2018 Audi RS 3

2018 Audi RS 3 Review

With 400 hp and all-wheel drive, the 2018 Audi RS 3 packs a lot of performance into a compact package.
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by Jason Kavanagh
Edmunds Editor

Edmunds expert review

For Audi nerds, the arrival of the RS 3 on U.S. shores is a big deal. This fire-breathing compact sedan has until now been forbidden fruit, with sales limited to overseas markets. The first handful of RS 3s arriving will bear a 2017 model designation and be identical to the 2018 model.

The RS 3 is what happens when you fortify Audi's class-leading A3 entry-level luxury sedan with a 400-horsepower turbocharged five-cylinder engine. Naturally, the brakes and suspension have been upgraded to match, and most of the A3's and S3's optional equipment has been made standard on the RS 3.

It's Audi's answer to the Mercedes-Benz AMG CLA 45 and the terrific BMW M2, both potent performers in their own rights. The RS 3 is philosophically much closer to the Benz, with its transverse engine layout and all-wheel drive, while the BMW takes a more classic rear-drive approach. One thing's for sure — this is the kind of rivalry we can get behind.

Notably, we picked the 2018 Audi RS 3 as one of Edmunds' Best Sport Sedans for this year.



What's new for 2018

Although a limited number of Audi RS 3s were sold as 2017 models, 2018 is essentially the first year for the RS 3 in the United States. It's an all-new, high-performance variant of the A3 entry-level compact luxury sedan.

We recommend

Available in only one trim level, the 2018 Audi RS 3 shifts your decision-making to the options list. Go for the Dynamic package, which will push the playfulness quotient and performance ceiling higher. We also like the Technology package for its connectivity features and Virtual Cockpit instrument cluster. Skip the Dynamic Plus package if you value a forgiving ride quality.




Trim levels & features

The 2018 Audi RS 3 is a high-performance variant of the A3 and S3 sedans. It is available in a single trim level and is powered by a turbocharged 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine (400 hp, 354 lb-ft). A seven-speed, dual-clutch automatic transmission sends power to all four wheels.

Standard features include 19-inch alloy wheels with summer performance tires, automatic LED headlights, heated and power-folding mirrors, automatic wipers, a panoramic sunroof, front and rear parking sensors, keyless entry and ignition, adaptive suspension dampers, selectable drive modes, dual-zone automatic climate control, auto-dimming mirrors, leather upholstery, heated eight-way manual sport seats with power lumbar adjustment, and 40/20/40-split folding rear seats. Electronic features include Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, a rearview camera, and a 10-speaker audio system with HD and satellite radio and a USB port.

Most of the RS 3's options are offered in packages. The Technology package includes a Wi-Fi hotspot, smartphone vehicle monitoring and control, navigation, an expanded digital instrument cluster display (Virtual Cockpit) and a Bang & Olufsen premium audio system. There's also 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). Driver assistance features are bundled into a package, and there are two more packages that largely consist of cosmetic items.

Stand-alone options are limited to carbon-fiber interior trim, rear-seat side airbags and premium vinyl-covered armrests and kneepads.



Trim tested

Edmunds has not yet driven any version of this vehicle. The following is our first take on what's significant about it and what you can expect.

Driving

Track numbers are one thing, but in the real world the RS 3's 400 hp and all-wheel drive promise to make it a point-to-point standout.

Comfort

The suspension tuning is firmer than even the S3's, so don't expect the RS 3's ride comfort to be smooth. But the supportive seats and well-crafted touch points will make long drives more pleasant.

Interior

With good visibility and decent headroom, the cabin is as functional as it is attractive. The front seats' standard extendable thigh support is a welcome touch.

Utility

The trunk is small but the 40/20/40-split rear seat can be folded down to carry long items such as golf bags.

Technology

There's an awful lot of technology features in the RS 3, but they're not cumbersome to use. The rising center infotainment screen is an entertaining touch, and the optional, expanded Virtual Cockpit instrument cluster is terrific.

Edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.