Audi’s updated RS 3 takes the 5-cylinder engine to new performance heights

There are no signs of détente in the hot hatch war between Audi Sport and Mercedes-AMG. Audi has just upped the stakes once again with an updated RS 3 Sportback that boasts a sharper design and more grunt under the hood. The model will be presented to the public next month during the Geneva Auto Show.

A turbocharged, 2.5-liter, five-cylinder engine is shoe-horned between the RS 3’s fenders. It generates 400 horsepower — 33 more than before — and 354 pound-feet of torque from 1,700 to 5,850 rpm. It’s the most powerful production five-cylinder engine in the world, according to Audi.

Power is transferred to all four wheels via a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, and a performance-tuned quattro all-wheel drive system. The RS 3 hits 62 mph from a stop in 4.1 seconds, and its top speed is electronically limited to 155 mph. Customers in a hurry can ask Audi to raise the speed limiter to 174 mph.

The Mercedes-AMG A45 is the RS 3 Sportback’s arch nemesis. It’s equipped with a turbocharged, 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine rated at 381 horses, so it’s down on power compared to the RS 3. It nonetheless performs the benchmark 0-to-62-mph sprint in 4.2 seconds.

The visual tweaks are minor at best, which is what we’ve come to expect from Audi. The front end receives sharper headlights shared with the more tame A3 and S3, a wider rendition of the company’s ubiquitous hexagonal grille, and a more aggressive-looking bumper with rearranged vents. Out back, the changes are largely limited to a redesigned air diffuser.

The Audi RS 3 Sportback will go on sale across Europe in April, and deliveries are scheduled to begin in August. In Germany, pricing starts at 54,600 euros, a sum that represents about $58,000 at the current conversion rate. That figure goes up when options like carbon-ceramic front brakes, a digital instrument cluster, and matrix LED headlights are added.

The RS 3 Sportback will not be sold in the United States, but Audi isn’t leaving American enthusiasts behind. While nothing is official at this point, sources close to the Volkswagen-owned brand have revealed the RS 3 Sedan that debuted in Paris last fall will make the trip across the pond in the coming months to give the Mercedes-AMG CLA45 a run for its money.

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