bends, thanks to the breadth of torque — momentarily we can tap 500Nm overboost from 1450rpm.
The sticky 265mm rear Michelin Pilot Super Sports do a great job of transferring all that torque to the ground and the Active M differential keeps them working in harmony.
Ample suspension travel and beautifully tuned dampers also help to keep tyres and ground in contact over some truly epic mid-corner bumps.
Driven back to back with an M4 on one of the more entertaining transport stages, the M2 feels more lively and nimble, given its 119mm shorter wheelbase and 117kg weight advantage.
Turn in severely on a corner and the steering is as sharp as its larger sibling. The M2 shines in the tighter running, though it might be less stable around the high-speed Phillip Island and Mount Panorama circuits.
The Targa stages make up about 20 per cent of each day's driving. On the connecting transport stages, the M2 impresses as comfortable enough to live with, even if there is more road noise than you'd expect, and the ride is quite fine for such a performance machine.
Dual-clutch or manual? The DCT will probably be quicker in every scenario but the manual is still the most entertaining to drive and best shows off the engine's brilliance.
Giving the smallest rear-drive body the full M treatment has always been a sound idea. The M2 is yet another to achieve greatness.
Price - Drops the entry point to a full-house M model by a full $50,000.
Technology - All the best bits from M3/M4 are bolted under the smaller 2 Coupe body.
Performance - 0-100km/h is just 0.2s shy of the M3/M4 but it's probably quicker around a tight track.
Driving - Simpler setup than more expensive Ms makes it easier to get the best out ofthe M2.
Design - Pumped wheelarches front and rear, plus big dish rims.
The Targa Tour category offers a non-competitive entry to the world of Targa Tasmania, where helmets and rollcages are not required and speeds are capped at 130km/h.
This allows plenty of freedom over the tighter stages, but speeds are monitored by a GPS tracker fitted to each car and stewards are prepared to disqualify if the rules are flaunted.
Entry comes with road books, and a co-driver and road-registered vehicle is required.
If you’ve ever yearned to do Targa on the cheap and in your own car, this is the ticket.