It’s difficult to gauge whether Audi is any closer to bringing the RS3 to its full dynamic potential now than it was two years ago, when last we tested an RS3 Sportback.

The slightly altered dimensions of the saloon body prevent us from making perfect like-for-like comparisons, as does the particular specification of our test car.

Matt Saunders Autocar

Matt Saunders

Chief tester
Dampers rein in vertical body movement through the compressions in and out of corners in one angry, abrupt stroke

The RS3 we road tested in 2015 had the adaptive dampers of Audi’s Dynamic Package Plus but the car being tested here came on standard passive suspension.

It certainly wasn’t made any more effective as a driver’s car for the omission. The RS3’s remorselessly firm damping isn’t quite as large a barrier to your enjoyment of thecar’s driving experience on a really great, testing road as its powertrain is a fillip for it, but the two are certainly comparable.

On standard suspension, the RS3 has the kind of bustling, rebounding, aggressive ride that few passengers could fail to comment on. On well-surfaced A-roads and at licence-worrying motorway speeds, that ride begins to ease up and breathe, ever so gently, with the tarmac under its wheels.

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But on trickier stretches, it can toss you around quite uncomfortably and begin to markedly undermine the stability of the car. If you plan to enjoy your RS3 on a typical British B-road, we’d suggest that Audi’s RS sport suspension is a must-have for the added suppleness that it brings.

When settled into its stride, the RS3’s lateral grip level is certainly high, but it’s not as dialled up as its handling response, which is such that the car dives into bends like a Labrador at a lamb bone.

If the steering offered greater resistance over its first few degrees away from the straight-ahead, it’d be much easier to get used to that directional malevolence.

But with the rack offering very little useful contact-patch feedback however you program the drive mode, it can be hard to place the car accurately and carve a perfect, smooth line through a fast bend. As in just about every other facet of its character, the RS3 is simply too keen to show off a hyper-energetic, reflex-like response to your every input.

The Millbrook Alpine Hill Route is better surfaced than your average UK cross-country road, and that has a lot do with the fact that the RS3 Saloon handles it at serious speed, and pretty easily.

The car surprises you with its tenacity from turn-in to apex and can carry plenty of pace. Although it’s rapier-like initially, the car is very stable mid-corner and, if not communicative, it’s trustworthy in a Machiavellian sort of a way.

But what happens from the apex to the exit of most corners can be a bit underwhelming. Where you’re hoping that driveline will shuffle drive to the rear wheels and allow you to keep the car’s attitude neutral as you accelerate, you feel only the momentary deck-chair arranging of the torque vectoring followed closely by the stability control system taking power away.

Turn the DSC off and the power understeer that presents itself on the limit will soon persuade you to turn it back on again.

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