New 2018 Audi RS 3 Sedan New 2018
Audi RS 3 Sedan

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KBB Editor's Overview

By KBB.com Editorial Staff

Specifically designed for the U.S. market, the all-new 2018 Audi RS 3 sedan wears its performance credentials in a uniquely Audi way. The engine is a 400-horsepower 5-cylinder with gobs of torque and a throaty thrum that's unique to Audi. Its conservative A3-based styling gets dressed up with big wheels, a deeper front bumper, silver-painted accents and massive brakes. Inside there are performance seats embroidered with RS 3, and on the lower edge of the grille you'll find the famous "quattro" badge in inch-high letters, just in case you forget. But this is not a styling exercise. The RS 3 is a seriously fast, sharp-handling, delightfully fun car to drive hard, an easy counterpunch to the likes of the BMW M2.

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You'll Like This Car If...

If your priorities skew toward driving fun instead of rear-seat passenger legroom or cargo space, then the 2018 Audi RS 3 should be at or near the top of your shopping list.

You May Not Like This Car If...

The rear seat is cramped, the trunk is small, and it's a little tight inside. A fully loaded BMW M2 costs less than a similarly loaded RS 3. Other choices such as the Audi S4 and S5 are options, but neither is as fun to drive as the RS 3.

What's New for 2018

The 2018 Audi RS 3 is all-new this year and designed specifically for the U.S. market. Based on the refreshed Audi A3 and S3 sedan, it offers a unique engine, performance suspension and brakes, and other high-tech goodies.

Driving It

Driving Impressions

The 2018 Audi RS 3 sedan is designed to be an absolute blast to drive, a job it performs exceedingly well. The turbocharged 5-cylinder engine produces its 354 lb-ft of torque at a low 1,700 rpm, and at the other end of the tachometer there's 400 horsepower to play with. Audi says the RS 3 will leap from a standstill to 60 mph in about 3.9 seconds. That's Corvette quick, and if you keep your foot down the RS 3 tops out at 174 mph when equipped with the Dynamic Plus package. But it's no straight-line special, and with the Dynamic package the RS 3 gets front tires wider than the rears, giving it excellent balance in corners despite its inherent front-weight bias. The quattro all-wheel-drive system's drama-free traction means the RS 3 tackles corners with abandon, and the razor-sharp steering provides good feedback. Around town, the RS 3 proves surprisingly docile. On our shortlist of improvements: less turbo lag.

Favorite Features

5-CYLINDER ENGINE
Audi has stuck with 5-cylinder engines, and we're happy to see it in the RS 3. The engine puts out excellent power and torque, and manages to deliver acceptable fuel economy as well. As a bonus, there's that famous 5-cylinder thrum as the engine approaches redline.

REVERSE STAGGER TIRES
The RS 3 boasts wider tires in front than in the rear (255/35-R19 front, 235/35-R19 rear). This is to counter the front weight bias of the transverse-mounted 5-cylinder engine. The arrangement may seem odd, but it works beautifully, giving the RS 3 a balanced and neutral cornering attitude.

Vehicle Details

Interior

The 2018 Audi RS 3 benefits from the general upgrade the entire A3/S3 lineup got a couple years ago. That means nice materials inside, Apple CarPlay, and an available Virtual Cockpit that swaps out physical gauges for a high-resolution screen with a 60-fps refresh rate for a stutter-free presentation. The RS 3 also gets special sport seats; they only adjust manually, but in corners they grip you like a long-lost friend, and when cruising are about as comfortable as dad's easy chair. Rear-seat passengers aren't quite as lucky, as there's a definite lack of legroom for even average-sized passengers. Cargo room isn't terrific, although the rear seatbacks fold if you need extra space.

Exterior

The Audi RS 3's exterior stays close to the rest of the lineup, but with enough sporty flourishes to distinctively set it apart from its less powerful stablemates. The grille gets a unique silver paint surround, with QUATTRO in black inch-high letters under the black mesh of the grille, in case you somehow forget all four wheels get power. The 19-inch wheels are filled with massive carbon-ceramic brakes if you opt for the Dynamic Plus package (and you should opt for it), and out back there are the black-tipped exhausts and a small ducktail spoiler on the trunk. It's subtle, and if you opt for a more neutral color than our test car's Catalunya Red Metallic, the RS 3 has all the makings of a Q-ship.

Notable Standard Equipment

Coming standard with the high-output engine are a 7-speed automatic transmission, quattro all-wheel drive and a magnetically adjustable suspension that changes the firmness depending on what driving mode you select. The 2018 Audi RS 3 also comes with a panoramic sunroof, manually adjustable sport seats covered in Nappa leather, dual-zone climate control, and a color driver-information system with a trip computer. Outside there are LED headlights, and on the standard model, the tires are all the same size: 235/35-R19 summer performance tires.

Notable Optional Equipment

The three main option packages -- all of which you'll likely want -- add about $12,000 to the price of the car, but it's all worth it. The Dynamic package adds the staggered wheel-and-tire package and sport-exhaust system, while the Dynamic Plus package replaces the magnetic suspension with a setup with fixed settings, adds ceramic brakes in front, and lifts the top speed to 174 mph. The technology package adds MMI navigation, Audi Connect, Audi side assist with cross-traffic alert, and an outstanding Bang & Olufsen sound system. Some paint colors also add to the price, and there's a $600 carbon-fiber package to dress up the interior if you're so inclined.

Under the Hood

There's only one engine for the 2018 Audi RS 3: a 2.5-liter turbocharged 5-cylinder with 400 horsepower. There's some turbo lag, but it's quickly forgotten once the engine revs and the turbo's at full song. In Dynamic mode, throttle response felt better, and the engine's 354 lb-ft of torque is all available from 1,700-5,850 rpm, an impressive spread. All RS 3 models come with quattro all-wheel drive, and all come with Audi's excellent S Tronic 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. Even fuel economy is acceptable for so much power, with up to 28 mpg on the highway.

2.5-liter turbocharged inline-5
400 horsepower @ 5,850-7,000 rpm
354 lb-ft of torque @ 1,700-5,850 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 19/28 mpg

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Pricing Notes

The Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price for the 2018 Audi RS 3 starts at $55,450, including the $950 destination charge. That gets you the basic car, but as is common for European performance cars, options add up quickly. For max performance, you'll want the Dynamic Plus package ($4,800), which includes the Dynamic package ($1,450). The Technology package ($3,900) and Driver Assistance package ($1,400) are worth the luxury. Additionally, any color other than Nardo Gray will cost you at least an additional $575. Click all the option boxes and you could wind up pushing the cost of your RS 3 to more than $70,000, more than you'd pay for a loaded BMW M2 and Mercedes-AMG CLA45, but less than a BMW M4 or AMG C43. To find out what people in your area paid for their Audi RS 3, check out the KBB Fair Purchase Price. As for resale value, it's too soon to tell how this first-ever RS 3 will do over the long term.

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