I HAVE stated before and I will state again that I have spent many hours in RS4 and RS5 versions of Audi’s performance models and that includes lapping the Nurburgring in the former. For the most part though, these exceptional sporting models have been driven on high speed motorways within the European network as well as on typical UK arterial roads.
While the RS4 proved to be the more nimble of the two, the RS5 proved itself to be a consummate and supremely comfortable high speed cruiser, albeit one with decidedly cramped rear quarters. The bigger coupe offers wide ranging adjustability to suit different road conditions and gobbles up huge distances with absolute disdain.
Yet, and I base my comments on the super-extensive reading I do, respected overseas titles (and some in SA for that matter) persist in being critical of the RS5 in particular, and the long-discontinued saloon version RS4 to a lesser degree, for relatively uninspired track performance, quoting leaden steering and relatively slow responses as negatives.
My reaction to those findings is equally negative as neither model was designed to be used as a track car and I totally fail to understand the relevance of testing road cars in a track environment for the very obvious reason that 99,9 percent of owners will never take their cars on track.
I mention all this because I’ve recently spent a week with a Sepang Blue RS3 Sportback — on the road — and to say I was enthralled is an understatement.
Even with the bright, ultra-glossy paintwork, gaping honeycomb front grilles, rear aero accoutrements, aluminium trim highlights and huge 235/35R19 tyres mounted on RS-style 5-spoke alloys, this Audi still flies, to some extent, under the radar. It’s like half a stealth bomber which is just how I like it as posers in reputedly high performance coupes and cabrios mostly can’t live with it.
For me, its nearest competitor is the A45AMG which is altogether louder in visual terms and not nearly as polished when it comes to interior finish . And then, of course, there’s its cheaper stablemate, the hugely-capable Golf R.
Under the bonnet lurks a simply stupendous 2.5 litre turbo’d straight five that produces no less than 270kW and a peak torque of 465Nm. The test car was equipped with a factory sports exhaust that gurgled, popped, banged and barked with the best of them to such good effect that the local pigeon squadrons abandoned my area. My neighbour, however, remained glued behind her lace curtains, desperate to establish the source of these wondrous tones!
The nice thing is that thanks to the availability of a string of driving modes, the apparently-contradictory provision of Comfort mode makes the RS3 seem, aurally at least , like an A3 if the mood takes you. My preference was for the suspension to be set in Comfort and for all else to be in Dynamic in order to sharpen responses and sounds!
With little effort, a 0-100 time of around 4.3 seconds can be achieved while overall fuel consumption sat at 12.2l/100km but a 50km motorway run at about the legal limit yielded an encouraging 8.2l/100km.
Roll control is brilliant while the ride in any mode is firm but not bone jarring, possibly because this car sported optional Magnetic Ride. I also found the steering beautifully-weighted and responsive but one thing did irritate and that was the rumble and patter produced even on mildly uneven surfaces, by the rear suspension – hence the selection of Comfort mode.
Grip, which is automatically apportioned by the quattro system, is stupendous as is the performance of the massive brakes, and for the most part, the 7-speed s-tronic dual clutch gearbox shifts ultra-rapidly and smoothly.
Inside, all is pure Audi which means unrivalled quality of finish and detailing and in RS3 form, you get a bucket-full of additional features but I suggest a visit to www.audi.co.za for a detailed run-down of all the equipment.
Aside from the noisy rear suspension, the RS3 is enthralling. Within its compact dimensions, it offers good space for four adults in a superb environment and serves up astonishing levels of performance, grip, road manners and all-surface usability. It’s one of those special cars that makes you look for excuses to go out and about.
Appalling road death figures
After much dilly-dallying, the Department of Road Transport in South Africa announced that 1 755 souls lost their lives on SA’s roads during the festive season, a 14 percent increase on the already abysmal figure for 2014.
As might be predicted, the “authorities” reacted with the usual plethora of threats aimed at offenders, not least denial of early bail applications with up to seven days in jail thrown in before any hearing.
When will those charged with bringing sanity to our roads understand that threats are utterly meaningless because most of the perpetrators, if they are still alive, don’t believe they will be caught anyway, and if they are, corrupt activities can always come to their rescue.
Frankly, I am sick and tired of hearing all the old clichés trotted out, in particular the “fact” that “speeding” is invariably a contributory factor in accidents. What exactly does this word mean? Someone travelling along a triple lane, deserted motorway in good visibility at 200 km/h is not necessarily driving “recklessly and negligently” as is always proclaimed in local news bulletins but someone travelling at 80km/h in zero visibility might constitute a mobile death trap.
Sadly, because officialdom has erected a sign on the side of the road that indicates a speed limit of 80 km/h, “speeding” is no longer an issue (with the police) when in fact it is a central issue in this hypothetical case.
In the United Kingdom, which has far greater traffic densities, less than 10 percent of accidents are attributed to excessive speed. Rest assured that UK authorities conduct proper investigations into the causes of road accidents and don’t just trot out the speed issue as an excuse.
The problems in SA are multitudinous and start with the application of the laws.
Making these even more punitive is not the issue. What is the issue is that the laws are not uniformly applied, if at all. Drunk driving remains a major problem because perpetrators know they stand a better than even chance of not being caught, let alone prosecuted. And I have personally witnessed backhanders being offered to and accepted by police operating speed cameras ,which rather telegraphs that in many instances, the real purpose of speed trapping is not to enhance road safety at all.
I should also point out that the composition of the driving test is of dubious value when it comes to training drivers to deal with real life situations.
Far too much emphasis is placed on theory and on negotiating white lines at parking speeds instead of training learner drivers how to deal with multi-lane traffic on motorways and how to control a vehicle on poor road surfaces.
I’d wager a bet that very few drivers know how to deal with understeer or oversteer or indeed, that they even know what causes such behaviour.
And you can be sure that not enough emphasis is put on demonstrating the potentially lethal effects of not leaving an adequate gap when following a vehicle.
Braking distances too seem to be a mostly-unknown factor for many drivers because they are not trained properly. In this regard, ABS brakes, which should have brought major safety benefits to our roads, often confuse drivers who panic when the system is activated, causing the brake pedal to pulsate and make a rumbling sound.
The reaction is to take the foot OFF the brake pedal instead of maintaining pressure and utilising the extra steering control bestowed by the avoidance of locked wheels. Proper training would resolve such a basic issue.
Finally, it should be pointed out that in South Africa in particular, a disproportionate number of road accident victims are pedestrians. More accurately, they are not so much the victims but the cause of accidents.
I regularly drive a section of motorway to and from Cape Town airport and am horrified to observe, without fail, large numbers of pedestrians clambering over the armco barriers and playing Russian roulette with long lines of cars travelling at around 120 km/h. That’s bad enough but what makes the situation worse, is that these jay walkers carry out their suicidal activities ride under the noses of traffic police who apparently never lift a finger to stop the looming carnage.
Now what was it I said about lack of application of the law?
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