Small, but mighty, the 2023 Audi RS3 is the hottest of the Audi A3 variants, of which we have already sung praise. Yes, it shares quite a bit with the front-wheel-drive Volkswagen Golf, but such rational concerns disappear once you’ve experienced this racy automotive tidbit, one with 50% more horsepower of the 201-horsepower A3, and nearly 24% more than the 306-horsepower S3.
We tested a 2022 RS3, although it carries over unchanged for 2023. Pricing has been updated to reflect current vehicle cost.
The Audi RS3 is a compact high-performance sports sedan that battles such luxury compact stalwarts as the BMW M240i, Cadillac CT4 V-Series, Lexus IS 500, and Mercedes-AMG CLA 45 and comes in a single trim level with a handful of options. Our test car included Python Yellow paint ($595); the RS technology Package with Audi’s MMI Navigation Plus, a Bang & Olufsen sound system and head-up display ($2,750); RS Sport Exhaust with black tips ($1,000); a Black Optic Plus Package that included 19-inch summer tires ($750) and Audi Side Assist with Rear Cross Traffic Assist ($350). In all, it cost $67,090, a typical price for this breed of high-performance compact sedans.
The RS3’s design exhibits a subtle menace that clearly states its objectives for those who are paying attention. The flared front fenders, two-inch wider front track, and athletic footwear telegraph this vehicle will fulfill your need for speed.
Yet its size is perfect for urban environs, not to mention keeping overall weight down, which makes for stellar 0-60 mph runs. And its overall demeanor, while aggressive, seems refined. The Matrix LED headlamps with a checkered flag design is a neat touch. And the $1,000 RS Sport Exhaust with black tips are menacingly massive.
Compacts rarely get nicer cabins than this one, with supportive, firm quilted leather sport seats, ambient lighting and an instrument panel dominated by Audi’s Multimedia Interface touchscreen, or MMI for short.
As is common in Audis, the instrument cluster view can be changed to a number of different configurations, including a performance-oriented, RS-specific layout. Interior quality is superb, although rear seat legroom is dependent on the kindness of those in front. And truck volume is meager, even for the class, measuring 8.3 cubic feet. Similarly, interior storage space is minimal, with a surprisingly shallow center console bin. But the short stubby shifter is easy to use, and its diminutive size doesn’t rob space like a traditional shifter.
The 2023 Audi RS3 is the only Audi sold in America possessing what many consider one of the brand’s defining assets: a five-cylinder engine. In this case, it displaces 2.5 liters and produces 401 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque through a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission.
Its four-wheel drive system is unique, however. Dubbed the RS Torque Splitter, it’s a torque-vectoring rear-axle differential, distributing drive torque to the rear axle and allowing for it to be fully variable between the rear wheels. Audi says the result is better stability, especially on wet ground, and improved agility during fast cornering.
The RS Torque Splitter also increases drive torque while cornering to the outside wheel to reduce understeer. The system is fully integrated into the RS3’s driving modes, which include Comfort (mostly front-wheel drive), Auto, Dynamic, RS Torque Rear (its most aggressive, for drifting) and RS Performance (for track use to minimize understeer and oversteer).
The standard RS’s suspension sits 0.39 inch lower than the Audi S3, and 0.98 inch lower than A3 and is fitted with RS-spec springs, dampers, and sway bars.
Safety and technology
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has only rated the RS3 for rollover protection, for which it gives four stars. It has not rated the A3 at all, nor has The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Adaptive Cruise Control, High Beam Assist, and Park Assist are standard. Our car had Side Assist with Rear Cross Traffic Assist, a $350 option. Lane Departure Warning is also available.
A 10.1-inch infotainment screen allows the driver to access the car’s coolant, engine, transmission oil temperatures, as well as the g-forces and tire pressure figures. Adding the $2,750 RS technology Package brings with it an impressive sounding Bang & Olufsen sound system and a head-up display that adds a margin of safety during aggressive driving. The wireless device charger, located on the center console, is angled forward and down and features a rubberized mat, all of which keep your phone in place while you’re busy extricating the RS3’s performance.
Too small to be a grand tourer, the Audi RS3 satisfies with scorching fast acceleration, superb grip and overall sense of civility, despite its uncivilized ways. Yeah, it can be noisy, but what did you expect? That said, gentle cruising reveals it to be the same comfy, confident compact its less-powerful siblings are. But that’s where the similarity ends. Push this puppy in one of its performance modes, and everything stiffens for extracting optimal performance. It’s a little wild man, one that allows for drifting despite its all-wheel-drive system, which makes it a whole mess of fun. It’s very forgiving, which means you won’t spin out if you’re less experienced.
But even when indulging in its deep well of power, you’ll find its effortless acceleration and unique engine note specific to Audi’s five-banger make it a true celebration of Audi’s performance heritage.
2023 Audi RS3
|Dimension||L: 178.8 inches/W: 72.9 inches/H: 55.6 inches/Wheelbase: 103.6 inches|
|Powertrain||2.5-liter turbocharged inline 5-cylinder engine, 7-speed dual-clutch transmission and AWD|
|Fuel Economy||20 mpg city/29 mpg highway/23 mpg combined|
|Performance Specs||401 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque|
|Price||$60,900; As tested: $67,090, including $1,095 destination charge.|
|On-Sale Date||Available now|
The 2023 Audi RS3 is not a car for librarians — unless they’re wild and passionate. It’s a celebratory driving machine, one that recalls Audi’s performance heritage while updating with the latest cutting-edge tech. And it’s wrapped in a diminutive package that punches far above its size. It’s a small car that delivers big fun.
2023 Audi RS3 – Frequently Asked Questions
Will there be a 2023 Audi RS3?
Yes; it’s currently available.
When can you order a 2023 Audi RS3?
Now. Prices start at $60,900.
Which BMW is equivalent to Audi RS3?