Fans of Audi performance models await the arrival of the 2018 Audi RS 3 with bated breath. Even if you're not a rabid Audi enthusiast, this 400-hp, all-wheel-drive, bite-size thrill ride might be right up your alley. Audi has offered its top-level RS cars in the United States before, but never before as a variant of the otherwise affordable and unassuming A3 sedan.
The first 200 RS 3s arriving at dealers will technically be 2017 models. Otherwise, the 2018 RS 3 is going to be the new model for everyone. Standard feature highlights on 2018 models include 19-inch alloy wheels with summer performance tires, LED headlights, power-folding mirrors, a panoramic sunroof, front and rear parking sensors, keyless entry/ignition, an adaptive suspension, selectable drive modes, dual-zone automatic climate control, auto-dimming mirrors, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, heated front seats, leather upholstery, manually adjustable sport seats, split-folding rear seats, Bluetooth, a rearview camera and a 10-speaker audio system with satellite radio, a USB port and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto.
If that's not enough for you, head to the options packages. The Technology package adds a Wi-Fi hotspot, remote vehicle monitoring and control, navigation, a virtual cockpit expanded instrument panel and a Bang & Olufsen premium audio system. Driving enthusiasts will gravitate toward the Dynamic package (wider front wheels and tires, a sport exhaust and red brake calipers) and the Dynamic Plus package (a higher top speed, a carbon-fiber engine cover, individual tire pressure monitors, front ceramic brake rotors, and a fixed sport suspension).
Direct competitors to the RS 3 include the Mercedes-Benz AMG CLA 45 and BMW M2. For a given price point, the RS 3 is probably the best equipped. We haven't tested the Audi yet, but all indications point to a dead heat among them performancewise.
Otherwise, we'd look within Audi's own stable to the TT RS coupe as a possible alternative. We can't wait to try out the 2018 Audi RS 3, but in the meantime, use all of Edmunds' shopping tools to see if it's a good fit for what you expect out of a compact sport sedan.
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.