Starting at $56,200, the Audi RS3 is arguably affordable to the average car buyer (with decent credit, of course). Nobody puts it upon the same pedestal as their illustrious counterparts working in the luxury sector; the Audi brand has been content offering a nice balance of luxury sports performance with affordability. You’re not paying Mercedes’ premiums; therefore, you’re not getting Mercedes’ performance – or are you?
The Mercedes to beat would be the A45 AMG. With highly-comparable performance specifications, the two cars (on paper) should perform nearly identical. The four-cylinder Mercedes powerplant is a turbocharged 2.0L producing a healthy 375 hp at the wheels. Audi’s RS3 packs a slightly-larger, 2.5L five-cylinder, but is eclipsed by the smaller Mercedes by 13hp (362hp). At 3,400lbs, the heavier Mercedes has an additional 125lbs to drag around. Can the Audi best the AMG in a straight line duel?
The Audi’s specs were published at 3.9 seconds from a standstill to 60 mph. The car tops out, coincidentally, at the same regulated 155mph that confines the AMG. But what the buying public found out for themselves was that the published specs were actually a bit dull. The RS3, equipped with a set of winter tires, was able to punch through the 0-60 mph sprint on only 3.7 seconds. While two tenths may be marginal to the average car buyer, performance enthusiasts know exactly what a whole two-tenths of a second can mean in a pinch.
That’s impressive, but what good is an arbitrary number out on the Autobahn without any contenders? We found out thanks to Cars. The AMG was pitted against the RS3 in a straight-line battle for supremacy in a heads-up acceleration match that would ultimately decide the true intrinsic value of the mid-level German car.
The two cars were paired up on the starting line and the flag fell as both drivers worked their right feet dominantly into the floorboard. The assertive all-wheel drive on the Audi griped immediately while the AMG suffered a bit of wheel spin, which turned out to be fatal for the AMG. The Audi would dominate the AMG for the duration of the race, pulling ahead slowly until just over a car-length was gained at the finish line.
Another curious attribute of the Audi – you’ll note that, in the Autobahn video, the Audi is superseding the factory-limited, 155 mph speed by a slim margin. A jaunt through the sales brochures will uncover a cool little option for RS3 buyers – a 174 mph top speed. It seems that Audi, knowingly a few tiers down on the totem pole, is sending a definitive message to Mercedes propagators – “You can’t run.”