Why the new Audi RS3 is like the Eiffel Tower
Thomas Falkiner test drives the new Audi RS3My first trip to Paris involved a visit to the Eiffel Tower. This was an exciting prospect because I love engineering and appreciate a good man-made structure. Especially one whose iconic form has earned it the right to grace key rings and snow globes and ill-fitting T-shirts.The experience wasn't what I had hoped it would be. The tower was impressive, yes, but nothing else was. Swarms of lobotomised tourists. Albanian hawkers harassing you to buy chintzy €20 trinkets. Shifty youths in hoodies eyeing the SLR camera hanging around your neck.Up on the observation deck there was a monumental queue for coffee and telescopes and lifts. When I left, relief washed over me in a most awesome wave.story_article_left1So the Eiffel Tower is a bit like the new Audi RS3 that I recently drove, a Teutonic bahn-stormer that, like Gustave Eiffel's steely creation, has been exquisitely pieced together and executed.A standard A3 elevated to estimable new heights, my RS-badged test car resembled more a Grand Tourer than a steroidal hatchback baying for supercar blood. Especially on the inside, where quilted leather sports seats, an alcantara-wrapped steering wheel and miles of red stitching are testament to the fact that you're piloting something special.How special? Twist the ignition, brother, and you'll find out. Awakening with an aggressive snarl, the five-cylinder turbocharged engine is the fiery nucleus of the RS universe. Second only in the power stakes to the engine in the Mercedes-AMG A45, it gives this Audi a turn of pace that can embarrass - or at least match - sports machinery costing twice the price.It might not feel all that quick in the visceral sense (refinement will do that to a car) but when you glance at the clocks and see just how many numerals are blinking on the digital speedometer, well, you'll be flabbergasted.And it is not just rapid in a straight line either. Like its badass rally forebears that romped to many victories in the 1980s, the RS3 is equipped with Quattro all-wheel-drive that pulls you through corners at an insane lick.story_article_right2If that's not enough, there's also electronic torque vectoring. Absent on the previous RS3, this computer-driven wizardry makes even more brutal changes in direction possible. Topped off with sticky Pirelli Pzero rubber, the adhesion to the asphalt is absolutely Velcro-like.Few cars are quicker point-to-point. Cross-country, threading the needle between the origin and the destination, the RS3 is otherworldly. It's an effortless slayer of kilometres.It's also one of those machines designed to flatter its driver. No matter how rubbish you may be behind the wheel, this Audi makes you feel like you've got some of The Stig's DNA in your blood.Yet for all its mechanical brilliance there is something lacking in the recipe. And that's driver involvement. You feel constantly in awe of the machine, but never really part of it like you do in something such as a BMW M135i.For all that easy pace, limpet-like cornering and five-cylinder brouhaha firing through the exhaust system, the RS3 experience, like that Parisian excursion, left me just a little bit chilly. AUDI RS3 Sportback Engine: 2480cc five-cylinder turboPower: 270kW at 7400 to 6800rpmTorque: 465Nm at 1625 to 5550rpmTransmission: Seven-speed S-tronic0-100km/h: 4.3 seconds (claimed)Top speed: 250km/h (claimed)Fuel: 13.8l/100km (achieved combined)CO: 194g/kmPrice: From R745,500Follow the author of this article, Thomas Falkiner, on Twitter: @tomfalkiner111..