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Mercedes-Benz A-Class


Audi RS3

Summary

Mercedes-Benz A-Class

Meet the world’s most aerodynamically efficient passenger car. Mercedes-Benz says the drag co-efficient for this new sedan version of its fourth-generation A-Class is the lowest ever measured for a passenger vehicle.

Which is quite a claim, but you only have to look at it to see how much work has gone into marrying good looks with slippery aero performance.

The A-Class sedan is substantially longer and fractionally taller than its hatchback sibling, but does that mean it’s better, or simply different?

Safety rating
Engine Type1.3L turbo
Fuel TypeRegular Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency5.7L/100km
Seating5 seats

Audi RS3

After teasing us with the S3, all-wheel-drive version of its A3 sedan and hatch (Sportback in Audi-speak), Audi has finally given us the full-fat, RS3 variant of the same car. Any time you see an `R’ and an `S’ on the badge of an Audi, you know it’s the full nine yards in terms of all-wheel-drive grip and engine performance. And the RS3 is no different.

The power is enormous, the grip prodigious and the attitude is way tougher than any other A3 variant. It’s also well equipped, safe and nicely put together. But is that extra `R’ worth the added price of admission? And is this more Audi A-Series than you really need?

The other question is, given that the S3 is such a resolved package with its own shot of high-performance, do the numbers stack up for the RS3 version? How much is too much?

Safety rating
Engine Type2.5L
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency8.3L/100km
Seating5 seats

Verdict

Mercedes-Benz A-Class8.1/10

Mercedes-Benz knows its way around a sedan, and this A-Class is a well-equipped, comfortable and efficient city-sized four-door.

But more than that, to my eyes anyway, it’s a perfect example of restrained form matching aero function with beautiful results.

Would your preference be an A-Class with a hatch or a boot? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.

Note: CarsGuide attended this event as a guest of the manufacturer, with travel and meals provided.


Audi RS37.4/10

If conventionally powered cars really are on the endangered list, it’s vehicles like the Audi RS3 that will remind us what we’ve lost. There’s so much fun to be had in this car, that you really need to take it to a track to tap into it safely and responsibly. And there’s the rub.

While there’s no doubting the RS3’s potential, neither is there any doubt that the driveline absolutely dominates the experience. In fact, we reckon the S3 with its more modest (but still ample) performance and friendlier nature is probably the smarter car for the everyday. It’s also cheaper by about $20,000 and while it lacks the aggressive looks, it’s still a charming car. Perhaps all the more charming for its easier-going nature and balance of abilities.

So why buy the RS3? Because it’s the one that will keep you entertained for longer if you’re a serious enthusiast driver. But if you don’t plan to use the car for track days, there’s a strong argument that the RS3 is way more car than you’ll ever need. Of course, that sentiment never stopped performance-car lovers, did it?

Design

Mercedes-Benz A-Class9/10

A global carmaker can’t hold its head up in public without a formal design strategy, and Mercedes-Benz uses ‘Sensual Purity’ as a guiding principle in developing the look and feel of its current models. It may sound airy-fairy, but I for one reckon it’s accurate in describing the A-Class sedan.

The overall form is flowing and minimalist, the major exception being a hard character line running down the side of the car from the trailing edge of the angular LED headlights and along the top of the doors to link with the tail-lights.

A rear-biased glasshouse emphasises the length of the bonnet, at the same time delivering a broad, muscular stance with short overhangs front and rear.

Ultra-fine panel gaps, careful sealing around the headlights and curved strakes either side of the bonnet keep the look clean and simple, not to mention super-slippery.

The interior has been styled to within an inch of its life, the dash dominated by the slick twin 10.25-inch widescreen ‘MBUX’ display covering instruments, ventilation, media and vehicle settings.

Five signature, turbine-style air vents (three in the centre, and one at each edge) lift the dash’s visual interest, and the quality of fit and finish is top-shelf.


Audi RS37/10

While the overall shape of the RS3 suggests evolution rather than revolution, the RS3 treatment has led to a much sportier look. We still reckon the sedan is the pick of the two body styles, mainly because it looks a bit more aggressive. Certainly, though, an aggressive look is not something either version backs away from, and those deep, wide blacked-out honeycomb grilles front and rear give the thing lots of presence.

So too do the blistered fenders, allowing for the extra track width that gives the RS3 its unique footprint. The front track itself is 30mm wider, but the wider fenders also gave Audi the chance to do some creative aero-management. Unlike, say, the Toyota Supra, for instance, with its faux vents up each side, the RS3’s lower-front vents and aero-slits behind each front fender are fully functional, directing air into the engine bay and away from the brakes respectively.

Another really neat function is the LED daytime running lights’ one-act play when you unlock the doors. As the car unlocks its doors, the LEDs spell out `R’, `S’ and `3’in sequence. Blink and you’ll miss it, but it’s a lovely touch that some manufacturers will never understand.

Practicality

Mercedes-Benz A-Class8/10

At a bit over 4.5m long, a fraction under 1.8m wide, and close to 1.5m tall the A-Class sedan is 130mm longer and 6.0mm higher than the hatch version.

The A-Class sedan driver is presented with the same sleek widescreen display as found in the hatch, and storage runs to two cupholders in the centre console, a lidded bin/armrest between the seats (including twin USB ports), decent door pockets with room for bottles and a medium-size glove box.

In a swap to the rear, sitting behind the driver’s seat set to my (183cm) position, I enjoyed adequate knee and headroom, although stretching up a to a straight-back position led to a scalp to headlining interface.

In the A 200 a centre fold-down armrest incorporates two cupholders, again there are generous pockets in the doors with room for bottles, and adjustable ventilation outlets are set into the back of the front centre console. Always a plus.

There are three belted positions across the rear, but the adults using them for anything other than short journeys will have to be good friends and flexible. Best for two grown-ups, and three kids will be fine.

One snag is the size of the rear door aperture. Okay for taller people on the way in, but a limb-unfolding gymnastic exercise on exit.

But of course the reason we’re all here is the boot, and the sedan’s extra length translates to an additional 60 litres of luggage space for a total cargo volume of 430 litres (VDA).

Extra space is one thing, but usability is another. The benefit of a hatch is a large opening that allows bulky stuff to find a home, and Merc has pushed the sedan’s boot aperture to just under a metre across and there’s half a metre between the base of the rear window and the lower edge of the boot lid.

That’s made a big difference and access is good, with the rear seats folding 40/20/40 to add extra flexibility and volume. There are also tie-down hooks at each corner of the floor (a luggage net is included) and a netted pocket behind the passenger side wheel tub (with 12-volt outlet).

At the time of writing Mercedes-Benz wasn’t quoting towing specifications, and don’t bother looking for a spare wheel, the tyres are run-flats.


Audi RS36/10

Like the rest of the Audi A-series range, the RS3 is available in two body styles, a five-door hatchback and a four-door sedan. The five-door hatchback layout is the most practical of the two RS3 layouts, but both feature plenty of front-seat space and a rear seat that folds 40:20:40. 

Paddle shifters are mounted on the steering wheel rather than the column, so they move with the wheel. That can make it difficult to select the correct paddle in a hurry with lots of lock applied.

The Drive modes are operated by a switch low down on the centre-stack that is clearly designed for left-hand-drive cars. It’s too far from the driver and needs to be cycled through in one direction, rather than being able to select the next mode or the previous one.

Beyond that, the interior is a lesson to other car-makers on how to get an interior right. There’s a quality look and feel with the possible exception of the plastic trim below the passenger-side air-vents which looks and feels a bit cheap. There are plenty of cup-holders and cubbies around the cabin with two USB plugs in the front and two in the rear (for charging).

The RS3 loses some space compared to the regular A3 because of the performance hardware. Where the hatch can take 282 litres with all seats in place (1104L with second row stowed), the sedan can swallow 321 litres.

Price and features

Mercedes-Benz A-Class8/10

The A-Class sedan is launching with two variants, the A 200 at $49,400, before on-road costs, and an entry-level A 180, arriving in August 2019 at $44,900.

We’ll cover active and passive safety tech in the safety section, but above and beyond that standard equipment for the A 180 runs to 17-inch alloy wheels, ‘Artico’ faux leather upholstery, the ‘MBUX’ widescreen cockpit display (two 10.25-inch digital screens), auto LED headlights and DRLs, keyless entry and start, auto-dimming rearview mirror, climate-control, sat nav, multi-function sports steering wheel, cruise control, rain-sensing wipers, ‘Active Parking Assist’ (with ultrasonic proximity sensors front and rear), tinted glass, plus nine-speaker, 225W audio with digital radio, as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

The A200 steps up to 18-inch alloy rims, and adds a dual exhaust system, four-way electrical adjustment for the driver’s seat (with lumbar support), a folding rear armrest (with twin cupholders), adaptive high-beam assist, and a wireless device charging bay.


Audi RS37/10

What you’re buying here is not a car in a different size or luxury category compared with its S3 and A3 stablemates, but a car with a much broader performance envelope. So it’s no surprise to learn that a lot of the extra money goes into that type of hardware.

So rather than the class-standard four-cylinder engine, the RS3 gets a five-cylinder engine measuring 2.5 litres and enough performance to challenge many a supercar of just a handful of years ago. That philosophy also requires bigger brakes, firmer suspension and a more complex, track-oriented version of the electronic rear differential that can turn the car into a drifter or a race-track hero. Wheels and tyres are competition-spec, too.

In turn, those changes have forced other alterations such as the wider fenders and more intricate body kit, the former to physically fit the tyres, the latter to control air-flow for high-speed stability and for thermal management.

Other RS3 additions to what was an already well-equipped car in the S3, include lots of Audi’s trademark honeycomb styling panels around the car, RS3 puddle lighting, LED headlights and daytime running lights, carbon and aluminium interior inlays, RS sports seats with four-way lumbar support and a massage function.

There are two USB ports, wireless phone charging, another pair of USB ports in the rear, Bang and Olufsen stereo, head-up display, tinted glass, heated, folding exterior mirrors and Nappa leather throughout the interior. There’s also Android Auto, a wireless version of Apple CarPlay and digital radio.

The RS3 uses Audi’s celebrated virtual cockpit display with a choice of display layouts for the driver as well as a 10.1-inch touchscreen to control all the connectivity and infotainment settings. It uses the latest version of Audi’s MMI interface.

Like the other A3-based Audis, there’s a price premium for the sedan body over the hatchback, making the five-door RS3 a $91,391 purchase against the sedan at $93,891. Compared with the S3 CarsGuide tested earlier this year, that represents a pretty big jump from that car’s $70,700 (hatch) and $73,200 (sedan). That said, there’s a fair bit more going on in the RS3 in every department, but you get the sense that this comparison will be one nearly every potential buyer will make.

Like most Audis, there’s a range of optional packages, starting in the RS3’s case with the Carbon Package which brings carbon-matte inlays to the interior, side skirts, exterior mirrors and a carbon roof spoiler for the Sportback and a carbon roof-lip spoiler for the sedan. That costs $7400 on the hatch and $6300 on the sedan.

The Matte Aluminium Package is next with a few trim pieces finished in an aluminium material for $2000 extra and there’s also a panoramic sunroof on offer for $2600.

The RS Design Package gets you an Alcantara-covered steering wheel, seat belts in green or red as well as coloured elements to the seat shoulders, floor mats and the air-vent highlights. Yours for $2150.

The most serious option is the RS Dynamic Package which brings carbon-ceramic brakes with a choice of caliper colour as well as an electronic reflash to bring the top speed of the RS3 to 290km/h from its standard (limited) 250km/h. That adds another $13,000 to the price.

One thing that’s nice to see is that Audi has made even the pearl and metallic colours a no-cost option on the RS3. Other manufacturers should take note.

Engine & trans

Mercedes-Benz A-Class7/10

Both models are powered by the same 1.3-litre (M282) direct-injection four-cylinder turbo-petrol engine as the hatch, the A180 tuned to deliver 100kW (at 5500rpm) and 200Nm (at 1460rpm), with the A 200 bumping that up to 120kW (at 5500rpm) and 250Nm (at 1620rpm).

Drive goes to the front wheels only via a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.


Audi RS39/10

While the five-cylinder engine is more or less a carry-over from the previous RS3 model, the end result is still a pretty stunning one. With 2.5 litres of capacity, the turbocharged unit accounts for 294kW of power (the same as the previous model) and 500Nm of torque (up 20Nm).

The transmission is a seven-speed dual-clutch unit that is quite a familiar sight around Audi by now, and the all-wheel-drive system uses a centre differential with an electronic clutch-pack on each rear axle to give the car a Drift mode (although Audi insists you don’t refer to it in those terms) as well as torque vectoring with the ability to shift 100 per cent of rear-axle torque to the either wheel to maximise grip.

There’s now also an RS-specific exhaust system with an active flap to increase or tame exhaust noise according to which drive model is selected. The drive modes themselves stretch form Comfort to Auto to Dynamic, altering shift points, gear-shift aggression, throttle response and suspension firmness as well as that exhaust flap.

Brakes are enormous 375mm front rotors with six-piston calipers, that hardware forcing the fitment of a 19-inch alloy wheel (specific to the RS3) for brake clearance.

Fuel consumption

Mercedes-Benz A-Class8/10

Claimed fuel economy for the combined (ADR 81/02 - urban, extra-urban) cycle is 5.7L/100km for both models, with a CO2 emissions figure of 130g/km.

Over roughly 250km of open highway driving on the launch program the A 200’s on-board computer coughed up a figure of 6.3L/100km. So, the real-world highway cycle figure is higher than the claimed combined number. Which is a miss, but not a massive one, and fuel-efficiency is still pretty impressive.

Minimum fuel requirement is 95 RON premium unleaded, and you’ll need 43 litres of it (plus a 5.0-litre reserve) to fill the tank.


Audi RS36/10

Audi’s official combined fuel consumption figure for this car is 8.3 litres per 100km. Obviously, start using all that power and torque and that figure will grow significantly. Based on that, the car emits 190 grams of CO2 per kilometre, and with the 55-litre tank (which looks a bit small on paper) the range should still be around 600km between fill-ups.

The only catch with that is the high-tech nature of the engine means it requires the more expensive, Premium ULP at the bowser.

Driving

Mercedes-Benz A-Class8/10

Three things stand out on first meeting with the A-Class sedan – ride comfort, steering feel, and road noise, or rather the lack of it.

The ‘biggest’ compliment you can pay a small car is that it rides like a bigger one, and behind the A 200’s wheel you’d swear the wheelbase was appreciably longer than the 2.7 metres it actually measures.

Over long undulations, even higher frequency bumps and ruts, the A-Class remains stable and composed thanks to a thoroughly sorted (strut front, torsion beam rear) suspension, with beautifully progressive damping a particular highlight.

Electromechanically-assisted steering points accurately and delivers good road feel without any undue vibration. And despite the A-Class launch drive loop covering typically coarse-chip bitumen roads through rural Victoria, overall noise levels remained impressively low.

Acceleration is brisk rather than properly sharp, but in the A 200 there’s more than enough oomph to keep things on the boil for easy highway cruising and overtaking.

With maximum torque available from just above 1600rpm, and a seven-speed dual-clutch auto transmission keeping revs in the sweet spot, the A 200 breezes through the cut and thrust of city traffic, too.

Auto shifts are smooth and quick, with manual changes via the wheel-mounted paddles adding even more direct access to your ratio of choice. And the bonus is no sign of the slow-speed shuntiness sometimes exhibited by dual-clutch autos, especially in twisting, three-point parking manoeuvres.

Special call-out for the cruise control which responds to adjustments quickly (including 10km/h jumps up or down with a firm press of the thumb) and rapidly retards downhill speeds.

Several unbroken hours in the front seat couldn’t generate a twinge of discomfort, the brakes are strong, and over-shoulder visibility is marginally better than in the hatch (not that it’s a weakness in the latter).

Add the sleek and intuitive multimedia system, high-quality audio, plus excellent ergonomics and you have a neatly resolved compact sedan that’s easy to use in the city and suburbs, keeping solid road-tripping ability up its sleeve as well.


Audi RS38/10

First impressions are that this is a typical Audi in the way it fits together beautifully and is made from quality materials. The ergonomics – particularly the virtual cockpit - are spot on and it even smells like an Audi. Noise is well suppressed, the controls feel quality and the front seats are comfy. But from there, the overarching view is dominated by that powerhouse of an engine.

This isn’t just a quick car, it’s actually brutal in the way it builds boost almost immediately and then hurls the car down the road. To be honest, it’s almost too much, and the way the RS3 reels in the horizon will leave some drivers ignoring other sensory inputs in order to keep up with the car. Brutality breeds brutality, too, and the subsequent steering and braking inputs required when the throttle is pinned will not always be the considered, gentle type; they’ll often be gut reactions.

Thankfully, the rest of the driveline and platform has the smarts to make all this work. There’s awesome grip from the Quattro all-wheel-drive system and the car stays flat and steers in a fast, neutral but pin-sharp way. The dual-clutch transmission feels perfect for the engine, too, with ultra-quick shifts that become more aggressive as you ramp up the drive modes. Ride quality is good but we reckon there’s less bandwidth in the various drive mode settings than exists in the same system fitted to the S3 model we drove a few months ago. While the latter offered a broad range of suspension firmness, the RS3 seems to be a bit of a prisoner of its own performance, with Audi leaning all the drive modes towards a firmer setting in the name of body control.

That’s supported by Audi’s decision to offer us some race-tack laps in the RS3 to safely explore its high-end tendencies. At this point, the car emerges as a proper track-day proposition, all that power and control blending into a car that loves being thrown around a circuit. Perhaps the front seats could do with a little more side bolstering at track-cornering speeds, but overall, it’s clear that the RS3’s brief does, indeed, include a degree of race-track use.

Safety

Mercedes-Benz A-Class10/10

Think automotive safety and Mercedes-Benz will be one of the first names to pop into your mind, and the A 180 offers in impressive suite of active features including ABS, BA, EBD, stability and traction controls, a reversing camera (with dynamic guidelines), ‘Active Brake Assist’ (Merc-speak for AEB), ‘Adaptive Brake’, ‘Attention Assist’, ‘Blind Spot Assist’, ‘Cross-wind Assist’, ‘Lane Keep Assist’, a tyre pressure warning system, the ‘Pre-Safe’ accident anticipatory system, and ‘Traffic Sign Assist’. The A 200 adds ‘Adaptive Highbeam Assist’.

If all that fails to prevent an impact you’ll be protected by nine airbags (front, pelvis and window for driver and front passenger, side airbags for rear seat occupants and a driver’s knee bag), and the ‘Active Bonnet’ automatically tilts to minimise pedestrian injuries.

The A-Class was awarded a maximum five ANCAP stars in 2018, and for smaller occupants there are three child restraint/baby capsule top tether points across the back seat, with ISOFIX anchors on the two outer positions.


Audi RS39/10

The RS3 hasn’t been crash-tested locally, but the A3 on which it is substantially based has been and scored five stars back in 2020. The caveat there is that that result related to the lighter front-wheel-drive version of the car, not the RS3’s all-wheel-drive variant.

The RS3 is well equipped from a safety perspective with seven air-bags including a head-level curtain airbag that protects occupants in both the front and rear seats. There’s also Audi’s Pre-Safe which closes the windows and sunroof and pre-tensions the seat-belts if the car thinks a shunt is imminent. In the RS3’s case, that program has been extended to include autonomous emergency braking which works at speeds up to 250km/h and can identify pedestrians and cyclists up to 85km/h.

There’s also a tyre-pressure monitoring system, lane-change warning, rear cross-traffic warning, lane departure warning with active intervention of the steering, parking cameras front and rear, park-assist, and a 360-degree camera system with various points of view.

Ownership

Mercedes-Benz A-Class7/10

Mercedes-Benz covers its passenger car range with a three year/unlimited km warranty, like the other two members of the German ‘Big Three’ (Audi and BMW) .

That lags behind the mainstream market where the majority of players are now at five years/unlimited km, with some at seven years.

On the upside, Mercedes-Benz Road Care assistance is included in the deal for three years.

Service is scheduled for 12 months/25,000km (whichever comes first) with pricing available on an ‘Up-front’ or ‘Pay-as-you-go’ basis.

Pre-payment delivers a $500 saving with the first three A-Class services set at a total of $2050, compared to $2550 PAYG. Fourth and fifth services are also available for pre-purchase.


Audi RS37/10

Service intervals for the RS3 are every 12 months or 15,000km, whichever comes first. Audi offers capped-price servicing for the RS3 at $3580 which covers servicing costs for the first five years.

The car is covered by Audi’s five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty. The vehicle is also protected against body-rust perforation for 12 years.