HYPER-HATCH SHOWDOWN: AUDI RS3 SPORTBACK VS MERCEDES-AMG A45S

Two £60k 400bhp 4×4 mega-hatches. Both will drift. But which makes any sense?

 

Join me for a moment in 1985. You’re walking down the high street in your brand new Air Jordans, stepping in time to the bassline of Frankie Mosts likely to Hollywood’s ‘Relax’ hissing from your Sony Walkman earphones. It’s been out a while, yet it’s still memorable.

You don’t hear the blare of the coming close to 4.9-litre flat-12 engine over your right shoulder, but you’re stopped dead in your tracks as one of the very first Ferrari Testarossas in the country growls past you at hip height, all strakes, girth as well as pungent fumes.

‘ Just how does it feel’, you think to yourself, ‘to drive a cars and truck which creates a declared 385 horse power?’ Probably just astronauts and also stockbrokers will ever know effectiveness like it.

Shaking off the fantasy, you clamber into your Mk2 Golf GTI, and as its eight-valve 1.8-litre engine thrums right into life, chuckle at the concept of an automobile creating practically four times the power of your tiny hatchback.

Invite back to 2021. Your earphones are no longer a tangle of cords, Frankie’s entire discography is a touchscreen faucet away, and manufacturing facility hatchbacks consistently have four hundred horsepower.

Hatchbacks can go from 0-60 a minimum of 2 secs quicker than the healthiest Testarossa Maranello ever before developed. The Eighties educated us ‘greed is good’. The Twenties appears to be the decade of ‘be careful what you yearn for’.

The Audi RS3 has had this much wallop for a while. The last variation loaded 400 statistics horse power (394 of the Queen’s horses), as well as while Audi has actually handled to keep the heading act 2.5-litre straight-five engine for one last dance, officially it’s no more effective than the previous vehicle.

Torque has been pleased up 20lb feet to 369lb feet, yet up until now as the numbers war goes, Audi has actually chosen either that 400 is fairly enough. Or maybe 400 is one of the most it can escape without faceplanting over a tripwire of CO2 discharge red tape.

However thanks to the insanity of AMG, welcome to a ₤ 120,000, 800bhp hot hatch twin examination. It signifies the times we’re living in– the last days of anything-goes internal combustion– that the most recent VW Golf R or even a Porsche 911 Carrera are just not powerful sufficient to be in this test.

So, what’s new for this RS3? An also larger grille, clearly. There’s no front bodywork to speak of anymore, simply gaping plastic chickenwire, which a kamikaze pigeon made a bit of a mess of as our Greg was driving this over from Germany. ₤ 88 to fix, that. Plus work.

Drink in the chintzy chequered-flag daytime LEDs, the risible fake mesh arse trim, the lazy exhaust therapy and that the RS3– yet again– puts on broader tires on the front than the back to stop its intrinsic fun-sponge understeer and you’re left questioning what, if anything, Audi has in fact bothered to transform for its most recent hyperhatch.

The short answer is Drift Setting. It needed to. As soon as Ford threw a trick AWD system of clutch packs at the old Emphasis RS that permitted it to power oversteer on demand, the stuffier Germans needed to respond.

The existing A45 in leading’S’ trim was the very first, after that the most up to date Golf R, and currently the best A3, which shares its basic system– however valuable little else– with the ₤ 10k less expensive Volkswagen.

So, thanks to a clever torque-splitting rear axle, the RS3 can, as conventional, from the factory, chuck significant wads of torque at each rear tire. For enjoyable. They do not make Audis like they utilized to.

Initially, the dedicated ‘Torque Back’ drift setting does not appear much police. Usually the auto scrubs via a couple of yards of understeer as you stamp on the throttle pedal, prior to shunting power to the back and dishing out your hero oversteer minute. You’ll require two lanes of area to get it out and also back, so on the road, forget it.

On a track, it’s a laugh. Up until you see the mess it’s constructed from your tires, scent the overworked brakes, and obtain black-flagged quicker than Nikita Mazepin at Legoland Driving College.

The 416bhp A45’s hoon-mode is similar. Except it’s more restricted: while the Audi’s prosaically called setting is a broad-daylight alternative on the touchscreen menu, to trigger the AMG’s Drift Mode you need to choose Race Setting, delete the ESP, then capture both gearshift paddles to unlock its secret under-the-counter criminal degree.

So, the much-vaunted powerslide-o-matics aren’t as much as much. But what the new rear diff as well as undone top-button mindset has actually provided for the RS3 overall is transformative.

This is– and I appreciate I’m clearing the faint praise bowser in one hit right here– the most enjoyable Audi ever before. Yes, Quattro and also R8 consisted of. At long, long last, Audi has constructed an auto with a framework you can impose yourself on, not just rest atop as well as fizz later on, bored out of your skull at the rate of sound.

The RS3 actually (mis) acts like a correct warm hatchback. It’s sensitive to a cheeky throttle lift as well as tucks its bum in entering a bend. The guiding’s still entirely numb, as well as far substandard to the meaty feeling of link and semi-believable feeling bubbling back through the AMG’s part-suede wheel, yet this is not one of the negative old Audis where the cornering food selection included moderate understeer, panic understeer or Ever Given-in-white-water-rapids understeer.

Need some throttle mid-corner and the RS3 obediently lobs it to the crouched rear axle, utilizing simply a flick of a drift to pivot around the bend. Maintain your foot in as well as you obtain that amazing experience of hard-worked back tires being driven hard into the surface area, driving the car forwards while the fronts seem to be barely clinging onto dry land.

The mad Merc reminds you 400 horsepower in a hatchback is– even in 2021– shocking as well as unjustified
Afterwards the magnificent A45 really feels a lot more one-dimensional. Equally as fast through the very same corner, but extra professional, much less interactive.

What a powertrain also. The multi-filtered exhaust is much less rowdy than the old RS3’s– excellent, possibly it’ll encourage certain intrigues of the owner’s club not to thunder around community centres in first equipment. You know who you are.

Inside there’s still a rasp as well as a feeling of a significant electric motor protruding ahead of you, as if you’re driving a 2nd World War boxer aircraft with Apple CarPlay. Its plateau of torque couldn’t be more various to the AMG’s highly strung four-pot, which doesn’t deliver optimal overtake punch till it’s past 5,000 rpm, and also 250rpm later, it’s all gone.

By a nose, the RS3 is the much faster car, but that’s more to do with faster power-shuffling between the axles off the line. Which would I pick for a fast overtake on an oily A-road? Easy: the brawnier Audi. It’s unrelenting.

Right, let’s spend a long time in the A45S. This vehicle may be 3 years of ages however time has not dulled just what a going crazy psychopath it is. AMG’s method to a superhatch– pipes in the most effective road-going four-pot engine ever before made– gives it a wild character that’s even more Japanese rally associate than German muscle mass vehicle. The A45 won’t mooch about mugging dawdling Caymans for enjoyable like the RS3.

You’ve reached be fully devoted, keeping that magnificent turbo on increase as well as ideally taking gearshifts right into your very own hands with the wonderfully dense metal paddles.

Leave one a fraction far too late and also you’ll hear your neck fracture over the exhaust fireworks as the AMG clatters head-first into its brutal rev-limiter. No automobile upshift right here. Whatever about this cars and truck is hard-edged. This isn’t driving, this is BDSM.

The sound, the gearshifts, the container seats, and specifically the flight. There are three settings: Comfort, Sporting Activity and also Sport Plus. The softest setting is equivalent to the Audi’s firmest setting, and points just get more breakable from there. Life in the flexible Audi is amazingly certified.

So, the A45 is a punishingly physical experience. You enjoy a better feeling of link via the guiding, sharper throttle response and also a daintier brake pedal. The automobile feels an excellent lick lighter than the RS3– even though it’s not, theoretically.

But it’s additionally ludicrously strong, the freeway road sound is appalling, the engine a trifle buzzy. The A45 never settles down. It can not be calmed right into just acting to be a regular A-Class, like the RS3 can. It’s constantly reminding you that you have actually paid the thick end of ₤ 60,000 for one of the craziest hot hatchbacks ever developed.

Allow’s pause the driving and also do some housekeeping. Considering that I’ve just stated cost, only one of these vehicles comes anywhere close to having an inside that really feels worth the money, and also it absolutely isn’t the dour Audi.

Sure, the construct quality is cool, however the seats could’ve appeared of an A4 diesel– so also the dull steering wheel– as well as there’s none of the AMG’s feeling of event when evasion via driving modes. The green-yellow-red shift-up lights on the new ‘RS path’ dash are entertaining, however wow, what an anti-climax overall. Audi made use of to do this so well– where’s all that R8-ish sense of designer tag attention to information gone?

The wild A45 doesn’t solve the basic troubles with the existing A-Class interior (unclear touchpad/touchscreen infotainment, some really naff plastics) yet the alloy vents still feel Bugatti-rich, the AMG GT R-spec guiding wheel is a part-suede as well as metal-filleted pleasure, there’s genuine metal and delectable ambient lights all over, correct sporting activities seats as well as the numerous AMG graphics as well as menus are joyously OTT.

What a pity the harsh suspension will pulverise everything into a fine dust within a week.

The RS3 is a lot more practical. It supplies remarkable rear legroom, much better visibility, and also its smaller wing doesn’t shudder as well as bend whenever you knock its more wide boot. While the A45 handled 34mpg on a freeway run as well as averaged 26mpg everyday, the RS3 was 2-3 miles per gallon more reliable regardless of the extra cyndrical tube.

This is– as well as I value I’m clearing the faint appreciation bowser in one hit below– the most fun Audi ever before
I recognize AMG vs RS can get rather tribal available, so let’s just clear up that these are both excellent automobiles. I enjoy that firms exist that want to see tasks such as this with to production. The A45 is a phenomenal item of design. The RS3 has ultimately, after a years, discovered to open its cold, dead heart to the principle of ‘taking care of’.

In some cases the Germans benchmark each other’s automobiles so ferociously you wonder why they trouble even suitable various badges. But these two are delightfully various.

The comfortable Audi makes 400 horse power in a hatchback really feel average and also regular. The mad Merc reminds you 400 horsepower in a hatchback is– also in 2021– horrendous as well as unfounded. It’ll most likely be the one we’re recollecting about with disbelief in 4 years’ time.

Yet to cope with, to drive each day and enjoy exactly how greatly it’s been enhanced, the excellent new RS3 is the hyperhatch to buy currently.

Photography: Johnny Fleetwood

 

Audi RS3 Sportback Introduce Version

8/10

2.5-litre 5cyl turbo, 394bhp, 369lb ft.
7spd DCT, AWD.
0-62mph in 3.8 sec, 155mph.
31.4 mpg, 205g/km carbon dioxide.
1570kg.

₤ 57,770 (₤ 60,460 as checked).

Mercedes-AMG A45S.

7/10.

2.0-litre 4cyl turbo, 416bhp, 369lb ft.
8spd DCT, AWD.
0-62mph in 3.9 sec, 169mph.
31.4 mpg, 207g/km carbon dioxide.
1660kg.

₤ 57,195 (₤ 59,485 as examined).