New Audi RS3 claims 'compact' Nürburgring record

Published: 05 August 2021

New RS3 beats ‘Ring record
Drift mode tech and trick lights
► More torque and upgraded ECU

The new Audi RS3 has laid claim to a new Nürburgring lap record for a compact car, lapping the 12.9-mile Nordschleife in 7:40.748s at the hands of development driver Frank Stippler.

The RS3 chopped 4.6 seconds off the previous benchmark of 7:45.389s held by the Megane RS Trophy-R, and isn’t to be confused with the Renault’s other record time of 7:40.01s set over a slightly shorter distance.

Audi used an RS3 Saloon fitted with the optional, 19-inch carbon-ceramic brakes and Pirelli P Zero Trofeo R tyres that will be available when order books open later in August, and adjusted tyre pressures marked the only change prior to the car’s run.

‘I’m proud of the whole team. Everyone worked hard for this day,’ said Marvin Schwätter, technical project leader for the RS3. ‘When we started development, we didn’t know just how quickly our compact sportscar would really be on the Nordschleife. But over the course of endurance testing, we determined that we could reach very good times and set a new record.’

rs3 nurburgring

The recently revealed and ever-more aggressive-looking RS3 will be available in Sportback and saloon flavours, and Ingolstadt’s latest third-gen hot hatch will start from £50,900. However, that’ll increase as you move from RS3, to Carbon, Launch Edition and Vorsprung.

The first customer deliveries are expected to take place towards the end of the year.

rs3 interior

It’s wider and meaner than ever before and introduces some new performance tech along the way. The front axle is now 33mm wider than the previous model, with a further increase of 10mm on the Sportback’s rear axle. In the digital sphere, the new RS3 comes with Audi’s Matrix LED headlights. Just like those on the Q4 e-Tron they’re able to make different patterns, and here they can spell out R S 3 and a chequered flag when you leave the car. Inside, the RS3 uses a 12.3-inch touchscreen, filled with Audi’s virtual cockpit plus tech as standard.

Give me some specs

The RS3 keeps the same 2.5-litre, five-cylinder formula as before, only now it puts out 369lb ft of torque over an increased range of 2250rpm to 5600rpm. Power is 394bhp, though a new ECU means the new RS 3 is more responsive at lower revs; it’ll smash 62mph from a standstill in 3.8 seconds – 0.3 faster than before. And it all goes through a seven-cog DCT.

rs3 red static

Top speed is limited to 155mph in the standard RS3, though that’s unlocked to a 174mph in Launch Editions and Vorsprung trims. The RS Dynamic package takes things further to 180mph – and welcomes those ceramic brakes to cope with the extra velocity.

Fuel economy for the saloon model has been given as 23.1-24.6mpg, with CO2 emissions of 188-198g/km.

How will it handle?

A new RS Torque Splitter makes its debut in Ingolstadt’s hot hatch, and is cited as the main reason behind the RS3’s Nurburgring record. ‘In general, the new RS 3 is much more agile when driving from the middle of the curve to its end and when accelerating out of the curve,’ explained Stippler. ‘For me, the torque splitter is a quantum leap in terms of agile driving.’

Designed to allow active and fully variable torque vectoring between the rear wheels, it should seriously dial out understeer – and also allow for controlled drifts.

rs3 drift

The splitter essentially upgrades the RS3’s all-wheel-drive system, helping it move the power between the wheels faster and more efficiently. During dynamic driving it moves more drive to the wheel on the outside of the corner, the right rear wheel in left corners, and the left rear in right corners. The overall effect is less ‘pushing’ through the corner from the front axle, and a less-understeery car.

In oversteer situations, the RS 3 will load the inside rear with a bit more power, helping to negate a slide and keep the car straight. But if you really want to go sideways, the RS3’s torque splitter will also force all its torque through just one rear wheel.

The RS3 will has seven modes in total, and three of them will be RS-specific. In addition to the usual comfort, auto, efficiency and dynamic you also get RS Individual, RS Performance and RS Torque Rear. RS Performance is designed for track days, and RS Torque Rear is what activates the drift mode.

Anything else?

Audi has also introduced new shock absorbers and along with optional adaptive damper control. Ride height has also been powered by 15mm compared to the S3 and 25mm compared to the standard A3.

Up front you’ll find a McPherson strut suspension, while at the rear the new RS3 uses a four-link design.

The standard car also gets new, six-piston steel brakes – though a larger ceramic system is also available. 10kg lighter than the steel unit, it also features a 20 per cent improvement in cooling.