2019 Audi RS 3 Expert Review

4.6 Overall Score
Performance 4.6 Comfort 4.6 Styling 4.5 Value 4.6

Editor's Overview

The 2019 Audi RS 3 packs quite a punch. Based on the A3 sedan, this little Teutonic terror pumps out 394 horsepower from its turbocharged 5-cylinder engine, while standard quattro all-wheel drive helps it stick to the road like glue. A lofty price tag may deter some, but isn’t any higher than a BMW M2 or Mercedes-AMG C 43.

You'll Like The 2019 Audi RS 3 If...

If you’re looking for a ride that will challenge your skills at every turn, the 2019 Audi RS 3 is that ride. What it lacks in rear-seat accommodations and cargo space it more than makes up for in style, features and smiles per mile.

You May Not Like The 2019 Audi RS 3 If...

If you just want pretty quick and reasonably sharp, the less expensive S3 will do the job. BMW’s M2 costs a bit more but balances out once you add in similar content, while an Audi S4 or S5 will give you more room without sacrificing too much in the way of performance.

What's New

The 2019 Audi RS 3 gains some new standard features including 19-inch 5-blade wheels with a direct Tire Pressure Monitoring System, Audi’s Phone Box with signal booster and wireless charging, two USB ports for the rear seat and a 12V outlet in the trunk. The RS’s Fixed Sport Suspension is now a no-charge stand-alone option, while the Dynamic Plus package with its 174-mph top speed and ceramic brakes has been dropped.

Interior Features

The 2019 Audi RS 3 benefits from the general upgrade the entire A3/S3 lineup got a couple years ago. That means nice materials inside, Apple CarPlay, and an available Virtual Cockpit that swaps out physical gauges for a high-resolution screen. The RS 3 also gets special sport seats; they only adjust manually, but in corners they grip you like a long-lost friend, and when cruising are about as comfortable as an easy chair. Rear-seat passengers aren't quite as lucky, as there's a definite lack of legroom for even average-size passengers. Cargo room isn't terrific, although the rear seatbacks fold if you need extra space.

Exterior Features

The Audi RS 3's exterior stays close to the rest of the lineup, but with enough sporty flourishes to set it apart from its less powerful stablemates. The grille gets a unique silver paint surround, with QUATTRO in black inch-high letters under the black mesh of the grille. The 19-inch wheels are filled with red brake calipers if you opt for the Dynamic package (and you should opt for it), and out back there are the black-tipped exhausts and a small ducktail spoiler on the trunk. It's subtle, and if you opt for a more neutral color than our test car's Catalunya Red Metallic, the RS 3 has all the makings of a Q-ship.

Driving Impressions

The 2019 Audi RS 3 sedan is designed to be an absolute blast to drive, a job it performs exceedingly well. The turbocharged 5-cylinder engine produces its 354 lb-ft of torque at a low 1,700 rpm, and at the other end of the tachometer there's 394 horsepower to play with. Audi says the RS 3 will leap from a standstill to 60 mph in about 3.9 seconds. That's Corvette quick, and if you keep your foot down the RS 3 tops out at 155 mph.


But it's no straight-line special, and with the Dynamic package the RS 3 gets front tires wider than the rears, giving it excellent balance in corners despite its inherent front-weight bias. The quattro all-wheel-drive system's drama-free traction means the RS 3 tackles corners with abandon, and the razor-sharp steering provides good feedback. Around town, the RS 3 proves surprisingly docile. On our short list of improvements: less turbo lag.

Pricing Notes

The Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) for the 2019 Audi RS 3 starts at $57,195, including the $995 destination charge. That gets you the basic car, but as is common for European performance cars, options add up quickly. For max performance, you'll want the Dynamic package ($1,450), the Technology package ($3,200) and Driver Assistance package ($1,500). Additionally, any color other than Nardo Gray will cost you at least an additional $575. Click all the option boxes and you could wind up pushing the cost of your RS 3 to close to $70,000, about what you'd pay for a loaded BMW M2 and Mercedes-AMG CLA 45, but less than a BMW M4 or AMG C 43.


To find out what people in your area paid for their Audi RS 3, check out the KBB Fair Purchase Price. As for resale value, we expect the RS 3 to hold its value as well as Audi’s other RS cars, on par with the BMW M2 and Mercedes-AMG CLA 45. Over time it may even become a collectable.

Notable Equipment

Given its price tag, you’d expect a healthy dose of standard equipment and the 2019 RS 3 doesn’t disappoint. Along with the quattro all-wheel drive, Audi Drive Select and a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission is a magnetically adjustable suspension that varies depending on the selected drive mode. Also onboard are Nappa leather S Sport front seats with extendable thigh support, a panoramic sunroof, dual-zone climate control, LED headlights, 19-in wheels, 180-watt AM/FM/CD audio system, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, a rearview camera, front and rear parking sensors, rain/light sensors for wipers and headlights, power-folding heated and auto-dimming side mirrors plus unique RS 3 exterior styling.

Notable Options

The Four main option packages -- all of which you'll likely want -- add about $6,000 to the price of the car, but it's all worth it. The Dynamic package adds the staggered wheel-and-tire package and sport-exhaust system, while the RS Fixed Sport Suspension option replaces the magnetic suspension with a setup with fixed settings. The Technology package adds MMI navigation, Audi Connect and an outstanding Bang & Olufsen sound system, while the Driver Assistance package brings adaptive cruise control, lane assist and auto high beams. Some paint colors also add to the price, and there's a $600 carbon-fiber package to dress up the interior if you're so inclined. Don’t forget the rear-seat thorax side airbags.

Favorite Features

5-CYLINDER ENGINE

Audi specializes in 5-cylinder engines and with the RS 3, they’ve perfected the recipe. The 5-banger pumps out impressive horsepower and torque as well as decent fuel economy, yet it never feels rough or unbalanced. And then there’s that unmistakable 5-cylinder <i>thrum</i> as you approach redline.


REVERSE-STAGGER TIRES

Equip the RS 3 with the Dynamic package, and you’ll get front tires that are wider than the rears. This is done to offset the transverse-mounted engine’s forward weight bias and it works beautifully. Replacement tires, however, are going to be as shockingly expensive as everything else on the car.


Under the Hood

There's only one engine for the 2019 Audi RS 3: a 2.5-liter turbocharged 5-cylinder with 394 horsepower. There's some turbo lag, but it's quickly forgotten once the engine revs and the turbo's at full song. In Dynamic mode, throttle response felt better, and the engine's 354 lb-ft of torque is available from 1,700-5,850 rpm, an impressive spread. All RS 3 models come with quattro all-wheel drive, and all come with Audi's excellent S Tronic 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. Even fuel economy is acceptable for so much power, with up to 28 mpg on the highway.


2.5-liter turbocharged inline-5

394 horsepower @ 5,850-7,000 rpm

354 lb-ft of torque @ 1,700-5,850 rpm

EPA city/highway fuel economy: 19/28 mpg

Editors' Notes

When it launched the RS 3 last year, Audi didn’t make many, leaving die-hard fans greatly disappointed. The 2019 Audi RS 3 looks to rectify that situation, with more bound for the U.S. and still carrying the unique 5-cylinder, 394-horsepower engine that makes this car the unicorn to slay all other unicorns. With gobs of power and scary crazy torque, one might think this little 4-door is in over its head. But get the RS 3 out on a track or winding road, and you’ll forget all about the letters “BMW M2.” This isn’t a car for everyone, and even hard-core enthusiasts might balk at its $57,000 starting price. But for those seeking to push the limits, the RS 3 can do it all day long.

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