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The new Audi RS3 is a head-turning performance car

It can decimate its rear tires in Drift mode

The market still has room for small, practical performance cars. PHOTO FROM AUDI

These days, car buyers are flocking to crossovers and SUVs. But there’s one market segment that these vehicles haven’t been able to completely replace—that for performance hatchbacks or sedans. It’s not really dead, with recent releases like the Toyota GR Yaris stealing the hearts (and wallets) of every gearhead out there.

The new Audi RS3 is meaner both inside and out, and has a unique little trick up its sleeve. In line with the rest of the brand’s RS models, it gets a complete visual overhaul from last year’s model. Gone are the soft, subtle racer looks in favor of a loud, edgy and sinister design.

The five-cylinder engine can push the RS3 to almost 300km/h without the limiter. PHOTOS FROM AUDI

The front fascia is dominated by that huge grille with a gloss-black surround. LED headlights are standard, but buyers can choose the optional matrix LED lighting system. Start the car up and a small 3×5 grid of pixels at the bottom of the headlights displays such animations as “RS3” and a checkered flag.

The car’s large vents and boxy fender flares make it resemble the original Audi Quattro. These also accommodate the front and rear tracks, which are wider by 33mm and 10mm, respectively. To complete the look, the rear bumper has a built-in diffuser and dual oval exhaust tips, and the RS3 can be spruced up further with several appearance packages.

The interior also has some sporty RS-specific goodies like a flat-bottom steering wheel, carbon-fiber trim, RS sports seats, an optional heads-up display, and branded elements in the 12.3-inch instrument cluster and 10.1-inch infotainment screen. If you opt for the RS Design package, you can get red or green accents all across the cabin.

The clever AWD system can divert most of the power to the rear wheels if desired. PHOTOS FROM AUDI

The same 2.5-liter turbocharged five-cylinder has 395hp just like last year’s model. But the power comes in much earlier and is available at a wider rev range (from 5,600rpm to 7,000rpm). Torque also gets bumped up to 500Nm, and all four wheels are driven by a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox. Top speed is limited to 250km/h. But if you pay extra for the RS Dynamic package and carbon-ceramic brakes, you’ll be able to max out your RS3 at 290km/h.

The ace up this car’s sleeve is the new RS Torque Splitter. Using a multiple-disc clutch on the rear axle, the system can send as much drive to either of the two rear wheels to reduce understeer for more grip while turning. Or you can set it to Drift mode, allowing the car to go sideways much more easily. It rides on 10-spoke, 19-inch wheels as standard, but RS-brand five-spoke wheels shod in Pirelli P Zero Trofeo R rubber are available as an optional extra.

All you have to do is pick your poison. Sedan or hatchback? PHOTO FROM AUDI

The Audi RS3 will be available to Europeans starting this month, with the official global launch scheduled for later this year. The base price of the Sportback model is €60,000 (P3.56 million). But if you don’t like hatchbacks, the sedan version is a tad pricier at €62,000 (P3.68 million). Interested?

Sam Surla

Sam is the youngest member of our editorial team. And he is our managing editor (believe it or not). He specializes in photography and videography, but he also happens to like writing about cars a lot.