I recently had a chance to drive the new 2018 Audi RS3, which is the best Audi on the market. To be clear, it’s not the fastest new Audi on the market, as the R8 does 0-to-60 in something like 2.5 seconds. It’s not the most powerful Audi on the market; the RS3 has just 400 horsepower, while the RS7 has approximately 7 million, all of which you will use precisely once. And it’s not the most expensive Audi, as its starting price — $56,000 — barely eclipses the Q7 family SUV.
Indeed, the RS3 is not superlative in any way. And that’s what makes it the best Audi on the market.
Before I explain exactly what I mean, allow me to bring you on a trip down my own personal Memory Lane. Back in college, I owned a 2001 A4, which was the final year of the A4’s original body style. I always loved that car — and while the current A4 is excellent, it has simply gotten larger and bulkier as the years have gone on. The charm of the old, zippy, city-friendly A4 is gone — but the A3 has taken its place, and the sizing is just right. It’s not too big, it’s not unnecessarily bulky. It’s perfect, just like my old A4.
Naturally, however, I always wanted more power than my 2001 A4’s 190-hp V6 could provide — and that’s exactly where the RS3 comes in. It has “more” power, in the sense that it more than doubles the power output of my old A4, offering a 400-hp turbocharged 5-cylinder. But it doesn’t have “too much” power: While the RS7 has something like 600 hp and the new R8 is even higher, the RS3 makes do with a power figure that, quite frankly, could be a bit higher. But I’m so glad it’s not — because it feels just right.
And when you combine “just right” power and “just right” size, you get the best Audi on sale today. Yes, I recognize that some car enthusiasts may prefer serious power from the M5 or the RS7 — and those cars do offer formidable performance numbers (and price tags) that help assert their standing as the top dogs in the super-sedan world. But why do you need that much power? In fact, why do you even want that much power? You can’t really use it, except maybe here and there for a brief second on the highway, which is then followed by a glance in the mirror to make sure the police aren’t on your tail.
Instead, the RS3 does away with the overkill and provides exactly the right experience: Enough power that you can put your foot down, enjoy the performance and not end up doubling the speed limit in mere seconds. Power comes on smoothly and, of course, briskly — but it’s not so aggressively fast that it’s uncontrollable or ultra-rocket ship crazy like the RS7 and the R8. It’s exactly enough to have a lot of fun and use all the car.
It’s the same story with handling. The RS3 is sized perfectly to let you enjoy corners, and it almost feels like a true sports car when you’re going around bends — largely, I suspect, due to its manageable size (and, of course, endless engineering to remove body roll, chassis flex, understeer and other undesirable items). The RS3 is just fun to throw around, and you don’t feel like you’re going to get in trouble and lose control — like you may in a serious, high-performance sports car — and you don’t feel like you’re going to crash and destroy your life, like you may in a $100,000-plus M5 or AMG E63. Turn-in is sharp, handling is well-tuned and the RS3 doesn’t feel vague at all. It’s fun to enter corners, it’s fun to push out of corners and it’s fun to really use the entire car.
It’s also fun to know you’re doing it all for around $60,000. The RS3 really proves that you don’t need the fastest car, the biggest car or the most expensive car to have fun. Instead, you can enjoy yourself with just one really excellent car. Yes, it’s true, you won’t be as cool as the guy with the RS7. But I bet you’ll be having more fun, and actually using your car to its fullest extent on fun, curvy roads. And even if you lust after that extra power, one thing’s for sure: You saved $60,000, and you still got an Audi RS model. And that’s a pretty good deal. Find an Audi RS 3 for sale
Doug DeMuro is an automotive journalist who has written for many online and magazine publications. He once owned a Nissan Cube and a Ferrari 360 Modena. At the same time.
MORE FROM OVERSTEER: