Old-school rally fans, rejoice! The 2022 Audi RS3 saloon and RS3 Sportback will officially retain a turbocharged inline-five engine, the automaker confirmed today – we'd previously assumed as much, given the unique "1-2-4-5-3" camo that refers to the engine's firing order. Today's announcement also focused on the RS3’s new torque-splitting rear differential, which gives the compact sport saloon more agility and balance than before.
Specifics on the engine are slim at the moment, but Audi did admit that it will make 394 bhp (294 kilowatts) and 369 pound-feet (500 newton-metres). The horsepower rating may be the same, but now it’s available between 5,600 and 7,000 rpm, earlier than in the previous generation. Torque goes up 15 lb-ft (20 Nm) as well. Routed through a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission to all four wheels, the RS3 shoves its way to 62 miles per hour (100 kilometres per hour) in a claimed 3.8 seconds, with a top speed of 180 mph (290 km/h). Those numbers beat out the Mercedes-AMG CLA 45’s 4.0-second 0-60 sprint and 168-mph top speed.
Keeping that grunt under control is a new, RS3-specific torque-splitting rear axle. Using an advanced multi-plate clutch on each rear axle-shaft, the RS3 can actively send power to the right or left, overdriving the outside wheel in corners to reduce understeer and improve manoeuvrability. Amazingly, the smallest RS can actually send 100 percent of the engine’s torque to just one of the rear wheels in certain situations, a flexible powertrain setup that the company says provides optimal stability. According to Audi, much of the hardware is shared with the Volkswagen Golf R and its novel torque-vectoring differential, though tuning is unique.
What’s more, the Audi Drive Select controller has two modes dedicated to sporty driving. In addition to Comfort, Auto, Dynamic, and Efficiency, there’s an RS Performance mode that delivers as much power as possible to the rear axle, balancing handling and reducing understeer for faster lap times. Meanwhile, a dedicated RS Rear mode maxes out the torque split to the back of the car, allowing the driver to execute lurid, controllable drifts (on a racetrack, of course). As per usual, the driving modes modify steering weight, throttle response, and suspension stiffness as well.
Speaking of that last bit, the 2022 Audi RS3 offers two different suspension options. The standard dampers are static, with both the shock absorbers and internal valves unique to the RS3 for improved bound and rebound control. An optional adaptive damper system allows each shock to react individually to road imperfections, using the Audi Drive Select modes to dictate how firm or soft they behave over bumps.
Although Audi hasn’t officially revealed the 2022 RS3 in full, it seems like it won’t lose much of its predecessor’s enthusiastic driving dynamics and character. If anything, it seems like it’ll be even more enjoyable to hustle up a mountain road, with a unique five-cylinder engine note accompanying tail-happy balance. We expect to see the 2022 Audi RS3 make its debut sometime this summer.