The 2019 Audi RS 3 is the ultimate high-performance version of the Audi A3 premium subcompact sedan. Think of Audi RS cars as the equivalent to BMW’s M offerings or the AMG vehicles from Mercedes-Benz.
The RS 3 is not cheap, but it is fast, out-gunning its rivals in the sprint from standstill to 60 mph. The 2019 BMW M2 Competition (with the automatic transmission) and the 2019 Mercedes-AMG CLA 45 are both claimed to achieve this dash in 4.1 seconds. The RS 3 does it in 3.9 seconds. That speed comes from an unusual 5-cylinder engine (also found in the TT RS). It’s a nod to Audi’s motorsport heritage, while providing a distinct soundtrack through those oval exhaust tips.
The less hot but still highly enjoyable S3 is reviewed separately. And the regular A3 lineup has its own review as well.
What’s New for 2019?
Wireless charging, a phone signal booster, extended leather upholstery, plus two USB ports and a 12-volt outlet for the rear passengers join the inventory of standard equipment. The fixed sport suspension is now available as an individual option. Audi has also adjusted horsepower figures. Whereas the 2018 RS 3 had 400 horsepower, the 2019 version is rated at 394 hp. Same engine and same torque figure of 354 lb-ft. See the 2019 Audi RS 3 models for sale near you
What We Like
What We Don’t
- Limited trunk and passenger space
The RS 3 has a turbocharged 2.5-liter inline-5-cylinder engine making 394 hp and 354 lb-ft of torque. This connects to a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission with steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters and all-wheel drive (as always, Audi calls it quattro) is standard.
At the time of compiling this review, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) did not have any fuel consumption estimates for the 2019 RS 3. However, we can safely assume those figures won’t be too different to the 2018 version’s 19 miles per gallon in the city, 28 mpg on the highway and 22 mpg in combined driving. That’s using premium gasoline.
Standard Features & Options
The 2019 Audi RS 3 ($57,195) 5-seater small premium sport sedan comes in one well-stocked trim level with several options.
Standard equipment includes 19-in alloy wheels wearing summer performance tires, full LED lighting, a panoramic sunroof, adaptive sport suspension, variable-ratio steering, 8-piston front brake calipers with ventilated discs, ventilated rear brake discs, a rear lip spoiler, keyless entry/ignition, rain-sensing wipers, self-dimming/heated/power-folding side mirrors, selectable driving modes (adjusting steering assistance, gear shift points, suspension settings and throttle responses), a tilt-and-telescoping flat-bottomed steering wheel that’s covered in leather and Alcantara (simulated suede, but lighter, so it’s used in many actual racing cars), dual-zone automatic climate control, heated front sport seats with 8-way manual adjustment (including extendable thigh support)/4-way power lumbar adjustment, extended Nappa leather upholstery, ambient LED cabin lighting, stainless steel pedals, front/rear parking sensors, forward-collision warning, blind spot monitoring, a self-dimming rearview mirror, a 7-in infotainment screen, Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone integration, wireless charging, a phone signal booster, leather upholstery, a 10-speaker audio system, a CD/MP3 player, HD/satellite radio, SD card slot, USB ports front and rear, and two 12-volt outlets.
A Technology package adds the Virtual Cockpit configurable 12.3-in driver’s information display, navigation with a touchpad controller featuring handwriting recognition, Wi-Fi and a 705-watt/14-speaker Bang & Olufsen audio system.
The Driver Assistance package brings adaptive cruise control with stop/go, automatic high beams, and active lane-keeping assistance.
For more extreme tastes, a firmer fixed sport suspension can also be selected as an individual option.
Trunk space measures just 10 cu ft., not great even for a compact sedan. Anyone carrying longer items on a regular basis, such as golf bags, should make sure they fit properly (or give up golf and go driving instead). The rear seats can split and fold in 40/40/20 fashion.
The RS 3 comes with standard stability control, 4-wheel anti-lock brakes and eight airbags (front, front side, front knee, full-length side curtain). Side airbags for the rear seats are optional.
Neither the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) nor the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) have crash tested the RS 3. However, the regular A3 has a top five-star overall score from the NHTSA and the IIHS named it a Top Safety Pick Plus.
Behind the Wheel
The RS 3 comes with materials and design on a level with larger luxury sedans. That’s part of the joy of being an Audi. The sporty flat-bottomed steering wheel is an outward sign of the handling prowess under the skin. The front sport seats, meanwhile, provide support and sufficient comfort for hour after hour of quick corners. Rear passenger space, if it matters, is tight.
So much of the RS 3’s hardware — from the engine, variable ratio steering, and adaptive suspension to the AWD system and the brake setup — is dedicated to fast and sure progress. It all works incredibly well, forming a complete package that’s absolutely compelling.
Other Cars to Consider
2019 BMW M2 Competition — Only available as a coupe and rear passenger space is cramped. But 405 hp, an inline-6 engine and rear-wheel drive are extremely tempting.
2019 Mercedes-AMG CLA 45 — The 375-hp, AMG-tuned version of the CLA-Class sedan is wonderfully fast and capable (AWD is standard), but its sloping roof means less rear headroom than the RS 3.
Used Mercedes-Benz E63/E63 S AMG — To go appreciably bigger and better than the RS 3 means looking at a twin-turbo V8 making 550 or 577 hp propelling a superb previous-generation E-Class premium midsize sedan. Check out the Mercedes-Benz certified pre-owned program (CPO).
This much power and agility in such a compact package makes for a compelling proposition. Do make sure there’s enough in the budget to select the Driver Assistance and Technology packages. But we’d probably stick with the adaptive suspension. Find an Audi RS 3 for sale